It isn’t easy getting noticed as a Division I Independent basketball team, but sometimes there is a player who helps make it easier.
When Utah Valley played its first few seasons at the D-I level, it was Utah Jazz guard Ronnie Price bringing in the extra attention. This year it’s Ryan Toolson.
Toolson tied a career high with 38 points in a 99-89 overtime win against fellow Independent, Chicago State.
Until the final few minutes of regulation, Toolson was having an ordinary game with 20 points. But trailing by six points with less than three minutes remaining in the regulation, Toolson showed he could be extraordinary.
He pulled up for a three-pointer and was fouled. It turned into a four-point play and the Wolverines were down two. Toolson hit two more three-pointers in regulation, including the game-tying three-pointer to send the game to overtime.
"Really, I got my rhythm through all those free throws I was able to shoot," Toolson said. "I got a good rhythm, so the team did a good job setting those picks."
He wasn’t done.
He scored eight points in overtime and ended the game with an emphatic two-handed dunk.
"Ryan Toolson was sensational," Utah Valley coach Dick Hunsaker said. "Didn’t really have his hottest start to the game, but he made those threes at the end of regulation. There’s going to be bigger mountains out there."
As much as Toolson did to help Utah Valley get revenge against Chicago State, Hunsaker said the game ball would go to a freshman.
"I do got to give the game ball to Kevin Woods," Hunsaker said.
"Kevin did a terrific job in this game. He sparked us in the first half."
Woods came in off the bench and scored 10 points; but more importantly, he defended another one of the nation’s leading scorers. Chicago State guard David Holston came in to the game averaging 23.2 points and scored eight in the first half.
Woods and junior guard Josh Olsen were primarily responsible for defending Holston. In overtime Utah Valley held Holston scoreless.
"We just tried to deny him the ball and Woods and Olsen did a great job defending him," Hunsaker said.
Utah Valley led by 15 points at halftime, but Chicago State used a 27-8 run to take a four-point lead with less than 13 minutes left in the game.
"They don’t respect us, and I told the team that at halftime. And in six and a half minutes, they were right back in the game," Hunsaker said.
Chicago State showed a lack of respect on Utah Valley’s home court, not only by getting back in the game, but Holston walked off the court without shaking hands.