Toolson, Harward lead UVU past Chicago State on special military night

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On a night centered around honoring the United States military, the men’s basketball team recorded a big win over the Chicago State University, topping the Cougars 103-71.

As the players prepared to run onto the court, the music temporarily stopped and the crowd observed a moment of silence for all who have fallen while serving in the armed forces. Following the national anthem, uniformed members of the military descended on ropes from the rafters of the UCCU Center. Before the night was over, those in the various branches were asked to stand and be recognized for their service.

“We had some incredibly high ranking military leadership here,” said head coach Mark Pope. “We had a general that was a UVU grad, and that was really special for us.”

When the game began, Chicago State jumped ahead first, nailing a three-pointer to take the lead right away. Redshirt junior center Baylee Steele responded immediately with two straight baskets to put the Wolverines ahead 4-3. After dropping down again, another redshirt junior, guard Jake Toolson, connected on a fade-away basket from behind the arc to regain the lead, 9-8. For the next several minutes, neither team could gain a significant hold on the game.

Then, trailing 28-27, senior guard Conner Toolson made back-to-back three-pointers to give UVU their first real edge of the game. From there, Jake Toolson had the next three buckets for the Wolverines, all from behind the arc. Now leading 45-32, UVU’s shooting barrage from far from over. Sophomore guard Isaiah White and Conner Toolson followed shortly after with more buckets from deep, and the Wolverines went into the half ahead 54-38.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Pope said. “We shot the living daylights out of the ball in the first half. It doesn’t work like that very often but it did. It was the right response to Chicago State and how they approach the game and it was fortunate for us.”

Jake Toolson finished the half with 17 points, including going a perfect 5-5 from the three-point range. Conner Toolson added another 11.

“Jake is a pretty advanced player, he’s a leader on our team,” Pope added. “I think he’s trying to find the cadence of the game and the holes in the game and the energy in the game and try and help us right that.”

Having regained their footing, the Wolverines only expanded their lead during the second half. Sophomore center Richard Harward dominated in the paint, shooting 8-10 from the field and finishing the game with 19 points and 16 rebounds, both of which were career highs.

“Guys like Richard Harward are a blessing to a coach, because you know exactly what you’re getting every single night,” Pope said. “He just has this great discipline about him that’s like ‘I’m going to come to work every single day, and I’m going to play angry or passionate, or physically, or however you want to name that, every single day,’ and he’s been so huge for us. It’s pretty exciting what he’s done so far.”

Jake Toolson concluded the night with 25 points and junior guard T.J. Washington added a  team-high nine assists.

As the regular season draws near its close, the main focus for the Wolverines will be preparing for the WAC Tournament, which will be held in Las Vegas, Nev. on March 14-16.

Photo courtesy of Johnny Morris