The last time the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team took the floor, they fell on Dec. 21 on the road to Long Beach State. They found themselves down 13 in the second half in that contest and tried to mount a comeback, but took the loss and dropped to 5-9 on the season.
The roles were reversed when the Wolverines hosted the Pioneers from the University of Antelope Valley in the UCCU Center on Saturday, Dec. 28. As the Wolverines were the ones who jumped out to not only a hot start in the first half, but were able to maintain a comfortable lead for the duration of the second half to earn the victory 80-65.
This was good news for head coach Mark Madsen as this matchup was the final non-conference game of the season before the Wolverines dive feet first into WAC play. It was also one where UVU gained additional confidence before starting conference play, which they could definitely benefit from as their first three conference contests are on the road starting next week.
“[Having 20 assists] was big time,” said Madsen. “The ball was moving, players were playing unselfishly and guys were making shots. We also got to the free throw line 30 times. That’s been an emphasis point to attack the rim, to attack the basket and to be aggressive going in there. I think that showed.”
The Wolverines started off hot from behind the arc, drilling four triples before the first media timeout to give them a 14-2 lead over the Pioneers. The two squads evened out over the next 12 minutes as UVU held on to a 37-25 lead with 4:18 to play in the first half. Junior guard Brandon Averette and senior guard TJ Washington controlled the offense in the first half, scoring 12 and 10 points in the first 20 minutes of the game.
UVU started the second half by sinking their first five attempts from the field to balloon their lead to 58-37, their largest of the game. UAV answered with a 12-4 run of their own to slice their deficit to 11, but the home team rattled off six-straight points to extend their lead and keep their distance the rest of the way.
Four Wolverines finished the game with double-figure points. Averette tallied 19 points and was the most efficient Wolverine on the evening as he shot 70% from the floor, including 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Washington dropped 16 points on 50% shooting from the field, while junior guard Isaiah White had 15 points and junior forward Casdon Jardine netted 14 points. Knowing that multiple playmakers are on the floor at once is something coach Madsen can look forward to heading into conference play.
“This group gets along with each other, they spend time together away from the court and away from the locker room,” said Madsen. “I think when you have that type of synergy across players it doesn’t surprise me that we had four guys in double figures…there’s no selfishness in that locker room…I’m proud of these guys and we’re excited heading into the conference.”
UVU now leads the series with UAV 3-0 all-time, and now go on the road to face Chicago State on Thursday, Jan. 2, to commence WAC play.