Photo by Jesse Sanchez
If you were under a rock all weekend (or perhaps too busy with Thanksgiving festivities), you missed what was probably the biggest win in Utah Valley University men’s basketball history. Head coach Mark Pope and the Wolverines marched into BYU’s home Marriott Center and beat the Cougars, 114-101. Here are five takeaways from the upset win:
Shock the world
Coming into this season, Pope and all of the players have repeatedly said that their goal this year is to shock the world. This game went a long way towards that as UVU matched its point total from last year’s loss to BYU in the first half. While it might be said that the Wolverines caught BYU sleeping to start the game, by the end it was clear who was the better team on that night. Despite the momentum shifting to the Cougars multiple times through the game, UVU always battled back to maintain their dominance. Multiple players hit big shots at big moments to preserve the victory.
“This is a great win for us; this is a great night, but we have so much growing to do,” said Pope. “This won’t be the best moment we’ll have at Utah Valley. We still have so much work we have to do and we can become such a better team.”
Burnin’ down the house
As will be the case all season, UVU came out firing from deep in this game. After Kenneth Ogbe missed UVU’s first 3-point shot of the game, the Wolverines caught fire. Ogbe combined with Conner Toolson, Brandon Randolph, Jared Stutzman, Isaac Neilson and Jordan Poydras to hit nine straight shots from beyond the arc. It was a big night for Neilson in particular, as a former BYU player, to debut his range, as he hit two after coming into the game 1 for 3 on 3-point shots. By the time the game was over, UVU had set a Marriott Center record with 18 made 3-pointers.
“I was pumped. It felt great. Any time the ball goes through the hoop it just feels wonderful,” said Neilson. “What all of our guys do, we move the ball around and we shoot when we have the open shot.”
The battle of the boards
Perhaps even more shocking than the Wolverines’ stellar 3-point shooting is the fact that UVU won the rebounding battle (43-38) against a BYU team that should’ve had the size advantage. It was an all-around effort, as there wasn’t a single UVU player with double-digit rebounds. Neilson and Randolph finished tied for the lead with nine each, but other notable results were Stutzman and Poydras with seven and five, respectively. With the Wolverines a little thin in the big body department, it falls upon some of the smaller guards to pick up the rebounding slack. They did it in this game.
Fighting the environment
As the first half was coming to a close, BYU had gone on a 9-0 run to take a 52-51 lead with 22 seconds to play. The Cougar crowd in the Marriott Center was rocking and it was a perfect opportunity for the Wolverines to crumble under a hostile crowd. Instead, Randolph banked in a huge 3-point shot at the buzzer, placing his finger to his lips to shush the BYU crowd and preserving the UVU lead going into halftime. It was one of two big response moments in the game. The other came with 10 minutes left in the second half, as a Davin Guinn jumper had cut the UVU lead to two. The Wolverines responded with a 10-0 run and never looked back, making it clear that they wouldn’t be intimidated by the crosstown crowd.
Guiding the sleigh
From tipoff to the end of the game, the in-arena announcer at the Marriott Center mislabeled Randolph as “Brandon Rudolph.” Perhaps the Christmas season was getting to the announcer, but it was almost remarkable that the mistake was so persistent, as Randolph was involved in seemingly every other play on the court. Randolph, with his game so bright, guided the Wolverine offense masterfully, coming just one rebound shy of his first official triple-double in a UVU uniform. He tallied 21 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and a steal on a night that will go down in UVU history.
I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, but I’ve always had an intense love of sports. I’m studying journalism in an attempt to turn my love into a career. I’m a huge Utah Jazz, Tennessee Titans, and San Jose Sharks fan. If it’s a sport, I’ll watch it.