Looking to bounce back from a tough loss, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team hosted the University of Montana on Saturday, Dec. 7, in Lockhart Arena. Although showing much improvement, the Wolverines couldn’t hold off the Grizzlies, falling 52-63.
The jerseys might still be the same, the players might still have the same names, but comparing the team that played Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon is like comparing the sun and moon.
UVU came out looking like a brand new team. Energy was high, shots were going in and stops were being made on the defensive end. It looked like the Wolverines might just be able to bounce back.
“Those first three quarters we had good energy,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson. “I thought we executed what we wanted to do. The thing we have made the biggest strides on is learning how to win down the stretch.”
Both teams were evenly matched through the entire first half and not just because scores were tied at the end of the first two periods. Points in the paint, off of turnovers, from the bench and plenty of other stats stayed within three points.
Rebounds, on the other hand, proved to be a major strength for UVU on both ends of the floor in the first 20 minutes of play. Nine offensive rebounds led to seven second-chance points — add another 14 on the defensive end and the Wolverines out-boarded the Grizzlies 23-16.
All but one Wolverine that saw minutes in the first half also saw their points contributed to the board, but it was sophomore forward Nehaa Sohail that led with seven points.
The third quarter is where the Wolverines started to prove that they might just have what it takes to win — scoring 13 points and holding UM to only eight. Six of those eight didn’t come until late in the quarter. UVU lead by as many as nine in the quarter, but the Grizzlies would cut that down to five heading into the final period.
“Hopefully the few people that are here see that we’re making progress, we’re headed in the right direction,” said Nielson.
With 10 minutes left to play, the Grizzlies kicked their game into high gear and made their eight-point third quarter look obsolete. 64.3% from the field, on 9-of-14 shooting, propelled UM to 25 points in the fourth quarter alone. UVU, on the other hand, put up nine points on 4-of-16 shooting.
UM had five players reach double-digits in points, with the leader being freshman forward Jamie Pickens with 15 points. On the Wolverines side, it was sophomore guard Madison Grange who led the way for the team with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and knocking down two shots from deep.
From here, UVU will take the long journey to Brigham Young University. Nielson’s former team will host the Wolverines on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m. MST. The Cougars are sitting on three wins and three losses and will play Boise State before taking on the Wolverines.