On Dec. 22, Utah Valley University men’s basketball took on Sam Houston State University to get their 20th straight home win in their final game of 2018 in the UCCU Center.
Both teams came out with a lot of hustle, moving the ball quickly and answering each other’s points on the other end of the floor for the first few baskets. The first half was held pretty evenly by both teams as they kept the score within single digits the whole half. SHSU came out with a full court press early on, trying to slow down the Wolverines but didn’t keep it up for long.
“We may have limped towards the finish line today, but we made it, the guys did it,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said. “There were several times during the game today where it could have gone either way but these guys just made enough plays to win it and I’m really happy for them.”
The Wolverines led at the half 36-31, with sophomore guard Isaiah White leading the team with nine points and two steals while SHSU senior guard Marcus Harris led the Bearkats with nine points as well. A big difference in the first half was the comparison in free throws per team. UVU at the half shot 12 and SHSU only shot six.
It took UVU a few minutes to find their heads to start the second half, quickly falling to 40-37 with some costly turnovers and sloppy defense. Junior guard Jake Toolson was quick to answer though with a big three-pointer to tie it back up at 40 after a near UVU turnover.
Poor UVU defense in the paint kept the Bearkats in the game despite the Wolverines having the larger players. UVU gave up 28 points in the paint and 10 second chance points. Three of UVU’s four post players got themselves into some foul trouble early on, which may be the contributing factor to those stats.
The Bearkats were led by Harris, who had multiple momentum changing three-pointers and one steal with seconds left on an inbound pass to keep them alive. SHSU had three players score double digit points while UVU had five.
Senior guard Connor Toolson reached an impressive milestone 1000 career points early in the second half, with his 13th point out of his total 18.
“We are really trying to grow our numbers but one of the fun things we have here is we have a nucleus of ridiculously loyal people who care about our guys, they love coming to the games,” Coach Pope said. “That’s the nucleus you build something from.”
The game ended 85-79 in favor of the Wolverines, the crowd cheered and Wolverine Willy shot streamers into the crowd to celebrate the 20th consecutive home win.
The Wolverines will get a few days break to celebrate the holidays before heading to California to face Fresno State on Dec. 29.
Photo credit: @clarkcliffordphoto