Smaller Utah Valley lineup continues winning streak

UVU sophomore forward Nehaa Sohail pulls up for the midrange jumper. (Photo by Hunter Hall)

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Utah Valley finished their road trip in Edinburg, Texas, where they were hosted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. A slightly smaller lineup from normal seemed to pay off, as the Wolverines held their own, beating the Vaqueros 76-67 on Saturday, Jan. 18.

UTRGV came into the game with a little extra momentum as their previous game turned into an overtime win over Seattle University, 85-81. That momentum carried in the first half of this game, as the Vaqueros never let the Wolverines run away with the lead.

“To sweep this trip is really big for us, especially against two really good, well-coached teams. Getting any road win is huge so to come here and do this is great,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson to the sports information directors.

That wasn’t going to stop the Wolverines from giving up their winning streak and first-place positioning atop the WAC standings, however. After the first 20 minutes of play, the score was all tied up at 32.

It was a game consisting of a lot of teamwork and fine-tuned execution from the Wolverines. Four UVU players achieved double-digit points and, to the surprise of many, sophomore guard Maria Carvalho wasn’t among the four. Instead, Carvalho contributed to the scoreboard by dishing assists to her teammates. While she only had four points of her own, the 10 assists she contributed made up for her minimal scoring.

Down the stretch of the game, UTRGV proved they had what it took to go the full 40 minutes of play against the Wolverines. Several different times in the fourth quarter, the Vaqueros cut a double-digit differential to just one point.

Graduate senior forward Jordan Agustus — who finished the afternoon leading the Vaqueros with 17 points — contributed to those comebacks in the fourth quarter. She put up seven points in the final quarter, including several successful and-one opportunities.

UVU was able to pull away at the end thanks to a strong performance from sophomore forward Nehaa Sohail, who also put up seven points in the final 10 minutes. She would finish the night with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The surprising change in the lineup for the Wolverines was the lack of minutes for both centers. Freshman Megan Jensen didn’t enter the game while sophomore Josie Williams only saw 12 minutes of playing time. In that time, she contributed six points on 3-of-4 shooting.

“We’ve talked about being ready and having different people step up for us,” said Nielson.

The change to the smaller lineup most likely came from the defensive double teaming effort by the Vaqueros whenever Williams had the ball. The lack of height didn’t seem to hinder the Wolverines though, as they still out-rebounded the Vaqueros and dominated scoring in the paint.

The win over UTRGV marked the seventh straight win for the Wolverines and a perfect 5-0 record in WAC play. The Wolverines will return to Utah for a two-game home stand against CSU Bakersfield on Thursday, Jan. 23, followed by Grand Canyon on Saturday, Jan. 25. Both games will take place in the UCCU Center.

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