Wolverines top CSU in historic offensive showcase 101-87

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Coming off one of their worst offensive performances of the season, the Utah Valley men’s basketball team put on an offensive clinic as they ran the Chicago State Cougars out of the Jones Convocation Center in Chicago on Thursday, Jan. 27 by a final of 101-87. 

The Wolverines shot a whopping 69% from the field, aided by 72% from three and a near-perfect 89% from the charity stripe. It was UVU’s best shooting performance as a team since 2014 when the Wolverines shot 70.7% against UT-Pan American (now UTRGV).

Connor Harding led the Wolverines with 18 points on a near-perfect 7-of-8 from the field and 4-of-5 from deep. Fardaws Aimaq’s double-double streak was snapped at 10 games, but the Big Maple still made his presence felt with 17 points and five rebounds, all while dealing with foul trouble. Le’Tre Darthard also racked up 13 points and five rebounds.

Justin Harmon made his much-anticipated return to the lineup in front of a large group of friends and family. The Chicago-native dropped 12 points off the bench. The two Tims of Fuller and Ceaser combined for 32 points, with Fuller scoring 15 and Ceaser pitching in 17. 

The two squads traded buckets through the opening minutes, with the Wolverines holding a 12-11 lead at the under-16 media timeout. From there, UVU took over, outscoring the Cougars 40-26 over the remainder of the half. Ceaser and Fuller combined for 23 of the 52 points in the first half.

One would expect a team that shot 64.7% from the field in the first half to experience some sort of drop-off in the second half, but the Wolverines managed to get even better following the break. Harding was perfect in the second half, including three threes to aid in an historic offensive performance from the road team. 

UVU shot 76.2% in the second half as the Cougars just had no answer for the Wolverines’ interior presence. The Wolverines attempted just four three-pointers in the second half (making all four), and relied heavily on slashing to the basket. This is where Harmon made his presence felt, racking up 10 of his 12 points in the second half on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting performance.

CSU made it close a few times in the second half, cutting the lead down to as few as five with just over 10 minutes to play, but the Wolverines missed just two shots the remainder of the way. 

All nine UVU players that saw action contributed in the score column. Blaze Nield, who started the game, played just 16 minutes, including just four minutes in the second half. It was unclear if there was an injury that contributed to this.  

Thursday’s performance will be etched in the UVU men’s basketball record books, as the team had the third-highest field goal percentage, sixth-most field goals made, and fifth-most points scored against a Division I opponent in program history. It was also just the second time this season the Wolverines had six players in double figures, the first being against Nicholls State in the SoCal Challenge.

The Wolverines will look to keep up this stellar offensive play when they travel to Nacogdoches, Texas to take on WAC newcomer Stephen F. Austin on Thursday, Feb. 3. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. MDT and can be streamed on ESPN+ or via the radio on ESPN 960.