Men’s Basketball: Wolverines win on senior night in WAC Tournament preview

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Photo by Brigham Berthold

In a game that was ultimately meaningless from a big picture perspective, UVU (14-15, 6-8) topped Seattle (13-16, 5-9) 61-54 Saturday night in the UCCU Events Center. The team honored seniors Jordan Poydras, Ivory Young and Andrew Bastien as it wrapped up the regular season. The win gives the Wolverines the No. 4 seed in next week’s WAC Tournament, but the first round rematch with the Redhawks was already locked in before tipoff.

In the first half, a strong showing from the senior honorees helped UVU to a seven-point halftime lead. The three seniors combined for 19 of the Wolverines’ 29 first half points. UVU started the second half strong as well, but an 11-0 run by the Redhawks early in the half put the game back into question.

It was a back-and-forth affair from that point forward. Neither team could gain control in the game that featured five ties and 12 lead changes. Poydras led the team on both ends of the court for most of the game, but Conner Toolson was pivotal in the final momentum shifter. With the Wolverines trailing by three with seven minutes remaining, Toolson hit two layups and a 3-pointer consecutively in a 7-2 run that gave UVU the final lead change of the game.

Poydras secured the win, hitting a jumper in the paint and going 4-of-4 from the free throw line within the final minute. He was the only Wolverine in double figures with 17 points and also had five rebounds, two steals and an assist. Poydras also drew the task of guarding SU’s leading scorer, Brendan Westendorf, for much of the night. Westendorf finished 1-of-9 shooting for just four points in 32 minutes.

“What I learned over the course of this year is when you play defense the offense will come,” said Poydras. “The game slows down for you and you see everything. At their place [Westenforf] made some tough shots on me so I just tried my best to shut him down.”

While the outcome doesn’t make a big difference in the standings, it does provide a confidence boost for UVU. The team came out flat in Seattle earlier this season, losing in perhaps the worst performance of the year. The timing of the schedule gives both teams the opportunity to make final adjustments before their postseason matchup, though, something that’s hard to come by in the realm of college basketball.

“In a little sense it’s like an NBA playoff series just in the sense of from game to game it takes on a life of its own,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “We’re spending two straight weeks on Seattle and Seattle is spending two straight weeks on Utah Valley. That doesn’t happen in college basketball so it’s kind of cool.”

When the Wolverines and Redhawks next meet Thursday in Las Vegas, much more will be on the line. The winner will advance to the semifinal of the WAC Tournament to take on No. 1 seed Cal State Bakersfield, which will get a first-round bye. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with streaming available through the WAC Digital Network.