Friday night’s semifinal matchup sounds like something from a Broadway billboard. Isiah Williams vs. Isaiah Wilkerson. Chicago native vs. Staten Island product. 2011 Great West Player of the Year vs. 2012 Great West Player of the Year. Williams’ 15.8 points per game to Wilkerson’s 16.0ppg.
UVU forward Geddes Robinson knows which one he’d rather have on his side.
“The [Isiah] I’ve got now,” Robinson said. “I feel like he’s a better teammate. I don’t know the other Isaiah, but I feel like the one that’s on my side is better. I feel like he’s more versatile just by his decision making. He’s not only a good scorer, but he makes good decisions on the floor and he plays defense.”
Ironically, Robinson could have been a reason for Williams not winning the award back-to-back. The senior forward averaged 10 points on 57 percent shooting and a conference best 10.2 rebounds per game, numbers that could have made voters hesitate in naming one Wolverine more valuable than the other.
Instead both missed out, though they ended up taking two spots on the All-GWC First Team.
“It felt real good to see another teammate up there,” Williams said. “Obviously I was hoping at least one of us would come out with player with the year, but obviously we didn’t. But it was good to see how hard he’d been working over the summer and how good of a player that he became since last year.”
Like the player of the year voting, Friday night’s game between Utah Valley and NJIT isn’t likely to be a two-man story. Utah Valley’s dynamic duo overcame NJIT’s dynamic uno both times this season, though the second game went to double overtime before the Wolverines eked out the 99-97 win.
“We just got to come out and defend,” Williams said. “We didn’t really defend when we were up there. I think that’s why it went double overtime. If we come out and defend and play the game plan coach has planned for us, I think we’ll come out with a win.”
The Highlanders also have their attention on the defensive end. Head coach Jim Engles bemoaned the 18 rebounds Robinson logged in their first matchup, as well as Ben Aird’s career night in the double overtime game (24 points, 11 rebounds).
“Utah Valley has strength at every position,” Engles said. “I think we played really well in the last game, offensively. I thought we got into a groove, but we had a hard time of just guarding them down low. We have to do a better job of getting to their inside presence.”
It’s not a bad strategy. Utah Valley has struggled on the perimeter offensively all season, hitting just 31.5 percent from 3-point range while converting 47.4 of their attempts inside the arc.
Despite that, Robinson remained confident the offense would take care of itself if the Wolverines perform well on the other end of the floor.
“I feel like our ball movement and everything on the offensive end has been coming pretty good,” Robinson said. “I just feel like on the defensive end we have to come out aggressively and be ready to go as soon as the ball is jumped.”
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