With Ronnie Price and Ryan Toolson a distant memory, the UVU men’s basketball team is looking to build a new identity. The Wolverines took a step in figuring itself out last week as they opened the season with a 80-72 win over North Dakota State in front of a homecoming-sized crowd.
“It was a real nice win for us,” said Coach Dick Hunsaker. “I knew the kind of backbone North Dakota State was going to come in with.”
The NDSU Bison had won their last seven regular-season games dating back to last year and finished the season with a 10-point loss to Kansas in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament. Whatever momentum such a run might have garnered hit a speed bump as the Wolverines put together a solid second half to secure the win.
After trailing at the half 35-32, UVU went on a 7-0 run to open the second half thanks to a bank-in three by Tyray Petty and some inspired put-backs by Justin Baker. The momentum eventually swung the Wolverines into a 10-point lead early in the second half.
The Bison began to slowly chip away at the lead, but a baseline runner and foul gave Aaron England a three-point play securing a 59-52 lead for the Wolverines, with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Later in the half, as NDSU continued to stick around, Jordan Swarbrick connected from beyond the arc to preserve UVU’s seven-point lead heading down the stretch.
Swarbrick continued to come up big for the Wolverines as he knocked in a jumper near the left elbow with just over two minutes remaining to keep UVU in control as time ticked away. With time winding down, NDSU was forced to foul in order to stop the clock.
“With our new group of players all with different roles they have, I was pleased with their aggressiveness down the stretch,” Hunsaker added. “When the game was close I thought we kept competing and playing hard.”