Jackson, Wolverines shoot Vaqueros out of the building

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UVU guard sets school record for three pointers in rout of UTRGV

OREM — Jaden Jackson scored a career-high 31 points and hit a school record nine three-pointers to help the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team defeat the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley 98-65 on Saturday night at the UCCU Center.

“I think we learned a lot from Thursday,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said. “I think our guys had a lot of pent up frustration about Thursday.UVUmbbvsNMSU-51 We felt like we were kind of right there knocking on the door Thursday with a really good team and I think we were frustrated with how we finished it and our guys are growing. They played great tonight. They shared the ball. They were really, really aggressive trying to make a play for someone else. And the best thing, the thing that helped us was getting defensive stops and rebounds early.”

The Wolverines improved to 1-1 in Western Athletic Conference play and 7-10 overall. UVU shot 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc (15-30). They were also a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line, which was an improvement from Thursday night when they struggle to a 9-of-20 clip in a loss to New Mexico State.

With the score tied at six at the 17:39 mark of the first half, UVU went on a 21-0 run to take a commanding 27-6 lead with 13:17 to play. Jackson and Ivory Young, who had 17 points, each hit two from beyond the arc during the run and UVU never looked back.

“Coach always talks about pace, and all that, the extra pass,” Young said. “And I think we did a really good job of that tonight. Everybody was just trying to find each other for an open shot so when that happens we are hard to beat.”

However, towards the end of the first half, UTRGV went into a zone defense and it slowed down the UVU offense just enough so that the Vaqueros could cut into the lead. They scored seven unanswered points on a three-pointer and two layups to cut the lead to 19 at halftime.

Leading by 19 at halftime, UVU struggled to get going offensively in the second half and UTRGV was able to cut the lead to 14 with 11:41 left in the game.

However, it was a different story for a team that struggled to put away New Mexico State on Thursday night. They answered the run by the Vaqueros with their own run to end the game and picked up their first conference win of the season.

“We just wanted to stay with what we were doing in the first half,” Jackson said. “They slowed us down a little bit and it got a little sticky there for a minute. UVUmbbvsNMSU-54But we finally got back to how we play and how we were playing in that stretch where we had the 21-0 run, just moving the ball and pushing it and their transition defense wasn’t getting back tonight and so we just tried to attack that and keep pushing on them.”

The Wolverines used a 35-16 run over the final 11 minutes that included four three-point baskets from Jackson that sealed the deal. His record breaking three-pointer came with 2:09 to play in the game and gave the Wolverines a 94-65 lead.

“I didn’t know what the record was,” Jackson said. “They (his teammates) said ‘he you got six, you need one more to tie Zach, who is here right now (at UVU). He had seven last year.’ So I hit seven and I thought he had the school record so I thought that was it then and then they said it was eight. So the guys looked for me and they (shots) went down.”

“He’s (Jaden) been playing so well,” Pope said. “I think he was a little disappointed with his overall performance last year. He didn’t shoot the ball as well as he expects to. I think he feels a real responsibility to this team and has assumed a real leadership role and he is playing great basketball.”

UVU travels to Phoenix on Saturday, January 16 to face Grand Canyon. The ‘Lopes are coming off a 79-75 win over New Mexico State on Saturday night and Grand Canyon University Arena is one of the toughest places to play in the WAC.

“Playing in games like that is fun,” Young said. “It’s what you play for. Big environments, big crowds.”