Utah Valley men’s basketball seems to have found their groove with a win against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Big scoring performances from four Wolverines led them past the Blazers 66-55, on Friday, Nov. 15, in Alabama.
Heading into this game, the Wolverines were ranked No. 1 in blocks across the country, with 28 blocks through three games. It was proven that UVU could continue to be high on the national list with an additional six blocks against the Blazers. Three of those came from senior forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke, who averages over three blocks per game.
The four aforementioned Wolverines combined for 62 points, the leader being senior guard TJ Washington with 19 points. Washington added three steals, six rebounds and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Right behind him with 18 points was junior guard Brandon Averette. Junior forward Casdon Jardine added 14 points and junior guard Jamison Overton scored 11 points himself. The only other Wolverine to contribute points to the board was senior center Brandon Morley with four points. However, he helped in another big way, snatching down 10 rebounds.
“Averette stepped up in front of a bunch of family members and our guards responded and made big plays,” said UVU head coach Mark Madsen to UVU’s sports information directors.
The first half was a struggle for the Wolverines, as they committed 10 turnovers and shot 37.5 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from deep. Overton did his part to score in the first half by getting to the free throw line. He shot 5-for-8 from the charity stripe and was the only Wolverine to contribute to that line of the stat sheet.
Luckily for UVU, UAB didn’t do much better, with 45.8 percent from the field and a measly 16.7 percent from deep. One thing the Blazers did have going for them was their versatility in scoring. All nine UAB players saw minutes in the first half and all but one of them put points on the board. UVU, on the other hand, had eight players see action in the half and only four scored.
After finishing the first half 30-25 in favor of the Blazers, the Wolverines came out for the last 20 minutes of play, eager to step it up a notch. UVU committed another 10 turnovers in the second half, but only fouled six times, giving the Blazers only one opportunity at the charity stripe.
With 50 percent from the field and a much improved 57.1 percent from the 3-point line, the Wolverines propelled past the Blazers. The Wolverines would lead by as many as 13 points in two separate occasions, but finished the night off with an 11-point win.
The Wolverines will now prepare to face their toughest opponent of the season — known basketball powerhouse the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats will enter the game coming off a tough upset loss 64-67 against the University of Evansville. The game will take place in Lexington, Kentucky on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 5 p.m. MST.