Utah Valley trailed by four to No. 17 Oregon through 24 minutes of play before ultimately falling, 69-54 in the Wolverines’ second road game of the season.
Trailing 27-13 with 3:08 left in the first half, UVU broke off a 12-2 run that was fueled by quick rotations and solid positioning on defense. The Wolverines forced three turnovers and drew two offensive fouls during that stretch.
Oregon struck first in the second half, but every time the Ducks scored the Wolverines were able to answer, until UVU went cold with 15:31 left.
A scoring drought that lasted nearly six minutes, during which four timeouts (two by UVU) were called, extended a four-point Oregon lead to 20. Junior Chad Ross finally hit a jumper at the 9:45 mark to cut it to 18.
Sophomore Hayes Garrity, playing in his home state, had his best game in Wolverine green with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Garrity is from Beaverton, Ore., which is just over 100 miles north of Eugene (roughly a one hour, 45-minute drive).
Junior Mitch Bruneel also set a career-high with 15 points and shot 70 percent (7-of-10) from the field. Freshman Zach Nelson had another strong all-around game despite missing all five of his 3-point attempts, finishing with 11 points, three assists, two rebounds and a block.
Nelson continues to bring the ball up the floor against the full court press, which is often the key for the Wolverines to get across halfcourt in time.
Senior Holton Hunsaker made savvy defensive plays that won’t show up on the score sheet, like the two charges he took, and multiple turnovers he forced. Hunsaker often draws the responsibility of the help-side defensive rotation in the paint, and came up with a number of strips when guarding much taller low-post players.
The literal and figurative coach’s son had just five points on a rough 2-of-10 shooting night, but dished out a team-high six assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Freshman Brenden Evans, added to the roster just days before the season opener, pulled down eight rebounds and had four points off the bench.
Team defense kept UVU in the game. The Wolverines forced 12 turnovers, held Oregon to 41.3 percent shooting and gave up only 15 free throw attempts. The Ducks made it to the line a combined 91 times in their previous two games.
The contest in Eugene provided more regular travel circumstances for UVU, after an early morning trip to Oklahoma on the second night of a back-to-back resulted in a lopsided loss to the eighth-ranked Cowboys.
The season-high five-game road trip continues for the Wolverines in Malibu, Calif. against Pepperdine Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. MST. The Waves (3-0) came in the last place in the West Coast Conference preseason media poll.