Utah Valley faces its second nationally ranked opponent of the season this week after enjoying its best start to a season in half a decade.
The Wolverines won their season opener against IUPUI 74-68 and followed it up with a 78-71 victory over North Carolina A&T, who competed in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
“The two seniors, Ben (Aird) and Holton (Hunsaker), haven’t been 2-0,” head coach Dick Hunsaker said following the second win of the season. “If you look at our schedule for Utah Valley University it’s pretty hard to get there.”
UVU put its undefeated mark on the line the night after the North Carolina A&T home game, and had to travel the day of the second leg of the back-to-back.
Unable to book a flight in the remaining hours of night after the home game, the Wolverines departed from campus at 3:45 a.m. to catch a flight to Oklahoma, where the high-powered Oklahoma State Cowboys awaited.
The Wolverines suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Cowboys, falling 93-40 to Marcus Smart and company. Hunsaker said afterwards that he told the players not to hang their heads.
“It was a very difficult timing, travel and all those parts that we knew would be, but I thought the kids really kept their composure,” Hunsaker said. “Maybe statistically and the scoring doesn’t really look like they did, but I thought we held together. I thought the kids did not go and try to do things on their own out of character. They did maybe try too hard sometimes.”
The Wolverines travel to Eugene, Ore. this week for a contest with the 18th-ranked and defending Pac-12 tournament champion Ducks (2-0) Nov. 19.
“Just like coach always says we’re just trying to take it one game at a time and we’re trying to get better,” senior center Ben Aird said. “This year’s team – we have a group of guys that – we have character, we have people that work hard, we have a bunch of people that can contribute into a game setting.
“We’re all excited for the great opportunity to go and see some of these arenas and play these teams, and our main goal is just to get better, to go out there and compete and play hard. Coach Hunsaker does such a wonderful job of preparing us that we just want to learn and grow from these experiences.”
Oregon defeated Georgetown 82-75 in its season opener before shooting 65.3 percent in a 107-83 victory over Western Carolina.
The Ducks were tabbed to finish fourth in the preseason Pac-12 media poll, and returned eight players from last year’s squad, which advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual national champion Louisville.
Following their stop in Eugene the Wolverines will play in Malibu, Calif. against Pepperdine (2-0), who was picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference.