Down but not out
With Ben Aird, back spasms, and Alfonzo Hubbard, ACL, sidelined with injuries, the Wolverines were forced not only to play without two of their starters but two of their top three scorers. The absence of such vital cogs showed in a loss at Chicago State on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Despite owning an 8-2 record against Chicago State coming into the game, the Wolverines’ performance demonstrated the importance of Aird and Hubbard to the lineup as UVU shot only 38.9 percent and committed 17 turnovers en route to the 62-54 loss.
“Chicago State played multiple defenses and kept the pressure on us. Seventeen turnovers is hard to overcome when trying to win on the road,” said Head Coach
“Our team’s production as a team had been shaped, finally getting some continuity, maybe better role definition finally taking hold as the season has progressed,” Hunsaker said. “We’re scrambling.”
The scrambling has led to the insertion of junior guard Jason Johnson and senior forward Zach Jones into the starting lineup. While an increase in production from the reserves-turned-starters is crucial to replace Aird and Hubbard, one member of the Wolverines has already answered the call to action. Senior forward Nick Thompson is averaging 15.5 points per game and 11.5 rebounds over the past two games while shooting 60 percent from the field, which includes making 3-of-4 three-point field goal attempts.
Thompson’s double-double against NAIA opponent Peru State powered UVU to an 84-49 victory on Monday Jan. 28. Holton Hunsaker led the Wolverines in scoring with 21 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting, while also going 4-for-6 from behind the three-point line. The Wolverines finished with four players in double figures and held Peru State to a meager 29.3 percent from the floor.
“I like the way we played tonight,” Hunsaker said. “I thought we came out with focus in a game that can sometimes be difficult. We got some very good energy and production from a lot of guys. I was pleased with our effort.”
Antoine Hosley was the key contributor offensively from the Wolverines bench, scoring 19 points in 22 minutes of playing time. Former forward reserve Zach Jones dominated the paint defensively, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three assists to support Thompson down low. The star forward and leader in the paint was motivated by the effort of his teammates and the result.
“It’s something we can build on and take to the next step,” Thompson said. “Hopefully we’re progressing. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Consistent offensive production from Thompson and Holton Hunsaker will be absolutely necessary for the Wolverines to keep pace in the Great West Conference race. Though they cannot do it alone, the play of Hosley and Jones against Peru State was an excellent example of how good this team can be if everyone does their part to fill the holes in production created by the injuries of Aird and Hubbard.
by Kyle Spencer