Finish, Finish, Finish

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The 2016-17 season for the UVU men’s basketball team has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. There’s been a wide variety of big wins and close losses, exciting finishes and disappointing ones. They overcame a 27-point deficit to beat the University of Denver early in the season. UVU followed that up with one of the biggest wins in program history, a 114-101 domination of crosstown foe BYU.

The Wolverines followed up that big win with an 83-76 loss on the road to Washington State. They trailed by as many as 19 points in that game before cutting the deficit to one point with a minute to play. However, UVU couldn’t take advantage and failed to hit shots down the stretch.

A similar situation happened just six days later, when UVU faced the University of Utah for the first time ever. Brandon Randolph hit a floater in the lane to give UVU a three-point lead with just over two minutes to play. Unfortunately, the Wolverines again couldn’t finish the game as Utah went on a 12-2 run to end the game and secure the win.

Fast forward to Saturday, Jan. 28. Western Athletic Conference leader New Mexico State University was in town, riding a 17-game winning streak. It was ‘Blackout’ night in the UCCU Events Center. The game was ripe for the upset, especially with all that had happened in college basketball earlier that week. Five top-10 teams had been upset and other conference leaders had been knocked off.

UVU did exactly what it needed to do for the majority of the contest. The Wolverines held a 38-31 halftime lead and then led 69-65 with just over two minutes to go. However, again, NMSU simply made more plays down the stretch than UVU, including guard Ian Baker going coast-to-coast and converting the layup and free throw with 1:51 left to play to spark a 9-0 Aggie run to end the game.

“Well, I thought the guys played probably 25 minutes of good basketball,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope following the NMSU loss. “We just didn’t make plays down the stretch, offensively or defensively…we’ve just got to execute better down the stretch.”

It has been the story for UVU basketball this season. There is a need to finish games. Whether that is Brandon Randolph getting to the rim or the free throw line, or Jordan Poydras, Conner Toolson or Kenneth Ogbe hitting a big 3-pointer, UVU has to get a killer instinct late in games. The talent on this team is better than its record shows.
Finish. Finish. Finish. The mantra for this team is ‘Shock the world.’ In order to do that this season, this team needs to finish games and get over that hump when they get to the top of it.