Playing at home three games in a row is one way to get going in the right direction, and that is one reason the men’s basketball team has a chance to get its season turned around.
Arkansas State was the Wolverines latest victim, 72-57, at the McKay Center, and it was a season-high fourth straight win. Ryan Toolson scored 29 points, and Richard Troyer had a career-high 22. Josh Olsen tied Ronnie Price’s school record for assists with 10.
Before a second win this season against Arkansas State, Utah Valley beat first-year Division I school North Carolina Central and Johnson & Wales out of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).
The good news continues for Utah Valley (10-13) with one road trip left, where the team is 3-10 so far this season compared to 6-3 at home after playing 14 of its first 20 games away from Orem. Utah Valley will travel to Georgia to play Savannah State and North Carolina Central in the middle of the month.
“I have to apologize to those players,” coach Dick Hunsaker said. “We have a solid basketball team. I put these kids at a real disadvantage. My number one goal as a coach is players build self esteem and I put them in a situation that’s very difficult to build their self esteem.”
Those worries have subsided with the ease of the schedule. At home the last three games the team has averaged 47 percent shooting while holding opponents to 37 percent.
Quick starts have aided Utah Valley in all three wins. Against North Carolina Central the Wolverines started the game on a 23-2 run. Against Arkansas State it was a 13-3 run to begin the game. Getting back to fundamentals has helped in those fast starts.
“We’re getting back to defending, taking care of the ball, and rebounding. Those are our basics that kind of slipped as we’re putting our patch work together during the difficulties of our schedule.”
Troyer put together his best two games of the season with 17 points against Johnson & Wales to go with his career high against Arkansas State.
He has stepped up to take on some of the offensive responsibilities that Toolson has carried most of the season.
But even with other players stepping up more and more, Hunsaker isn’t going to stop getting his leading scorer the ball.
“You know Art Shell?” Hunsaker said. “He ran Randy Moss as a decoy for an entire season. I don’t run Ryan Toolson as a decoy. I try to get the ball in his hands as much as I can.”
Toolson is averaging 22.9 points per game, and Jordan Brady is the only other Wolverines averaging double figures in scoring, with 10.5.
Jordan Brady and Brett Ravenburg have improved lately, as have Troyer and Olsen.
“There was some special play by Olsen and Troyer and Brett Ravenburg,” Hunsaker said after the Arkasas State game.
Other players stepping up has been a key to the recent success, and will continue to be key if the team is going to maintain it.
“We want other players, we need other players to play,” Hunsaker said. “We want to play as a team, it’s just a matter of what comes.”
Saturday will be another test for Utah Valley as it plays host to Chicago State, a team that beat the Wolverines in January in Chicago.