Third quarter run propels Wolverines past UTRGV in WAC Tournament quarterfinal

Maria Carvalho sets up the offense (Photo courtesy of Nathan Jackson).

Behind a career-high six three-pointers from Maria Carvalho and a double-double from Josie Williams, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team defeated the UT-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros 72-57 in the second round of the Hercules Tires WAC Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 10. 

Williams led the Wolverines with 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for her 23rd double-double of the season. Carvalho added 21 points and made six of UVU’s seven triples. Megan Jensen was clutch coming off the bench, adding 16 points and snatching 11 boards. 

“Everybody’s stepping up. Everybody’s willing to do their job,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson regarding the key contributions his team has gotten off the bench the last few games. 

“I think that’s one of the cool things about this team. [Williams and Carvalho] get the numbers and the all-conference honors, but for us to be successful, we have to recognize if it’s Megan’s night, get her the ball. If it’s Abby [Conlee]’s night, get her the ball. They’ve done a good job of that.”

Williams was excited to see her fellow post threat step up off the bench.

“It’s huge, it’s awesome,” said Williams. “I get so excited when a teammate goes off like Megan. She’s a big and I’m a big, I love it.”  

The Wolverines commanded the interior all afternoon, outscoring the Vaqueros 38-16 in the paint and winning the rebound battle 47-32. Williams sparked that interior presence with a dominating 10-point first quarter on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field. 

UVU led by as many as eight in the second quarter at 27-19, but UTRGV responded with a 15-4 run to take a 34-29 lead right before the half. Emma Martin helped right the ship on the Wolverines’ final possession, draining a long two in her only action of the game.

Including the Martin bucket to end the first half, the Wolverines went on a 14-0 run to turn things around. UVU held the Vaqueros to just 7.1% shooting from the field in the 3rd quarter and just three points. It wasn’t the lowest-scoring quarter allowed this season by the Wolverines, however, as UVU held Dixie State to just two points in the first quarterback on Feb. 19. 

Part of what caused UVU so much trouble in the second quarter was the Vaqueros forcing the Wolverines out of the paint. Out of the intermission, head coach Dan Nielson opted to start both of his centers, Williams and Jensen, to reinforce that interior presence. 

Williams scored the first four points of the third for UVU, then Jensen took over and scored the next eight. Nielson said the game plan initially wasn’t to go big, but his assistants talked him into it. 

“We always like to play big, but with some injuries, we’ve been reluctant to do so, but our coaches talked me into doing it, and it really paid off. I really thought Megan dominated in the second half, and so did Josie.”

Carvalho capped off the third quarter with a pair of triples to push the lead up to double figures for the first time. Ally Blackham kept things going to start the fourth with a trey of her own that sparked a 14-6 spurt that gave the Wolverines a game-high 19-point lead. 

The Vaqueros wouldn’t go quietly, draining four threes in the final quarter of play, but the Wolverines had an answer for just about every UTRGV bucket to keep the lead above 10.  

The victory propels UVU to the semifinals of the WAC Tournament for the second-straight season. The fourth-seeded Wolverines will face off against the regular-season champions Stephen F. Austin for the right to go to the WAC championship. The game is scheduled to tip-off Friday at noon PDT and can be streamed on ESPN+. 

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