The Utah Valley men’s basketball team weathered the heat and the Havocs in Phoenix, Arizona as they took on Grand Canyon University. UVU senior guard TJ Washington took charge for the Wolverines as he scored a game-high 24 points and shot 50% from the floor, while adding four assists. Washington’s impressive night helped propel UVU to a 69-73 win on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The victory for UVU in Phoenix was a rather big one, having lost their previous five games at GCU. UVU’s last win at GCU Arena prior to Saturday night came on Feb. 6, 2014, when they won 68-79. However, the ‘Lopes still hold a now 10-6 all-time series record over UVU.
The Wolverines held a 30-32 lead at the half, thanks in large part to an 11-1 run that lasted nearly eight minutes towards the end of the half.
Slow starts and bad finishes have been a big factor in many UVU losses this season. The Wolverines avoided the first, and looked as though they were going to avoid the latter. That is, until the wheels almost fell off and the ‘Lopes got hot, and got hot fast.
UVU reached their largest lead of the game with two minutes left at 57-68. But, in the next 46 seconds of play, GCU went on a 9-0 run to cut the 11-point lead to just two. During the run for the ‘Lopes, UVU committed two costly turnovers while missing two free throws.
But the panic finally stopped and the game was all but sealed when GCU forgot to box out UVU redshirt junior guard Casdon Jardine. Jardine came through the lane untouched to grab an offensive rebound for a quick put-back layup with 44 seconds left to put UVU’s lead at four.
A couple missed desperation shots by the ‘Lopes and a few made free throws by UVU helped the Wolverines ultimately escape an unexpected climactic ending.
The ‘Lopes had two 20-point scorers on the evening in senior guard Carlos Johnson and junior center Alessandro Lever. Johnson had a team-high 21 points while Lever had 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for a double-double.
Jardine not only had the big play in the final minute, but also had himself a double-double on the night. He scored 10 points and grabbed a team-high 13 boards. While senior forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke continued his case for WAC Defensive Player of the Year, grabbing five defensive boards to go along with four blocks and two steals.
The Wolverines will now return home for a one-game home stand after going 1-1 on the current road trip. They will host the second-place California Baptist Lancers at the UCCU Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. MST.
Photo by Cameron Hunsinger