The Utah Valley women’s basketball team defeated Chicago State in the first round of the WAC tournament with a final score of 61-43.
The Wolverines rode a big first quarter, taking a commanding lead and never looking back. Junior guard Maria Carvalho scored a team-high 15 points, along with junior guard Madison Grange, who had a big contribution off of the bench with 13 points. The Wolverine defense came up big, forcing 25 turnovers and holding CSU to just 43 points in the game. The Wolverines defended from behind the arc as well, holding GCU to just over 22% from the 3-point line.
The Wolverines’ win streak now hits six games, and things are clicking on the defensive end.
“We spend a lot of time scouting our opponents, personnel and what they run, and we really spend a lot of time preparing that way,” head coach Dan Nielson said of the team’s defensive showing. “It’s a big credit to my staff and how hard they work and the girls buying into learning the game, understanding the game and improving their basketball IQ.”
The Wolverines began the game attacking the paint using a combination of the dribble drive and post entry passes to score. Carvalho set the tone on offense early, scoring 10 of her 15 points in the first quarter. Riding Carvalho’s hot hand on offense, the Wolverines jumped to an early 11-2 lead. CSU attempted to throw double teams at Carvalho in order to slow down the Wolverine offense but UVU was still able to shoot a scorching 6-of-9 from the field in the period. The Wolverines did all of the little things in the opening period as well, out-rebounding CSU 10-3 along with forcing eight turnovers.
Coming into the second quarter the Wolverine offense cooled off. The team scored just four points in the first 6:42 of the second and only scored seven points total in the period. CSU began to attack the board with a vengeance, out-rebounding UVU 18-6 in the second quarter alone. Despite cold shooting and troubles on the glass, success on the defensive end allowed the Wolverines to maintain a 12 point lead heading into halftime. The Wolverine defense left its presence on the floor, forcing an impressive 16 first-half turnovers and did not allow a single made CSU three-pointer.
After a less than satisfying second quarter of play the Wolverines came out aggressive in the third period, going on a 12-2 run. Grange and sophomore forward Shay Fano hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, building momentum and giving the Wolverines cushion on the scoreboard. Heading into the final period, the Wolverines held a commanding 44-23 lead.
CSU would not be put away without a fight as they opened the fourth period on a furious 15-4 run, closing the once 22 point lead to just 11. Despite the comeback attempt by CSU, the Wolverines were able to make plays when they counted and put the game away, winning 61-43. The Wolverines shot a respectable 46% from the field and moved the ball well, assisting on 17 of their 22 made shots.
Although a convincing win, the Wolverines struggled on the glass, getting out-rebounded 18-6 in the second period and turned the ball over 21 times in the game. The Wolverines will need to make adjustments in order to secure their spot in the WAC Championship game. The Wolverines will look to advance on Friday, March 12 at 3 p.m. MT, playing against the winner of UT Rio Grande Valley vs Grand Canyon.
Sports Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Junior at Utah Valley University majoring in Communications with emphasis in Journalism and Media