Men’s basketball: Wolverines torched in second half vs Chicago State

Photo by Brigham Berthold

UVU (8-9) fell to 0-2 in Western Athletic Conference play Thursday with a loss to Chicago State University (5-14) in a game that featured a 22-2 Cougar run in the second half. The Wolverines were outworked and outperformed as they shot 38 percent from the floor, just 15 percent from 3-point land and 54 percent from the free throw line.

“[CSU] was the one team in this conference that probably had a harder schedule than us and they came on the road and got us,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “They’re tough kids; they play hard and they stick with it and those guys should be really proud of what they did.”

For the Cougars, it was their first win in WAC play in 17 tries. Before the 0-16 stretch, their last conference win came Feb. 28, 2015 in Chicago, also against UVU.

The game opened at a slow pace and with even slower production. The Wolverines took a 3-0 lead on free throws in the first five minutes from Kenneth Ogbe and Brandon Randolph before CSU hit the first field goal of the game with 14:52 remaining in the first half. The two teams combined to start the game 0-of-14 from the floor with five turnovers. The defensive effort continued for UVU as they held the Cougars to just 30 percent shooting in the first half en route to a five-point halftime lead before the CSU explosion in the second frame.

CSU outscored UVU 42-28 in the second half. Doing most of the damage were CSU’s Fred Sims Jr. and Clemmye Owens, who combined for 39 points on the game, including shooting 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. Of the 22-point run in the second half that ultimately sealed the game for the Cougars, Sims and Owens scored 17. They were 4-of-5 from the 3-point line over the stretch, hitting some tough, contested fade away shots.

“That’s just part of the game,” said Pope. “They have very capable shooters. Sims takes really hard shots all the time and he’s a 34 percent shooter. Owens, again, takes tough shots but he makes tough shots.”

Despite the perimeter shot making from the Cougars, it was a good defensive night for UVU’s Isaac Neilson, who finished with 13 rebounds and protected the rim with six blocks. Scoring was hard to come by for the Wolverines with only two players in double-digit figures. Randolph finished with 12 points and Conner Toolson joined him with 10, but took 12 shots to get there.

“We’ll see what we have in us. I don’t think we envisioned us starting this conference season 0-2,” said Pope. “We have to find a way to come together as a team and show some toughness and rediscover ourselves.”

The good news for the Wolverines is that they don’t have to turn around and go on the road. They will try again for their first conference win Saturday when they host the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST.

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