Photo by Jesse Sanchez
OREM, Utah—Welcome to Orem, Connor Toolson and Jared Stutzman. The Utah Valley University men’s basketball team downed Idaho State 82-73 in a packed UCCU Center Wednesday behind Toolson and Stutzman. Toolson led UVU with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Stutzman finished with 11, all from the first half.
Despite a two-point lead at the half, UVU came out from the opening tip and struggled to take care of the ball. Of UVU’s five first-half turnovers, four came in the first 5:13 of the game. The Wolverines tried to push the ball up the court early, but the Bengals clogged passing lanes and forced turnovers in transition.
“That didn’t bother me; that’s us,” said head coach Mark Pope. “The pace didn’t bother me. What bothered me was our guys were congested running the lane instead of getting out wide. But I can live with those turnovers.”
Once UVU spread out the floor and widened passing lanes, the turnovers went down and the Wolverines settled into the game with just two turnovers in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Stutzman kept UVU in the game throughout the first half behind 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-3 from downtown. UVU held a 37-35 lead at the half.
As the crowd energy amped up in the second half, the Wolverines amped up the defensive energy.
“They just gave us energy. That was amazing,” said Kenneth Ogbe. “No, seriously. They helped us win this game tonight.”
With UVU leading 42-41, ISU’s Brandon Boyd drove for a fast break layup, but Kenneth Ogbe chased him down from behind and made a huge block as he slammed Boyd’s attempt into the backboard.
With just under 10 minutes to play, Boyd again missed a layup. The rebound was tipped out past the 3-point line as bodies from both teams flailed on the ground after the ball. Eventually, Isaac Neilson corralled the loose ball and Ivory Young hit a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 56.
After his 13th rebound of the game, a layup by Geno Luzcando gave the Bengals a 58-56 lead. Less than a minute later, Toolson blocked another layup attempt by Boyd, then followed it up by giving the Wolverines the lead for the rest of the night with a triple on the opposite end.
The final field goal of the night for UVU came off the hand of Toolson to give the Wolverines a 74-65 lead with 3:27 to play. UVU coasted the rest of the way by knocking down 7 of 10 free throws in the closing minutes.
Wednesday night’s home opener reported attendance was 6,117, which was the highest attended game at the UCCU Center since UVU hosted Utah State Dec. 13, 2014.
UVU will take on Benedictine at the UCCU Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
I’m a Pacific Northwest guy who loves his Pacific Northwest sports. An amateur movie buff who prefers the disc to digital. Chasing the sports writing dream while I geek out on Assassin’s Creed.