Two qualities defined the UVU women’s basketball team all season: inconsistency and doing the unexpected. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t show up when the Wolverines needed them most.
The second-seeded Wolverines fell 69-56 to No. 1 North Dakota in the Great West Conference Tournament championship, Saturday night, following a win (Friday’s semifinal victory) with a loss for the fifth time in a row.
Senior guard Jenna Johnson UVU with 12 points off the bench in her college finale, but it wasn’t enough as the Fighting Sioux dominated the Wolverines inside with 32 points in the paint and an 45-37 advantage on the glass.
Junior forward Sammie Jensen was held to seven points and nine rebounds after averaging over 13 points and 10 rebounds per game in the regular season. North Dakota post players Allyssa Wall and Emily Evers combined for 30 points and 15 rebounds, thanks in large part to the combined eight-inch height advantage they held over Jensen and center Erika Newbold.
“They’re very big, very physical and very good,” Jensen said.
The Wolverines withstood the mismatch in the first half, even out-rebounding the Sioux by three and limiting Wall to just three shot attempts. Jenna Johnson again sparked a lackluster start, pouring in eight first-half points as she and freshman Taylor Huber (five points, two steals, one assist in the first half) helped cut a 12-point deficit down to three.
The rally could have been the second time in as many nights UVU responded to a run by its opponent, something head coach Cathy Nixon had been waiting for all season.
Instead North Dakota went on a 14-5 run to extend their lead to 12. The Wolverines started to come up with defensive stops, but went eight possessions in a row without scoring on the other end. The team ended with a 22-for-60 performance from the field, including a 6-for-22 offering from 3-point range.
“I really felt that in the second half, they made their run and stretched it out a little bit,” Nixon said. “Then we got stops on the defensive end and had, I thought, pretty good opportunities on the offensive end that could have simulated that same run we had in the first half.”
The game featured the finalists from the 2010 championship game, when then the sixth-seeded Wolverines shocked the No. 1 ranked Sioux for the conference’s first-ever tournament crown. North Dakota advanced to the final again in 2011, but fell to Chicago State.
Despite North Dakota being heavily favored in their third attempt, the Wolverines entered the game with confidence after handing the Sioux their only conference loss in the regular season. That confidence, however, was trumped by UND’s desire to win what they had already been twice denied.
“I think all of us feel that the credit goes to them,” Nixon said. “They played a very good game, they have a talented team, but I am certainly proud of our team for the way they battled.”
Tournament notes: Sammie Jensen and Jenna Johnson were both named to the All-Tournament team. Johnson scored 30 points combined in the two games and Jensen averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the tournament.
North Dakota’s Allyssa Wall and Emily Evers were also named to the All-Tournament team. Evers scored 16 points and had six rebounds in the championship game despite coming off the bench.
Matt Petersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @TheMattPetersen.