Early foul trouble dooms Aimaq as UVU loses at Southern Utah 60-56

Jaden Mcclanahan gets around two Thuderbird defenders (Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics).

Despite battling through early foul trouble, sophomore center Fardaws Aimaq led all scorers with 18 points in Utah Valley’s loss at Southern Utah 60-56 on Wednesday. Junior guard Connor Harding followed suit posting 15 points and seven rebounds but could only find the bottom of the net on 1-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. 

“We gave ourselves a chance late and I’m proud of our guys for that,” said Utah Valley head coach Mark Madsen. “We didn’t lose the game late, we lost it in the midpoint of the first half. SUU went on a run and give them credit.”

The Wolverines jumped out to an early 9-2 run off of Harding’s only 3-pointer of the night. UVU then quickly relinquished that lead allowing six straight points to the Thunderbirds. From then on it was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams with neither team being able to build a significant lead in the first half. 

With 9:30 left in the first half, Aimaq committed his second personal foul of the game. Madsen elected to pull Aimaq from the game to make sure he didn’t get a third personal foul in the first half. Aimaq wouldn’t check back into the contest for almost five minutes of game time. 

The Wolverines were able to fend off the SUU offensive attack while Aimaq was on the bench with the likes of sophomore forward Tim Ceasar and sophomore center Tim Fuller. SUU led 29-26 when Aimaq checked back into the game. The Thunderbirds would put four more points on the board and go into halftime up 33-28. 

UVU was able to battle back and tie the game at 43 apiece midway through the second half. The game, which featured 10 lead changes, would see half of those lead changes from the midway point of the second half until it’s conclusion. 

SUU led 59-54 after Aimaq hit a jumper with only 1:37 left on the clock. Fuller’s stout defense led to one of only two steals on the night for the 6’ 9” sophomore. Fuller went coast to coast for the layup to bring the Wolverines within three — 59-56. 

On the next possession, SUU’s Maizen Faussett missed a 3-pointer and Harding pulled down his seventh rebound of the night giving UVU a shot to tie the game with only 25 seconds to go. Madsen called a timeout to draw up what the Wolverines wanted the final possession of the game to look like. 

Coming out of the timeout, UVU took the clock down to 10 seconds before Harding took an off balanced 3-pointer. The shot banged off the back iron and bounced out as SUU’s Nick Flemming secured the rebound. UVU would foul John Knight and send the Thunderbirds to the freethrow line with just 3 seconds left in the game. Knight hit one of the two free throws to effectively put the game out of reach. 

UVU suffered their second loss of the season to drop them to 7-2 overall, ending their seven-game win streak. They will face a red-hot 8-1 Wyoming team that’s currently ranked No. 18 in the NCAA Net rankings on the road in Laramie, Wyoming on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Mountain West Network as well as ESPN 960 AM. 

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