By Alyssa Synakowski
Utah Valley men’s basketball moved to 5-0 in WAC play after a 66-48 home win against the Kansas City ‘Roos on Thursday, Jan. 23. A 20-1 run in the second half secured the victory for the Wolverines.
The ‘Roos jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening minute of the game, and the score remained stagnant until senior guard Keawe Enos hit a 3-pointer with just over 16 minutes left before halftime.
Slow scoring and shooting woes were the story of the first half as UVU made only 12-of-35 shots (34.3 percent) from the field and Kansas City was 10-for-31 (32.3 percent).
Poor shooting made the battle on the boards essential in that first half. Forward Mitch Bruneel was a force down low as he pulled in 11 rebounds on the night, eight of which were offensive.
UVU made adjustments at halftime and came out strong in the second half, playing an aggressive zone defense that limited Kansas City just to 21 points in the half. Senior Ben Aird, who had not scored in the first half, went 6-for-7 on shot attempts in the second half and finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“We competed and made some good decisions with the basketball and really hustled on the backboards,” coach Dick Hunsaker said. “During that run we got some guys on track and were able to convert on the offensive end, and, coupled with some defensive stops, good things happened.”
Those good things began happening for the Wolverines after senior Holton Hunsaker broke the ‘Roos full-court press to hit a quick three to give UVU a 47-43 lead. Kansas City attempted to press again, and Zach Nelson took the ball coast to coast and slammed it home.
The crowd went wild. A loud student section was buzzing with excitement as it watched the home team begin to extend its lead.
Sophomore Hayes Garrity, who finished the game with 18 points, leaned into his defender as he used the glass to lay in an off-balance shot. Garrity was fouled on the play and the completed the 3-point play at the free throw line.
The student section stood on its feet for the remaining 8:43 of the game.
UVU held Kansas City without a field goal for over 11 minutes in the second half. The ‘Roos scored just three points from the foul line during that stretch. Martez Harrison, who finished the game with 15 points, ended the drought on a made layup with 1:44 left in the game, the visitors’ first field goal since the 13:10 mark.
Hunsaker finished with 13 points and six assists, and freshman Zach Nelson had seven points and five blocks.
The win set up a first-place showdown between the Wolverines and Chicago State Cougars on Saturday, Jan. 25 at the UCCU Center. The Cougars moved to 4-1 in the WAC with a 71-63 win over Bakersfield in their previous game.