Men’s Basketball: Five takeaways from UVU’s loss to USU

Photo by Brigham Berthold

Home atmosphere for USU?

One of the most fun things about in-state games is the opportunity it brings for opposing fan bases to come together. When UVU played at Utah last week, the UVU student section was loud and proud, overpowering the Utah crowd for much of the game. In this one, UVU got a little bit of the reverse. The USU student section showed up and they were loud. Especially as close as this one was in the end, the USU crowd definitely played a factor.

Closing struggles

For the second consecutive game, the Wolverines had a late lead they were unable to hold on to. In fact, UVU either had a lead or was tied for 39 out of 40 regulation minutes. In the first half, UVU led by as many as 11. While being on the other end of a comeback attempt was a change of scenery for the team, the result was largely the same. This team must learn how to close out tough games. The theme of the postgame comments was offensive execution in the clutch.

“We just didn’t execute down the stretch like really good teams have to do,” said Conner Toolson, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. “We played good the whole game except for the last minute. We made some mistakes and they executed like we didn’t.”

“That’s the difference between winning and losing. Especially with good teams and being a good team is executing and executing down the stretch,” said Jordan Poydras. “I think we’re still learning how each other moves and plays. Obviously it’s not an excuse, but I think that it’s going to take us more time to play together and get the results we want.”

The points are free. Take ’em

In the first half, UVU went 10-of-11 from the free throw line. It played a big part in maintaining their lead through the half. However, the regression to the mean came a little bit in the second half. In the final three minutes, with the slim lead bouncing back and forth between the two teams, UVU missed a combined three shots from the line. You can’t realistically expect to hit them all, but in a game that closed regulation in a tie, missing those points was a big problem.

Slowing down the man

The Wolverines did a good job in this game of slowing down USU’s leading scorer, Jalen Moore. In a total of 40 minutes on the court, Moore totaled just 15 points on 15 shots, including 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half. UVU made a concerted effort to double team Moore, which made it hard for him to get off good shots. However, this did open up the floor a little more for USU’s Koby McEwen and Shane Rector, who finished with 21 and 18, respectively.

“He’s a great player. He’s got great length and he can really shoot,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “They run a lot of stuff for him. We even came all the way extended to the 3-point line almost to double team him on the catches. As a good player, he made the right plays and found other guys.”

Freeing Ogbe

Going into the game at Utah, Kenneth Ogbe was UVU’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game. He had made 22-of-33 shots from beyond the arc for a cool 67 percent. In the two games since then, Ogbe’s scoring total hasn’t broken double-digits. Becoming a focus of the opposing defenses, he only attempted three 3-point shots in the two contests combined. If UVU wants to get back into the win column, they will need to find a way to free Ogbe up to return to his early-season scoring totals.

“Teams are keying in on him. You look at our stat sheet, if a guy’s shooting 67 percent from the 3-point line you’re going to pay special attention to him and try not to give him open looks,” said Pope. “We’re trying a couple things to get him a few more opportunities, but we’ve gotta keep working on that. We as a staff have to do a better job of finding him more opportunities.”

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