After Utah Valley’s 65-56 win on Thursday night, head coach Dick Hunsaker defined a general cry among Great West Conference teams in regards to the start of conference play.
“It’s a new season once conference play starts,” Hunsaker said. “And teams are certainly emotional and geared up to play their best.”
UVU honored the mantra with a perfect conference record after Thursday night’s game against Chicago State, but it also certainly explains the energy that CSU brought to Utah Valley’s home court on Thursday night despite a record of 2-17. During the first half, Chicago State held the Wolverines to 34.4 percent shooting.
Yet The Wolverines won’t get comfortable despite the record as they see areas of improvement. The most notable aspect of the first half against CSU was the offense of senior guard Isiah Williams.
Last year’s All-American Honorable Mention was pressed by Chicago’s defense from the start, pushing Williams into foul trouble and allowing him two points in the first half off of 1-of-5 field goal attempts. Despite his offensive troubles in the first half, Williams finished the game off strong, finishing with 13 points.
“The defenses are loaded up against him,” Hunsaker said. “He needs to become more active on the offensive end and moving without the ball to create more opportunities to score.”
Williams 5-of-9 field goal shooting in the second half and the leadership brought on by Holton Hunsaker may be what the team needs to continue to score down the stretch and bring home wins. At least, that’s how Geddes Robinson explained it. Robinson consistently finishes with a double-double and is the conference leading rebounder.
“After you see guys make a shot that’s on your team it just gives you confidence,” Robinson said.
Nonetheless, Utah Valley’s largest key in conference play so far has been Holton Hunsaker. The second-year guard finished second in scoring against North Dakota with 16 points right behind Alfonzo Hubbard’s 17 points. With UVU’s offense struggling against Chicago State in the first half, Hunsaker scored 16 points on perfect shooting from the field and the free throw line.
“He’s battled through the early season this year for different reasons,” coach Hunsaker said in regard to Holton. “I think he has been really focused in and prepared himself emotionally for conference play this season.”
The Wolverines will prepare for their fourth conference game Wednesday in Texas as they take on The University of Texas-Pan America.
By Kevin Olsen