Head coach Dick Hunsaker expressed his appreciation to all the support present as the Utah Valley men’s basketball team (3-1) won Saturday night after a close fight against The University of Missouri Kansas City (1-3). Isiah Williams led the Wolverines in scoring with 17 total points, all scored in the second half.
The largest threat against UMKC, however, was senior Keith Thompson as he showed the most consistency throughout the game. He shot 6-for-8 from the field and finishing second in scoring with 16 total points to carry the team to their 58-54 victory.
Averaging only 2.6 points per game last season, Thompson labeled Friday night’s game as an opportunity to show the team his abilities, saying he wanted to bring a higher level of energy in Saturday night’s game compared to his past.
“Last year I just tried to be a team player and just took my role,” Thompson said. “I could have easily said I wanted to be somewhere else and get out of here, but that’s not my character.”
Hunsaker described his feelings in regards to Thompson’s roll.
“I thought Keith was outstanding,” Hunsaker said. “Keith’s a kid with a new toy. This is a young guy who is just emerging, living a dream blessed with tremendous physique and athletic ability.”
Within four minutes of the game, Hunsaker benched starters Ben Aird and Williams after they each had a pair of personal fouls. The remaining starters were left to push the team through the second half without losing sight of a close match.
“I was very pleased how we fought through, competed through the first half,” Hunsaker said. “We had a lot of discombobulated lineups…but I sure like the way we simply competed and kept the game at reach with Ben and Isiah on the bench so early with the fouls.”
Utah Valley struggled to take a solid run offensively during the first half, shooting 9-for-23 from the field and 0-for-8 from downtown. However, UVU was still able to stop the Kangaroos from gaining a lead higher than seven points. Junior Zach Jones contributed two points off the bench while Holton Hunsaker and Geddes Robinson put up five points each. The energy that Thompson wanted to portray was evident finishing. He went 4-for-5 from the field and led the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points. The half ended with UMKC up 25-22.
“I know I’m a key to this team,” Thompson said. “My energy and the scoring I can bring to the team, I just saw that as an opportunity, that those guys were on the bench and I wanted to pick those guys up and make sure we’re close in the second half.”
Hunsaker returned Williams, along with Aird, to start the second half. Aird started the half drawing a foul in the paint and gaining a point at the line. A 3-pointer by Williams in the next possession gave UVU their first lead since UMKC was down 9-7 in the first half.
“They are mature not to lose themselves with disappointment or frustration in the first half and keep their head in the game,” Hunsaker said in regards to Williams and Aird. “I thought they both did a good job.”
UMKC’s Reggie Chamberlain posed the biggest threat to Utah Valley with his game-finishing abilities, scoring 13 points in the second half while playing tough defense on Williams. Chamberlain finished with 19 total points to end the night.
A pair of 3-pointers from Thompson helped the Wolverines take off to a 10-point lead starting the second half. The Kangaroos tied it at 45-45, however Utah Valley kept the lead for the rest of the night. After Aird deflected a shot attempt from UMKC’s Kirk Korver with 8.4 seconds left in the game, Williams recovered the ball to run the clock down to the 58-54 win.
Utah Valley will now head to Fayetteville, Ark., in preparation for Monday’s game against The University of Arkansas.