Wolverines fall to SUU in WAC Semi-Final, will begin NIT Wednesday

Reading Time: 2 minutes After leading by as many as 23 points in the second half, the Wolverines allowed the Thunderbirds to come back and win it in the final seconds.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Utah Valley University’s men’s basketball team was defeated by the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds 89-88 in the Hercules Tires Western Athletic Conference Tournament semi-final after the Wolverines blew a 23-point second-half lead. SUU’s Tevian Jones hit a three-pointer to tie plus a foul with four seconds remaining, eventually hitting the free-throw to put the Wolverines away.

The Wolverines shot themselves in the foot in this one, as they committed 16 turnovers resulting in 16 Thunderbird points. All five starters for UVU scored in double figures, and Trey Woodbury was the high scorer for the Wolverines as he put up 29 points, including seven triples, to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. Tim Fuller added 14 points, Justin Harmon scored 13, and Aziz Bandaogo and Le’Tre Darthard each scored 12 points. The Wolverines shot 17-25 from the free-throw line, missing out on crucial points down the stretch.

The first half was a heated battle, with neither team leading by more than four points until the final five minutes. With 4:27 remaining in the period, the Wolverines rallied off a 16-6 run to take the largest lead of the game up until that point, going into the halftime break up 41-33. 

In the opening five minutes of the second half, it appeared as if the Wolverines would cruise to the WAC Championship game. Their eight-point lead ballooned to 23 with 15:42 remaining in the contest by means of an 18-3 run to begin the half. Jumpers were falling left and right as UVU was in total control of the game offensively. However, the Thunderbirds continued to play, and with 12:14 remaining, trailing by 20 points, they began to strike back. 

The Wolverines’ 20-point lead was reduced to 11 points in just two minutes. However, the Wolverine’s starters were subbed back into the game and they led by 15 points with 5:58 to play. Again, it seemed as though the Wolverines had put this one away. The Thunderbirds finished the game on a 27-11 run. Leading 86-83, Harmon missed two free-throw attempts leading to two points on the other end, eventually setting up the Thunderbirds’ game-winner. After Jones’ miraculous four-point play to take the lead, the Wolverines had a shot at the game-winner. However, Harmon’s shot in the paint rolled off the rim and the Wolverines fell 89-88.

Eliminated from NCAA Tournament considerations, the regular-season WAC Champion Wolverines get an automatic bid in the National Invitational Tournament. They will play the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque on Wednesday in the first round of the NIT. The game tips off at 8 p.m. MT and can be streamed on ESPN+.