Tim, Castaneda, Sports Writer
UVU men’s basketball began the defense of its WAC championship Saturday with a 70-52 victory against Seattle University due in large part to Mitch Bruneel’s double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Bruneel led the Wolverines’ first half charge on fire, outscoring the Redhawks’ entire team 20-14, as his team took a commanding 38-14 lead after being honored before the game as WAC champions.
In the first 20 minutes of the game, Bruneel scored 20 points on 7-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range. He finished the game shooting 10-of-15 from the field and also had one assist on his huge night.
“We came out aggressive, played with terrific energy to defend our conference championship. I thought the entire team, every individual, was terrific with their effort, mindset,” said UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker. “Mitch Bruneel had a wonderful game and really helped us get that scoring rhythm in the first half.”
The Wolverines showed their determination as reigning WAC champions with a huge 16-0 run in the early mintues of the game, capped off by Bruneel’s third consecutive 3-pointer made, to gain a double-digit lead which they never relinquished.
“Just knowing we’re defending WAC champions, its up to us how long we want to defend it and that definitely has a huge impact on the game,” said Bruneel.
UVU point guard Marcel Davis led the Wolverines complete team effort with six assists as they combined for 16 total assists on the team’s 20 field goals made. Davis also contributed seven points, five rebounds and a steal on the night.
Tough perimeter defense by UVU also proved a factor in the game as the team held WAC 3-point shooting leaders in Isaiah Umipig and the Redhawks to a 1-for-14 shooting night from beyond the arc.
Umipig, who came into the game ranking second in the nation in 3-pointers made per game, saw his tough night end as he fouled out in the game’s final two minutes to finish with two points on 1-for-6 shooting as he went 0-for-2 from 3-point range and had two turnovers.
Seattle pulled to within 11 points twice in the second half, but each time the Wolverines responded with baskets of their own, including a dunk by Bruneel and a Donte Williams 3-pointer.
Williams finished as the night’s second leading scorer with 15 points while also adding three rebounds and two assists.
UVU men’s basketball improves its record to 6-9 in the regular season and start 1-0 WAC play.
The Wolverines play their second consecutive home game against conference opponent Grand Canyon on Jan. 15 at the UCCU Center with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m. MT.