Wolverines stifle Grambling State, Hubbard shines in debut
Utah Valley held Grambling State to 15 percent shooting in the first half before going on an 18-0 run, spurring them to a 64-34 win at home Wednesday night. Isiah Williams led a balanced Wolverine offense with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, while Alfonzo Hubbard chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench in his season debut.
UVU’s defense, combined with the Tigers’ offensive woes, allowed the Wolverines to overcome a slow start offensively, as well as a 1-for-11 performance from beyond the arc. Grambling State shot just 4-for-26 in the first half, leading to a paltry 10 points at intermission.
“I’m not disappointed nor am I really pleased,” head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “I thought we did a yeoman’s job defensively and a respectable job on the backboards.”
The latter has been one of the early-season strengths thus far for UVU, which has out-rebounded its opposition by a combined 27 rebounds through three games. Senior forward Geddes Robinson came back to earth after amassing 26 rebounds through the first two games, getting just six Wednesday night.
That may have been more due to other teammates chipping in that Robinson underperforming. Hubbard, a junior transfer from Salt Lake Community College, made an immediate impact on the glass despite playing just 13 minutes.
“He has a nice feel on how to play the game,” Hunsaker said. “He’s getting acclimated on what’s expected from him. He needs to get much more disciplined defensively.”
Keith Thompson did not have the same need Wednesday, coming up with two blocks and two steals in addition to his eight points and six rebounds on the night. Late in the first half Thompson came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a one-handed dunk, the second bucket in the Wolverines’ game-breaking 18-0 run.
Thompson pointed to the Wolverines’ loss at Houston earlier in the week as motivation to get back on track.
“That Houston game, we didn’t want to lose that game,” Thompson said. “We were on a mission this game. “
Unlike last week’s season-opening win over Simpson, UVU remained focused in the second half despite holding a 24-point advantage at half-time. Sophomore center Ben Aird began the half with six straight points, all on offensive put-backs.
Hunsaker credited Aird’s and other hustle sequences for igniting the team with necessary energy, something he said was lacking in the Simpson game.
“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.”