The Utah Valley men’s basketball team was able to grind out a 79-71 victory in the Old Hammer Rivalry over the Dixie State Trailblazers on Saturday, Jan. 8 at the UCCU Center.
The Wolverines shot just 61% from the charity stripe and turned the ball over 19 times, but were able to ride a stellar first half shooting performance to hang on for the victory.
Fardaws Aimaq led all scorers with 20 points, also grabbing 17 rebounds good for his nation-leading 13th double-double of the season. Connor Harding added 14 and Blaze Nield added 13 to help pace UVU. The two guards also combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final two minutes to help ice the game.
The Wolverines led by as many as 20 in the first half, shooting a blazing 80% from the field through the under-12 media timeout. That lead shrunk to as few as six down the home stretch, but Mark Madsen’s team proved to be resilient.
“Our coaches always reiterate that conference play is going to be tough every single night, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” said Aimaq. “You’ve gotta come to play every single night, no lead is safe. We went up big, they came back, we went up again, and it just shows that this team is locked in and ready to go.”
UVU had five players in double figures on the night, including four of the five starters. Asa McCord added 11 points off the bench on a perfect shooting night, going 4-for-4 from the field, 2-for-2 from three, and making his lone free throw of the game.
“Anytime as a coach you see 24 assists on 29 made field goals, you’re excited,” said Madsen. “We rebounded the ball well, and I felt that Asa McCord came in and was a spark plug. He energized our team.”
The first half was all Wolverines, but DSU was able to gain some momentum in the final minutes to cut into the lead. Aimaq was forced to sit due to foul trouble with just over six minutes remaining in the half, with UVU holding a 34-15 advantage. The Trailblazers outscored UVU by five over that stretch to cut the deficit to 14 at halftime.
Dixie State was able to ride that momentum following intermission, posting a 6-0 run over the first two minutes. Madsen called a quick timeout which seemed to do the trick, as the Wolverines went on a 14-7 run of their own.
The Trailblazers appeared on the verge of a run much of the second half, but anytime they seemed to gain any momentum, the Wolverines had an answer. DSU was able to apply significant ball pressure down the stretch, forcing 12 turnovers and a few jump balls in the second half. The Trailblazers cut the lead down to six with under a minute to play, but Nield and Harding’s clutch free throws were able to close things out.
UVU will head out on its first road trip of the conference slate this week. The Wolverines’ first game will be Wednesday, Jan. 12 against Seattle U at the brand-new Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. That game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. MDT and can be streamed on ESPN+ or on the radio via ESPN 960.