Men’s basketball: Toolson powers UVU over UTSA

Photo by Brigham Berthold

OREM, Utah—After a sluggish first half, Conner Toolson sparked the UVU men’s basketball team to a 75-71 win over UTSA with 14 points in the first four minutes of the second half Saturday. Toolson finished the night with a game-high 29 points.

“I knew this was going to be so hard. It’s so hard. We’re in shootaround today and my guys are trying to kind of be locked in, but you could just see on their faces that they’re emotionally spent,” said head coach Mark Pope. “The fact that we could come home and beat a team that’s playing really, really, really hard is a big deal for us and I’m really proud of my guys and I’m glad to have that one over with.”

Toolson put the Wolverines on the board first as he got his defender in the air with a ball fake on the right wing, then drove around him and knocked down a jumper just outside the right block.

After it jumped out to an eight-point lead, UVU (5-2) struggled to keep a rhythm for the final 10 minutes of the first half. Toolson made a pair of free throws to stretch to the largest lead of the game to 26-18. However, UTSA closed the half on an 18-6 run for a 36-32 lead.

Toolson came out of the halftime break and sparked a 7-0 run in the first 1:22. Two minutes later, Toolson struck again with three straight baskets for seven more points in under 60 seconds. The one-man firestorm was capped by a fast break layup and prompted UTSA head coach Steve Henson to call a 30-second timeout.

“I got a lot of good opportunities, so I took every opportunity I had and luckily they were going in,” said Toolson.

Despite the blitz, Toolson went cold and didn’t score again until 3:04 remained in the game. Kenneth Ogbe and Hayden Schenck stepped in and filled the scoring void, each with eight second-half points. Both knocked down free throws in the final two minutes to keep the game out of reach from UTSA.

Nick Billingsley banked in a three-quarter court shot as time expired, but it was meaningless in the 75-71 final.

UVU heads back on the road to face Utah on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

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