Men’s basketball: Five takeaways from exhibition win

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Photo by Jesse Sanchez

OREM, Utah—In a final game before the season starts Friday night against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane, Washington, the new-look Utah Valley University men’s basketball team ran up the score on Division II opponent Western State with a final of 113-87. Brandon Randolph shined for the Wolverines with a triple-double by tallying 20 points, l0 assists and 10 rebounds in his first game in a UVU uniform. Beside Randolph’s breakout performance, here are five takeaways from UVU’s final fake game before the real ones start this weekend.

Allegro agitato

This group moves the ball a lot faster than last year’s team. With Randolph running the offense, the ball doesn’t stick with one player for more than a second or two and zips around the court.

“His style of play is just pace. He wants us to move the ball, race the ball up the floor, especially for the point guard and find the shooters,” said Randolph. “So when I get the ball, that’s just one of my greatest things, I’m just really fast with the basketball and I can get down the court quick and lay it up or find somebody.”

As UVU gets deeper into the season, defenders will get faster on the perimeter. But as this group continues to play together, the ball movement and pace will also improve.

Somebody stop that man!

Defense was an issue last season; it continues to be an issue early. UVU jumped out to a 32-12 lead midway through the first half on a 3-pointer by Kenneth Ogbe. The Wolverine defense relaxed on the 20-point lead and the Mountaineers went on a 24-8 run over the next 5:45 to cut the lead to eight.

“The riddle for us is: can we play at this pace and guard?” said head coach Mark Pope. “This team has the capacity to do it. We need to do a better job; we need to be locked in longer.”

With the pace UVU pushes for 40 minute every game, defense can sometimes get pushed to the backburner. However, as Pope stresses, it’s tough to push the tempo if they’re pulling the ball out of the net every trip down the floor.

Crash the boards

The Mountaineers outrebounded the Wolverines 23-22 in the first half, including 5-3 on the offensive glass. Randolph led UVU with 10 boards on the night. With his ability to get in transition once he snags a rebound, it’s nice to have a point guard who can rebound. A Russell Westbrook quality. However, Randolph’s rebounding ability is not something UVU will want to lean on night in and night out as it takes on opponents with more size.

“We held them under 10 offensive rebounds for the game, which is not great,” said Pope.

UVU ended the night with just two more rebounds than Western State.

Care for the ball

Part of Randolph’s impressive night included his ability to take care of the ball with just one turnover on the night. UVU combined to give the ball away just 10 times, which compliments the ability to move the ball quickly and efficiently.

“I think we’ll move the ball a little better in the future, but if we can stay in the 10 to 14 turnover range it’s pretty good for us with the pace we play. I’d be really happy. Ten’s a good number,” said Pope

Last year’s squad averaged 13.3 turnovers per game.

Fire at will

There are a bunch of itchy trigger fingers on this roster, but they’ve all earned the green light to shoot from downtown. UVU took more shots from behind the arc Monday than inside of it, and made an impressive 37.2 percent of 3-pointers. Freshman Jared Stutzman led the charge from downtown with 4-for-8 3-point shooting and 15 points on the night. Ogbe, Jordan Poydras and Conner Toolson all finished with three each. Multiple times down the court UVU fired from long range with at least 25 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Don’t be surprised to see this happen more often through the course of the season.