Utah Valley staved off a late fourth quarter run by Tarleton State to win the first of a two game series 60-58. The Wolverines were led by junior guard Maria Carvalho’s 16 points along with junior center Josie Williams and sophomore forward Shay Fano, each adding 13 points of their own. Tuesday’s win in Texas locks in the Wolverines as the number two seed in next week’s WAC Tournament.
“I thought we did a really nice job in the second and third quarter, getting the ball inside and building that lead up by asserting where we thought we had a little bit of an advantage,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson. “Credit to Tarleton in that fourth quarter; they made some big plays. We kind of took our foot off the gas and we need to clean up a few small things for tomorrow.”
UVU started off slow, shooting zero percent from three-point range on their first five attempts, while the Texans were a red-hot 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. The Wolverines were able to keep it close by sharing the ball, as they had five different players score in the first quarter, yet they still trailed 14-11.
UVU would find its rhythm in the second quarter as they dominated the paint. Williams and Fano both had 10 of their 13 points by halftime as the Wolverines forced the ball down low and exploited the weakness of a shorter TSU team. UVU held a 22-8 advantage of points in the paint at halftime.
The Wolverine defense also tightened up in the second quarter, causing TSU to close out the half shooting just 2-of-16 from the floor. This allowed UVU to take the lead 28-26 off a Williams layup just before halftime.
UVU started the third quarter on an 8-0 run kicked off by a Carvalho 3-pointer. Carvalho scored 14 of her game-high 16 points in the second half. Meanwhile, the stingy Wolverine defense allowed TSU just seven points in the third as UVU would take a 13 point lead into the fourth quarter 46-33.
The Wolverines were able to extend their lead to a game-high 16 points with nine minutes left in the game. That lead was cut all the way down to two points after a 14-2 run by the Texans fueled by junior guard Emily Cunningham. Junior forward and Texas native Nehaa Sohail made two free throws to put UVU up 60-56 with 33 seconds left, which proved to be enough to hold off the strong run by TSU.
The Wolverines improved to 11-5 overall and 9-4 in conference play. UVU will play the second game of the series against TSU on Wednesday, March 3 at 5 p.m. MT. The game can be viewed on the WAC Digital Network.
Brice Larson is currently a Junior at UVU majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and media studies. He enjoys everything about sports and one day hopes to become a college football analyst and play by play commentator.