Alyssa Synakowski, Assitant Sports Editor, @synakowsk
Photo by Gabi Campbell
Utah Valley University men’s basketball fell 71-57 to Seattle University Feb. 13 at the UCCU Center, but UVU (14-9, 8-2) remained first in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
The Redhawks (12-11, 4-6) got a big second-half contribution from WAC leading scorer Isiah Umipig, who scored 27 of his 32 points after halftime.
“Seattle was the aggressor from the jump and Umipig just had too much game for us,” UVU coach Dick Hunsaker said. “They are long and big and athletic and controlled us on the backboards. We did not match their tenacity.”
The Wolverines were outrebounded by 17 and were bothered by the Redhawks’ defensive pressure the entire game.
UVU went into the locker room at half down 29-24. The Wolverines started the second half strong. Holton Hunsaker hit a quick 3-pointer and was followed by a Ben Aird layup to tie the game at 29 in the first minute of second-half play.
Umipig answered with a jumper on the other end to start a 12-2 run for Seattle.
Umipig finished the game shooting 7-for-11 (64 percent) on 3-point shots.
UVU trailed 48-35 with 14:40 to go in the game when Zach Nelson hit a 3-pointer to bring the score within 10.
Momentum in the game began to shift in the Wolverines’ favor. UVU drew the charge on defense and pushed the ball down court for a string of high-low passes between Nelson and Aird.
Aird, on an aggressive play, called for the ball while on the left block with a defender at his back. Aird sold his defender on a fake left, put the ball on the floor as he turned into the paint and laid the ball in. He was fouled and hit the deck hard.
The student section jumped up in excitement and remained standing the remainder of the game, calling for defense and their team to win.
Despite strong contributions from Aird and Nelson, Umipig’s shooting and 6-foot-9 Shore Adenekan were too much for UVU. Aird led the Wolverines with 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Nelson added 15 points, seven assists, and three steals.
With 3:59 to go, Nelson passed the ball to a cutting Aird, who cut the deficit to four on a made field goal and subsequent free throw to complete a 3-point play. Down 60-56, UVU would only score on more point in the contest.
The Redhawks went on a 7-0 run to finish the game. Umipig hit a deep, uncontested 3-pointer with four seconds left on the shot clock to seal the win. Seattle let the clock wind down the last 2 minutes of the game.
The Wolverines host Idaho on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the UCCU Center. Idaho (10-15, 4-7) comes into the game following a 76-67 loss to Bakersfield.