Coming off a bad 31-point road loss over the weekend, Utah Valley men’s basketball tried to rebound at home on Wednesday, Dec. 4, with an in-state matchup against Weber State. But, the force was not strong enough even on Star Wars night for the Wolverines as they lost 67-72.
The all-time series was knotted up at six apiece going into this game. UVU had never lost at the UCCU Center to the Wildcats, and won last season in Ogden — the Wolverines first-ever win up North.
A big factor in this game, along with possibly the last four games, has been the absence of junior guard Isaiah White. He suffered a knee injury against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 15 and hasn’t returned since. Before his injury, White was averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds a game.
The Wolverines shot their poorest percentages of the game in the first half at 40% from the field and just 25% from three, but still led at halftime 28-24. The oddest stat of the evening was the fact that neither team attempted a free throw in the first half, and the first free throw attempted wasn’t until the eight minute mark of the second half.
In the second half, it was the Jerrick Harding show, as the WSU senior guard scored 27 of his 36 points in the half. Harding came into the game leading the Wildcats in scoring and was fourth in the Big Sky Conference.
UVU wasn’t able to overcome Harding and the Wildcats hot scoring half, as WSU shot an impressive 57.14% from the field and 46.15% from behind the arc to hang on for the comeback victory.
The key for the Wildcats win came down to efficient three-point shooting down the stretch and attempting 11 more free throws than the Wolverines.
The high scorers on the night for the Wolverines were senior guard TJ Washington with 18 points to go along with six assists and sophomore guard Trey Woodbury who had 14 points.
The standout on the night though, was senior center Emmanual Olojakpoke who grabbed 11 boards to go along with eight points and six blocks. Olojakpoke currently ranks fifth in the nation in blocks with 32.
UVU has now lost three-straight and five of their last six games, including two uncharacteristically bad home losses to Lamar and WSU. Perhaps this could be credited to the lack of depth and minor injuries to key players. It could also be credited to the fact that the Wolverines have traveled nearly 9,000 miles through the air already on the young season.
Whether it’s the first or the latter of possible problems, UVU still has plenty of kinks to workout with their almost completely overhauled roster and coaching staff.
The Wolverines will try to get back into the win column on Saturday, Dec. 7, when they visit in-state rival Southern Utah University at 2 p.m. MST.