Wolverines comeback falls short, defeated by GCU 65-63

Josie Williams calls for the ball in the post (Photo courtesy of Nathan Jackson).

Despite a late rally, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team fell to the Grand Canyon Antelopes, 65-63 at the UCCU Center on Thursday, March 3. 

Maria Carvalho had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but her floater was too strong. Carvalho finished with 14 points, shooting just 4-of-15 from the field. 

Josie Williams finished with a double-double, going for 16 points and 14 rebounds, but none of them came easy. Williams was consistently double and triple-teamed by the Lopes making life difficult in the post. The double-double was Williams’ 21st of the year, moving her into sole possession of fourth-most in the nation.

Madison Grange was the third Wolverine in double figures, pitching in 12 points and going a near-perfect 6-of-7 from the charity stripe. Kayla Anderson added eight points, including a pair of triples in the second half.

The Wolverines struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end in the early going, missing their first three shots and turning the ball over twice. The Lopes put up the first six points but UVU answered with an 8-0 run of their own to take their first lead. Both teams traded buckets the remainder of the quarter, with GCU holding a 15-13 advantage at the end of one.

Eleyana Tafisi got things going to start the second quarter, driving through contact to convert an and-one opportunity to give the Wolverines the lead. Neither team led by more than five in the second quarter. UVU used some hard-nosed basketball to keep things running on the offensive end, with Williams banking home a layup through contact and Megan Jensen pulling down a tough offensive rebound before dishing to Carvalho for a layup. 

Wolverines head coach Dan Nielson was assessed a technical foul before the final possession of the half with the game tied at 31, but the Lopes made both free throws to take a two-point lead into halftime. 

UVU took its largest lead of the night midway through the third quarter following three straight buckets. Grange made a long two with her foot on the three-point line, then Carvalho picked up a rebound and drove coast to coast before dishing to Jensen for an easy deuce. Tafisi capped off the spurt with a steal and score to put the Wolverines up five.

GCU scored 19 of the next 29 points to take a game-high-tying six-point lead early in the fourth, but a pair of makes from Jensen and Anderson cut the lead back down to three.

The Lopes had the ball with just under a minute remaining, but the Wolverines were able to force a jump ball and received the ball thanks to the possession arrow. UVU wasn’t able to capitalize, however, with Grange losing the handle while driving along the baseline with 33 seconds remaining.

GCU took the clock down as low as possible and missed their first attempt, but Jay McChristine made the put-back layup to give the Lopes the lead. The Wolverines called timeout to advance the ball into the frontcourt, but Carvalho’s floater missed long.

The victory locks GCU in as the two seed for next week’s WAC tournament. The Wolverines currently sit in fourth place in the WAC, with a half-game lead over fifth-place Sam Houston and a full game lead over a trio of teams tied for sixth in Abilene Christian, Tarleton, and Lamar. A victory locks UVU in as the four seed and would give them a double-bye into the quarterfinals, but a loss would push the Wolverines down to at best a five seed and at worst a seven seed depending on how Saturday’s games turn out.

The Wolverines control their own destiny heading into Saturday’s decision day in the WAC. UVU hosts New Mexico State at the UCCU Center, with the game tipping off at noon MDT and being streamed on ESPN+. 

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