Limited players and a small lineup could have been a crutch for the Utah Valley men’s basketball team as they played North Dakota State University. Instead, the Wolverines pulled out a win on the road 68-62.
The Bisons came into the game with a record of 4-2 and come off an even more impressive season last year. They won their Summit League Conference tournament and won an NCAA tournament play-in game against No. 16 North Carolina Central. They moved on to play No. 1 Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament but lost 62-85.
Despite the small and shallow lineup, the Wolverines controlled the first half, up 33-24 at the half. A 14-point UVU run mid-way through the half woke the team up from a 6-13 deficit. Senior forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke only played eight first-half minutes after two quick fouls called against him.
No surprise here, as senior guard TJ Washington and junior guard Brandon Averette led the way and put on a show for the Wolverines. Washington put up 12 points in the first half to go along with four rebounds and a steal — while Averette added nine points. The point guard duo would finish the night with 42 of the Wolverines 68 points.
UVU would start off the second half with Olojakpoke back on the floor but would soon transition back to their small lineup. He finished the night only playing 13 minutes, despite not committing any further fouls from his original two. He would contribute four points, five rebounds and a block.
NDSU wasn’t about to go out without a fight. A 12-point run would bring the Bison from down 14 points, to trailing by only five. Senior guard Vinnie Shahid made a big impact in the second half, knocking down 16 of his 23. He led the Bison in scoring and played the entire 40 minutes of basketball.
Even with the Bison scare, the Wolverines maintained composure, never letting NDSU tie or take the lead in the final minutes. The Bison would get within two points but four points from the charity stripe by sophomore guard Trey Woodbury and junior forward Casdon Jardine would seal the deal.
The Wolverines will play two more games on the road before returning home to face off against Utah foe Weber State on Dec. 4. The two road games will be against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 26, and Colorado State on the first of December.