Men’s basketball: Five takeaways from UVU’s win over Benedictine

Photo by Brigham Berthold

OREM, Utah—In a final home game before a three-game road trip, the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team ran away with a 86-52 victory over Benedictine Mesa Saturday. Here are five takeaways from the blowout win.

De-Fense!

Consistent defense has been an issue early in the season for UVU. However, after just three games, this group has already made strides defensively. The starters held BU to just 15 points in 20 minutes. UVU jumped out to a 10-0 lead and it was a full three minutes before BU cracked the scoreboard with a layup by Jorge Cano. The reserves tightened the hold in the final 10 minutes and allowed just 14 points, including holding the Redhawks without a field goal for the final 3:30.

As a unit, the Wolverines forced the Redhawks into 27 turnovers and capitalized with 31 points off turnovers.

The major takeaway in the defensive area is Conner Toolson’s ability to defend the 3-point line. Just inside 17 minutes in the second half, Toolson reached up and blocked a 3-pointer by Troy Conley. Just seven seconds after Brandon Dixon gathered the blocked shot, Toolson swiped the ball from Conley again. The steal led to a missed transition 3-pointer by Brandon Randolph.

Run the break

Early on against Idaho State, UVU struggled in transition because the running lanes weren’t open and players weren’t getting out wide enough. The Wolverines ran into the same problem just under 11 minutes in the first half. Jordan Poydras grabbed a defensive rebound and started a fast break. As Poydras led the break, Joonas Tahvanainen ran the fast break next to him and forced him to go right into traffic, which forced a pass to Jared Stutzman. Amid the fray, Stutzman’s foot was on the baseline when he caught the ball.

Besides the one miscue, UVU ran the fast break well and created sufficient space by spreading out in transition and filling the lanes. By the end of the night, UVU had tallied 12 fast break points.

Crash the boards

In one of the few games on the schedule where UVU will hold a major size advantage, the Wolverines still only held a six-rebound advantage at the end of the game. UVU did a terrific job of crashing the offensive boards with 19 offensive rebounds and 21 second chance points.

“On our board that we write in pregame, we always have ‘rebound’ at the top of the list,” said forward Isaac Neilson. “Today we kind carried the momentum from last game where we rebounded very well in the second half and carried with us into this game. Our guys rebounded very well tonight.”

Neilson led UVU with a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Drop off to second unit

Starters start for a reason, so there’s expected to be somewhat of a drop off with the second unit. When the reserves came into the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half, UVU was outscored by a margin of 23-18. The bench scored 24 of UVU’s 43 first-half points, but the drop off came on the defensive end. BU shot 9 of 17 in the final 10 minutes of the first half, compared to 4 of 14 to start the game. The reserves improved defense in the second half by holding BU to 6-of-17 shooting and forcing five turnovers.

Though the defense improved for the reserves in the second half, the offense took a bit of a drop from 20 first-half points to 16 in the second half. Of UVU’s 11 turnovers in the first half, seven came in the final 10 minutes of the half. UVU cleaned up the turnover issues in the second half all together with just three, and two came in the final 10 minutes. Head coach Mark Pope said it will come together in time as the group gets more game time.

“That group hasn’t had as much time together,” said Pope. “They haven’t had as much time under the lights and that’s why this game was important to give them time. That’s why I feel like they were way more cohesive as a group in the second 10 minutes of the second half. They seemed to kind of get into a rhythm.”

A tale of two halves: turnovers

I mentioned the turnover issue and it looked bleak after the first half. The Wolverines struggled taking care of the ball in the first half with the aforementioned 11 turnovers. With the pace UVU plays, possessions come quick and often. The game was played to 86 possessions apiece Saturday, and with 14 turnovers in all, UVU had a turnover in 15 percent of possessions. With 11 turnovers in the first half against just about any other opponent, the game could get away in a hurry. It’s also unrealistic to expect just three in every half. However, a happy medium between the two would be a good spot to live just about every game at 86 possessions.

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