Photo by Julie Ostler
The UVU women’s basketball team heads to Las Vegas for the WAC Tournament looking to finish what has been a difficult regular season on a high note. The Wolverines finished in the bottom half of the standings, which means the team must win three straight games in the conference tournament to become conference champions. The tournament is scheduled to begin March 8 and finish March 10.
A key factor in UVU’s chances in the tournament will be if the team’s best players can stay healthy. During long stretches of the regular season, injuries caused the team to have a limited rotation during games, sometimes only being able to play six players. Britta Hall injured her wrist and missed most of the season and, most recently, both Sam Lubcke and Leya Harvey were out against Texas-Rio Grande Valley Feb. 25. The slew of injuries has resulted in negative outcomes for the team this season. If UVU can keep its best players on the court during the tournament, it will give the Wolverines a much better chance to get some wins in Las Vegas. The team hopes for a strong showing following its first WAC tournament win in program history last season.
New Mexico State heads into the tournament as the favorites. The Aggies finished in first place with an undefeated record in the conference standings and will have a first round bye in the tournament. Led by Brooke Salas and Moriah Mack, the Aggies finished number one in points per game both for and against. Another key stat to the Aggies’ success is leading the conference in turnover margin, leading to easy transition scoring opportunities. It would be a shocking result if the Aggies were upset in the tournament. Only Seattle and CSU Bakersfield showed the ability to give the Aggies trouble during the regular season.
UVU certainly brings one of the most inexperienced teams into the tournament. The Wolverines have nine players who have logged over 200 minutes this season. Of those nine players, five are freshmen: Jordan Holland, Leya Harvey, Gabrielle Leos, Keana Delos Santos and Sariah Wi Neera. It was not out of the ordinary to see at least two freshmen in the starting lineup, or three freshmen on the court at the same time during games. The fact that the younger players have already gained this amount of on-court experience during the regular season means they are prepared for the call to the court when needed in the tournament.
Despite being a young team, UVU is still led by the upperclassman on the court. The Wolverines have three players who average at least 10 points per game, Mariah Seals, Taylor Gordon and Lubcke, all juniors. Gordon leads the team in points, Seals leads the team in assists and Lubcke leads the team in rebounds. The three of them have taken over half the team’s shots over the course of the season. Look for them to lead the Wolverines offensively during the tournament as well.