Looking to avenge an earlier loss to NJIT, the UVU men used an early second half run to notch a 65-57 victory over the Highlanders at the UVU Events Center.
Jordan Swarbrick led the Wolverines (12-16, 5-7) with 13 points while Jheryl Wilson paced NJIT (9-18, 4-6) with a game-high 26 points.
After falling behind by five in the early going, UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker subbed out all of his starters in an effort to spark his team.
“We had a couple of breakdowns early, so we made an adjustment,” Hunsaker said about the hockey-style substitution. “I thought it helped get us settled down and gave us a chance to get the game under control.”
The move worked as the Wolverines slowly clawed their way back before a Justin Baker layup gave them their first lead of the game, 16-14. Baker finished the game with eight points and six rebounds.
With just under a minute remaining in the first half, Tyray Petty hauled in a nifty pass from Kevin Woods and laid the ball in as the Wolverines took their biggest lead of the half into the locker room up 25-18.
UVU closed the half on a 16-4 run as the Highlanders went ice cold from the field in the last 4:30 of the half.
In the second half, it was more of the same as the Wolverines opened the half on a 22-9 run to increase their lead to 20 after Shawn Deadwiler hit a trey with 9:28 remaining.
But the Highlanders didn’t go down without a fight. A 3-pointer by NJIT’s Chris Flores with six minutes left in the game cut UVU’s lead to just eight.
Thanks to some stellar free throw shooting down the stretch by Woods and Swarbrick, the Wolverines staved off the Highlanders and sealed the victory. Woods also chipped in 10 points and grabbed five boards for UVU.
With NJIT just ahead of UVU in the Great West Conference standings, the win proved to be even more important with next week’s conference tournament looming.
But Hunsaker was just as satisfied avenging a 71-56 loss on Jan. 30 to the Highlanders.
“NJIT really had their way with us at their place,” Hunsaker said. “Our whole game plan was to come in and play hard defensively, take care of the ball, and limit them to one shot.”