This season has done little for the nerves of those associated with the men’s basketball team.
The Wolverines started out the season 4-4 and a little shaky, losing to some strong competition with the likes of Houston, Arkansas, Wyoming and Utah State. They played tough and hung in most games other than a 34 point blow-out to the Cowboys of Wyoming.
While the team was disappointed to not sneak out a win, morale was in OK condition until December. Rather than receiving during the Christmas season the Wolverines did all the giving as they have gone 3-6 since finals week.
During that stretch UVU fell to Maine by 17 points, 13 to Montana and 15 to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Two of their three wins were nail-biters as they eked out a two point win over Hampton and escaped with a five point win over Portland State.
The good news for the MAWL and UVU fans of all kinds is that the team has played well at home, recording a 6-2 mark at the UCCU center. That good news comes as a dual edged sword however as the team is 0-8 on the road, with their only other win coming on a neutral site in Tennessee against Hampton.
Despite the travails the Wolverines have encountered, they have had some pleasant surprises that will make for an exciting conference run as they push towards post-season play.
Returning All-American Isiah Williams leads the team with 14.4 points per game but it’s Geddes Robinson who is averaging a double-double with 10.2 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. Ben Aird has contributed nicely by shooting over 40 percent from the field with 16 steals and 24 blocks, providing an inside defensive presence that UVU is in desperate need of.
Tuesday night’s game versus Wyoming highlighted both the progress that has been made as well as the frustration that is mounting.
The Wolverines pulled a complete 180 and rather than a 34 point drubbing, they took Wyoming down to the final seconds, only to see the game slip away and just out of reach. Trailing by one point with 15 seconds to play, Williams lost the handle but was bailed out by Keith Thompson who picked it up and went strong to the hoop.
Thompson laid the ball off the backboard as the refs blew the whistle. Instead of scoring the basket and shooting a free-throw, the call went the other way and the offensive foul was charged against UVU with ten ticks left on the clock.
“That was a pivotal call,” said Wolverines head coach Dick Hunsaker. “Instead of a chance for a two point lead we had to foul and try to play catch-up.”
Following two free-throws by Wyoming, Holton Hunsaker forced up a three point shot that didn’t dry iron but the play drew the ire of coach Hunsaker. There was a questionable no-call as it appeared the Cowboys made contact with the shooter on the play.
There was no question however for coach Hunsaker at the time as it took two coaches to restrain him as he pressed his way toward mid court and the referees. Whatever was said it cost Hunsaker a technical foul as his frustrations boiled over and gave Wyoming two more free-throws.
When asked about that final play, his response was simple.
“We’ll have to let the replay cameras decide that,” Hunsaker said.
The good news for the Wolverines is that they are a seasoned team with a lot of minutes played together, they have an all-American, a beast on the boards, and they play in the Great West Conference. No matter the ups and downs thus far, they are still one of the favorites to win the conference and make some noise come post-season play.
By Jonathan Boldt – Assistant Sports Editor