Hunsaker didn’t so much as glance at the stat sheet, one that said the Wolverines beat Simpson University by 27 points, outrebounded them by 15 and came up with 11 steals.
Instead he shared a message which stood in stark contrast to the lopsided win.
“The four returning starters I don’t think came out with the enthusiasm they came out with a year ago in a game such as this,” Hunsaker said. “I don’t think we were particularly sharp or aggressive in attacking the zone they ran against us.”
Such is the tone to start a season boasting expectations that are higher than ever. With the aforementioned starters back in the fold, including All-American Isiah Williams, preseason projections have run anywhere from 20-plus wins to a possible postseason beyond the conference tournament.
That, according to Hunsaker, has led to a lack of urgency from the players. While it didn’t hurt them against Simpson, the Wolverines failed to capitalize in their high-profile, nonconference game at Houston, where they fell 84-71. The scoring disparity could have been blamed at the free throw line, where Houston had 37 attempts compared to the Wolverines’ 11.
Back home against Grambling State last Wednesday, UVU appeared to get closer to Hunsaker’s expectations. A complete team effort saw no one score more than 12 points en route to beating the Tigers 64-34. After pin pointed forward Geddes Robinson (11.7 points, 10.7 rebounds through the first three games) as the only spark in the season opener, Hunsaker was more liberal in handing out kudos after Wednedsay’s win.
“I told the kids at half-time, ‘You’re sparked by defensive plays, offensive rebounds or you’re sparked by some individual hustle play,” Hunsaker said.
“Taylor [Brown] had a great play in the first half and Ben’s put-backs were very big.”
Forward Keith Thompson, the only new starter on this year’s team, said that Monday’s loss to Houston may have given the Wolverines the spark Hunsaker has sought since the preseason practices.
“That Houston game, we didn’t want to lose that game,” Thompson said. “We were on a mission this game.”
Offensively, Isiah Williams has continued to provide the offensive spark. The senior guard had two 8-0 scoring runs in the Simpson game and led the team with 17.3 points per game entering Saturday’s game against Missouri-Kansas City. UVU has also looked more to Robinson in the post, where he excelled Wednesday night.
It is defensively, and on the intangibles however, where Hunsaker has looked for the spark and energy he has stressed. Williams agreed with Hunsaker that the team is still a talented work in progress.
“We’re happy we won. It was our first game and we won but we can do a lot better,” Williams said. “We have a lot of small areas that we have to clean up, but now it’s on to the next game.”