Jessica Whalen [email protected]
The Utah Valley University women’s basketball team snapped their nine-game losing streak with two consecutive wins against Idaho State and New Orleans.
UVU (4-10) led the majority of the game against Idaho State Dec. 20, including a game-high 12-point advantage; yet, fell behind late in the game.
With 1:36 left freshman Georgia Agnew went to the free-throw line and made the first shot, but missed the second. Because of a lane violation she got another chance and tied the game, 56-56.
Then with 49 seconds left, Agnew again got to the line. She was able to give the Wolverines the lead, making 1-of-2.
Freshman Rhaiah Spooner-Knight deflected the ensuing inbounds pass, diving to the floor to grab the loose ball. She got the ball to sophomore Katie Kuklok, who was fouled with 0.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Kuklok sank both free throws, and Utah Valley was able to overcome the late deficit and get the win. This was the fifth time the Wolverines ended a game that was decided by three points or fewer, the win marking the first time the Wolverines came out on top.
“We feel like we have progressed as a team over the last couple months and are hoping to collectively start playing the kind of basketball we know we are capable of,” head coach Cathy Nixon said.
Spooner-Knight scored 21 points –17 in the first half – and had seven rebounds. She was 7-of-9 from the field and made all of her free throws. Kuklok had 13 points, and Agnew had seven.
Kuklok’s 13 points allowed her to stay atop the WAC leaderboard in scoring; her average was 20.3 as of Jan. 3. Nationally, she is amongst the leaders in three categories: 3-point field goals per game (second at 3.67), free-throw percentage (seventh at 93.4), and 3-point percentage (11th at 50.6).
“It wasn’t one that came easy, and I’m so proud of the girls for the way they battled and earned the win today,” Nixon said. “We are hoping to build on our momentum going into the New Orleans game and carry that over into the conference games next week.”
The Wolverines and the Privateers met last year in The Big Easy for the first-ever meeting between the two. New Orleans won that game, 55-51.
“We played New Orleans last year at their place and learned that we need to play well to beat them,” Nixon said. “We will need to play smart defensively to contain their penetration and limit their second chances on the glass.”
UVU broke its record for the largest margin of victory versus a DI opponent this time around, beating the Privateers, 89-40.
“We felt it was important for us to get some momentum going into the WAC-opener next week, and we did just that today,” said Nixon.
Spooner-Knight led all scorers with 20 points against New Orleans. In addition, she also hauled in nine rebounds. Spooner-Knight was named the WAC Player of the Week for Dec. 23-29.
Kuklok scored 12 points and junior Tina Doughty had 10. There were 11 Wolverines who suited up for the game, and each of them that got playing time and scored. Utah Valley’s bench outscored New Orleans’, 37-8.
“I loved our production off the bench,” Nixon said. “We also took good care of the basketball, so hopefully we’re getting better and taking steps toward where we want to be.”
The Wolverines are gearing up to play in their inaugural season in the WAC. UVU will open conference play against newcomer, and former Independent, Bakersfield in the UCCU Center Saturday Jan. 4 at 3 p.m.