Hoops and hopes

After winning their home opener 96-70 against Arizona Christian, the Wolverines kept their heads held high as they traveled to Northern California to take on Eastern Washington, Santa Clara and USC Upstate in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Santa Clara University.

Although the Wolverines didn’t finish as hoped, leaving the Classic 1-2, pushing for the lead led to career-high records for some of the team members.

“I’m very pleased with our team,” said head coach Dick Hunsaker. “This has been a very difficult opening stretch for us but I thought we were very competitive in Santa Clara.”

Utah Valley tipped off Tuesday night where they took a close 86-83 win against Eastern Washington. With a huge comeback during the second half leading the Wolverines to a final victory, center Ben Aird led the night with 25 points, matching his career-high record.

With assistance from leading scorers Jason Johnson with 18 overall points and Alfonzo Hubbard at 16 points, the Wolverines maintained a strong offensive play with a consecutive five point lead, shooting a two followed by back-to-back free throws defeating the Eagles to a well-earned win.

“Eastern Washington was the pre-season pick in the coaches’ poll and I was certainly pleased with our defeat against them,” Hunsaker said.

Although UVU took the first win of the three-day game series, it wasn’t enough to pull through against Santa Clara and USC Upstate.

Hubbard brought home a career-high of 19 points against the Santa Clara Broncos Wednesday night, leading UVU with aggressive offensive plays. Even with a record high, it was a late run as the Broncos defeated the Wolverines 75-67.

“We were very competitive against the Santa Clara team,” Hunsaker said. “Frankly, we just didn’t have the energy in the last game against South Carolina Upstate.”

Going into the final game of the tournament 1-1 Friday night, USC Upstate turned into a USC upset for the Wolverines as the Spartans conquered Utah Valley 75-50.

Zach Jones scored a career-high with 8 points as Aird continued to be a dominant player throughout the game scoring nine points, nine rebounds and putting up double blocks leading him to be later named part of the All-Tournament Team.

Finishing the Hall of Fame Classic 1-2 has pushed Utah Valley to work even harder to sustain their efforts and concentrations defensively and offensively, focusing on the basic core fundamentals that create such a successful season.

“We’re certainly a work in progress,” Hunsaker said. “The kids are working hard and we’re trying to approach one game at a time and build off positives and learn from the mistakes.”

After a short trip to the east coast competing against North Carolina Central University, the Wolverines will head back to Happy Valley to play Pepperdine, followed by in-state rival Weber State.

Rachel Anderson, assistant sports editor

randerson3x@gmail.com

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