Wolverines claw their way to opening night win over Coyotes

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Kyle McDonald, Sports Writer, @kylesportsbias

In a game where there were 35 turnovers, 51 fouls, and 63 free throw attempts you would wonder if anybody won.  That is just what the UVU Men’s basketball team did as they opened their 2014-2015 campaign with a “gritty, grind out victory,” according to Coach Dick Hunsaker over the visiting Coyotes of South Dakota.

UVU opened the game on a 6-2 run behind a couple of buckets by senior Brenden Evans but the Coyotes were able to stick around thanks to a couple of buckets from junior swingman Tre Burnette.  It went back and forth throughout the first half as neither team was able to really grab control or the momentum.  With 7:30 left to play in the first half the Coyotoes were able to tie the game at 16 but that would be the only tie the rest of the game.  UVU would go on a 15-7 run to end the first half ad at one point during the first half they were able to push the lead to 10 after a nice assist from Evans to Mitch Bruneel for a nice jumper in the lane.  Mitch Bruneel led the Wolverines in points in the first half with 10 and he had 3 rebounds to go with it.

It was a sloppy first half as it seemed like there were more fouls and turnovers than actual buckets scored.  In the first half UVU shot 47% from the field compared to 30% for the Coyotes.  Both teams however combined for 17 turnovers.

In the second half up until about 3 minutes left, it was eerily similar.  Both teams struggled to hit shots and neither team could hold onto the basketball.  7 minutes into the second half there were only 10 points scored.  UVU showed some great hustle at times but couldn’t establish any offensive rhythm because they would either miss a shot or turn the ball back over to South Dakota.  It really showed how sloppy the game was when UVU got into the bonus situation at the free throw line with almost 11 minutes still left to go in the game.

However, that was the point when the game started to really get interesting.  South Dakota was able to hit a few shots led by Sekou Harris and Tyler Larson were hit a couple of shots to bring the game within 5.  It went back and forth as the two teams competed and showed the energy that had been lacking throughout the night to try to win the ball game.  Marcel Davis led UVU down the stretch as he was able to get to the free throw line on numerous occasions and along with Donte Williams led all scorers with 16 points apiece.  With 2:25 left in the game, Marcel Davis might have made the play of the game as he drove to the rim, made the basket, and got fouled and when he made the free throw it pushed the lead to 6 and really put the game out of reach.  UVU was able to break the press down the stretch and get a couple of easy layups to see the season-opening win.

Marcel Davis had a great night for the Wolverines especially down the stretch and at the free throw line.  Along with his 16 points, he added 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals.   Mitch Bruneel scored 14 points and had 8 boards for the Wolverine men.  Tyler Larson led the Coyotes with 13 points and 6 rebounds but it wasn’t enough in the losing effort.  The Wolverines were clutch at the free throw line down the stretch as they made 10 of 13 free throw attempts to really seal the win.

Coach Dick Hunsaker said that his team “dug down and competed hard” and that he was pleased with the effort to fight through the foul trouble and the awkward lineups he had to place on the floor in order to get the win.  “It was a good win and something we can build on.”

With regards to going on the road for the next 7 games, Coach Hunsaker feels that this “was an important game for the kids mentally, emotionally and they worked hard……I haven’t been after the kids or their lack of effort…we need to learn to be more efficient, more composed, but this game was crucial for us as we face 7 in a row on the road.”

It is a game that the Wolverines can be happy that they were able to grind their way to a win.  But also one in which they can use to continue to grow as a team in order to continue on the path of defending their crown as WAC regular season champions.