Large crowd cheers UVU on to beat California Baptist

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California Baptist University was welcomed by a full house of UVU fans and was handed a loss on Wednesday night for their first ever game at the UCCU center. This was the first meeting between the two schools for their men’s basketball programs which resulted in a Wolverine win 79-62.

CBU started off the game playing very physical defense, not letting UVU get the easy buckets and they kept the score close. The Lancers stayed within two or three points until roughly nine and a half minutes left in the half. UVU started to slip away from that point to go on an 11-0 run before CBU could score again at 27-16.

UVU would remain in the lead the rest of the first half. Junior guard Jake Toolson had 14 points and shot 5-6 from the field and an impressive 4-5 from behind the arc. On the other end of the floor, CBU junior center Zach Pirog led the Lancers with seven points and two rebounds in the half. The first half ended 38-18 in favor of the Wolverines.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, our team is just beat up and battered right now,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said. “This Baptist team, we knew going in they were really well coached so it’s great for us right now.”

CBU came out the second half hungry to come back. The Lancers ran nine points past the Wolverines before UVU guard TJ Washington hit a layup ending the CBU run and setting the score 42-27. The Lancers would get the deficit  down to six points but UVU would muscle their way back each time to maintain a solid lead.

Several Wolverines came alive in the second half. Sophomore forward Isaiah White contributed eight of his 15 points and junior center Baylee Steele scored 10 of his 16, his third double-double of the season.

“When I step on the floor I block everything out,” Steele said. “You get into this state of mind and you feel like you can just play forever.”  

It was the same story on the other side of the ball with a few CBU players including sophomore guard Milan Acquaah who scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Mike Henn also contributed all 11 of his points in that half.   

“Everyone on our team needs something different, some of our guys need conditioning, some of our guys need to shut it down, some of our guys need to do yoga,” Pope said regarding the 10 day break the team has before heading to Seattle on Feb. 9. “For the next few days we will spend every day on personalized work and try to take advantage of this time.”

The Wolverines now have three consecutive wins and a conference record of 5-3 putting them in fourth place in the WAC.  UVU will head on the road for three games before playing in the UCCU Center against Chicago State on Feb. 21.

Photo courtesy of: Johnny Morris

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