A late rally to end overtime could not lift UVU over a 10-point deficit, falling 66-71 to the University of Maine in the season opener last Friday.
“Tough game,” said Coach Dick Hunsaker. “We knew Maine was a tough team going in.”
The University of Maine entered the UCCU Center returning 11 players from the third-winning team in school history.
The Wolverines spent much of the first half playing catch up, struggling to keep up with the more seasoned Maine squad. The Black Bear defense stifled UVU’s shooting, holding the team to only 32 percent for the night. Despite the poor shooting, the Wolverines were able to stay competitive and never trailed by more than five.
Entering the second half, UVU came out strong and leapt to a 40-34 lead after going on a 13-2 run in the first five minutes. While they never trailed in the half after gaining the lead, Hunsaker admitted that the team “ran out of gas” and allowed Maine to grind the lead down to 2 with five seconds left to play.
With time for one play in regulation, Maine was able to get the ball in the hands of Raheem Singleton, who tied the game up on a jumper. Left with less than a second, UVU was unable to score and was forced into overtime.
The Black Bears added onto their momentum from Singleton’s shot, quickly building an 8-point lead before UVU could rally. Despite shooting two 3-point shots with 30 seconds to play, the Wolverines could not sustain the streak as Maine clamped down on defense.
Despite the close loss, UVU has reason to look forward to the season. Freshman center Ben Aird put on a show in his collegiate debut, putting up 16 points and six rebounds on the night.
Geddes Robinson led the team overall with 17 points and seven rebounds, with Jordan Swarbrick adding 16 more points. Freshman Holton Hunsaker also played well in his first game, with 12 points overall.
Notably absent most of the game was preseason first-team conference pick Justin Baker. Coming off the bench, Baker lacked a spark in his play, managing only three rebounds and no points in 12 minutes of play. Hunsaker said he is still looking for Baker to live up to his first-team selection.
“On my last three championship teams, my MVP came off the bench,” Hunsaker said. “Gotta have confidence in my bench, gotta have kids build my confidence in their ability to come in the game and play in the heat of the moment.”
With more tough games on the schedule, the Wolverines will need the endurance that Baker and other players coming off the bench can provide. That extra push may be what the Wolverines will need to come out ahead in the close games.
UVU’s next game comes Nov. 20 at Florida International University. They will return home Friday, Nov. 26, to play La Sierra University at 1 p.m.