Utah Valley University came into Thursday nights game looking to keep their home court winning stint alive against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. They were successful, beating the Vaqueros 82-61 and clinched home win number 22, the second best home record in the country.
The first 20 minutes was full of physical play from both teams. The Vaqueros came out playing an ‘in your face’ style of basketball with full court press defense the whole game. The Wolverines didn’t seem to be affected by the intimidation, minus the 13 turnovers in the first half.
The Wolverines did their part to pull away when junior guard Jake Toolson hit a big 3-pointer which was quickly followed by senior guard Connor Toolson hitting a three of his own. UVU wasn’t done just yet, as freshman forward Wyatt Lowell hit his own shot from deep to give the Wolverines a 19-10 lead with just under 12 minutes left to play in the first half. On the defensive side of the ball, UVU sophomore center Richard Harward has a few big blocks which contributed to several of the Wolverines unanswered points. UVU finished the half up 43-27.
“This is never an easy game with Rio Grande Valley, because if you don’t come 100 percent it can get ugly really really fast,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said. “I had a lot of guys come with really good focus, we were really solid.”
Stats between the two teams didn’t come close to comparing in the first half. The Wolverines shot 61 percent from the field, 62 from behind the arc and 85 percent from the line. The Vaqueros on the other end shot 29 percent from the field, 12 from behind the arc and 71 percent from the line. The stat that might mean the most is the comparison in fast break points. The Wolverines dominated with 23 fast break points to the Vaqueros 5.
“We came out the gate strong and didn’t look back,” UVU’s junior center Baylee Steele said. “I think we had a good game tonight and have a little bit of momentum going into Saturday’s game.”
The second half was much of the same style of play, Rio Grande Valley continued with their ‘in your face’ full court press and UVU continued with the same momentum as before. The Wolverines kept their composure so well that they were able to pull off the biggest lead of the night with 26 points and 6:24 left to play. The Wolverines controlled the game 35 out of the total 40 minutes of play, only allowing the Vaqueros to lead for a minute and a half.
Four Wolverines ended the night with double digit points, closely followed by the Vaqueros with three of their guys in double figures. Jake Toolson and Richard Harward brought down eight rebounds a piece for the Wolverines, and senior guard TJ Washington dished out eight assists.
Utah Valley now has a record of 2-2 in conference play, giving them the fifth spot in the WAC at the moment. The Wolverines will take on New Mexico State at home on Saturday, Nov. 19.
“I’m super happy for our guys, can’t wait for Saturday. It’s going to be an epic battle,” Pope said.
Photo courtesy of: UVU Athletics