The Utah Valley men’s basketball team took the court for their first regular season game Tuesday, Nov. 5, with an almost entirely different look. From the starting lineup, to the coaching staff and even the UCCU Center court. But, amidst all the newness, UVU found a way to win the opener over Westminster College 72-55.
Junior guard Isaiah White had himself a night of career-highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds, both of which also led the team. This was also White’s first career double-double, and the first Wolverine double-double this season.
“I thought Isaiah White obviously gave us a huge boost on the glass and attacking the rim,” said UVU head coach Mark Madsen.
This was only the third meeting all-time between UVU and WC, with UVU winning an exhibition matchup in 2007, and last season’s opener by a score of 96-71.
There was an unexpected struggle in the early going for the Wolverines. They found themselves down by as many as nine at the 13 minute mark of the first half. UVU looked very lost both offensively and defensively to this point, and was obvious that it would take longer than the first seven minutes to gel for this completely new team.
After the early deficit though, the Wolverines went on a 14-0 run to go up by five and would never trail from there.
“Everyone has jitters, it’s a new team, new coach so we’re all trying to get a feel what’s going on, trying to get the season started off right so everyone’s excited,” said White. “I think we came out kind of hesitant at first, and then we got going, got comfortable and it was history after that.”
Newcomer junior guard Brandon Averette — who was selected to the preseason All-WAC second team — was awfully quiet in the first half, taking just two shots and going 0-2 from the field. But, as great players do, found his rhythm in the second half. Averette finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists in his Wolverine debut.
“Anyone that’s been in the practice gym, knows how great of a player Brandon Averette is. People need to remember Brandon has not played in a competitive game like this in over a year,” said Madsen. “I thought once he found his rhythm, I mean in the second half he was as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him. But the thing is, he’s even better than what he showed tonight.”
It was a tale of two halves on the evening for UVU from the three-point line. In the first half they shot a dismal 3-17 for a total of 17.6 percent. However, the second half was a different story as they went 5-14 for a total of 35.7 percent.
But, proceeding with some caution from behind the arc might be a good idea for the Wolverines here in the early going while still trying to figure out the offense with this new group of players.
The Madsen-era for UVU now sits at 1-0, and the Wolverines will now be on the road for game two of the early season. They will travel to Colorado to take on the University of Denver on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m. MST.