The Wolverines nailed down multiple milestones in last week’s 74-64 win over Texas Pan-American. Among them:
- 20 wins, just the second time the program has won 20-plus
- 13 consecutive victories, the longest run in team history and the fourth-longest NCAA win streak heading into Saturday’s game at North Dakota
- Back-to-back regular season Great West Conference champions
All those accomplishments could turn into consolation prizes if UVU repeats its previous performances at the GWC tournament in Chicago, Ill., this week. The last two years saw the Wolverines bow out in the first round, including last year’s No.1 seeded squad. That team came into the tournament with more emotion and less experience, a combination that resulted in a 72-70 first-round loss to South Dakota.
Hunsaker said the ending was a result of looking beyond the next step, something he has repeatedly quashed this season despite lofty expectations.
“Last year I thought we got a little bit ahead of ourselves we’re not going to do that this year,” Hunsaker said.
Not only would a similar ending put a damper on UVU’s season-ending run, it would also prevent them from clinching a national tournament berth. The CIT is the likely landing spot, with a chance at hosting a first-round game.
“I would certainly like these kids to have that chance, but we have to go all the way,” Hunsaker said. “Complete every hurdle.”
That includes hurdles UVU has already cleared. The Wolverines sported a perfect 9-0 conference record heading into Saturday’s regular season finale, having beaten every Great West opponent twice except North Dakota. More important to head coach Dick Hunsaker, they bring the qualities he feels are responsible for their success and tournament hopes.
“That old adage of toughness, competitiveness and physicality; this team brings those qualities to the game,” Hunsaker said.
It helps that the team found those qualities at the same time. All five starters joined the program in the summer of 2010, Holton Hunsaker and Ben Aird as freshmen, Isiah Williams, Geddes Robinson and Keith Thompson as junior transfers. All five have taken turns leading the team in scoring, with Williams exploding for 28 in last week’s game.
“The group of recruits that came in here two years ago were exceptional,” Hunsaker said. “Credit goes to them for winning their second conference championship outright and play as they have and compete as they have.”
The accolades and accomplishments of that recruiting class highlight what they haven’t done: win the conference tournament. Hunsaker and Williams are approaching it the same way they did the regular season: one game at a time with tempered expectations.
“Hopefully we can keep [the streak] going and win a championship,” Williams said.
By Matt Petersen
Matt Petersen can be reached at p[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TheMattPetersen.