Wolverines Claw Their Way Past the Bengals

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Kyle McDonald, Sports Writer, @kylesportsbias

Six game losing streak.  Finals week.  The uphill battle to find energy knowing that the majority of your student section will be empty because it is Christmas break.  These all played a factor in the Utah Valley University Wolverines pulling out a win over the Idaho State Bengals on Tuesday night 51-47.

“It’s nice to be happy after a ball game,” was the first statement out of Coach Dick Hunsaker after his Wolverines pulled out a victory.  After back to back losses to in-state rivals Utah State and Weber State, UVU wasn’t going to let this one slip away even though they did all they could to give it away.  Brendan Evans hit a huge basket in the lane with 47 seconds left to play which Coach Hunsaker called “one of the best offensive possessions we had the entire game.”  Donte Williams followed that up with a running jump shot with the shot clock winding down and willed it to go in with 12 seconds to play to push the lead to 51-47, which is how it would end after a couple of missed 3 point attempts by Idaho State.

In the first half, the Wolverines looked stagnant and were frustrated by the zone defense that Idaho State implemented.  It kept the ball out of the middle and forced UVU to use up the entire shot clock which led to poor shot selection.  They were unable to penetrate and it led to Idaho State jumping out to a 17-12 lead.  Coach Hunsaker had to go deep into his bench tonight as senior Cory Cardwell saw extended playing time as did junior Jaden Jackson, freshman Boston Gubler, and freshman Dayon Goodman.  Had it not been for these four guys, who either come off the bench or don’t see regular playing time, it would have been a runaway for Idaho State.  Instead these guys “gave us a lift, gave us an inspirational lift” according to Coach Hunsaker.  Goodman had 6 points and 4 rebounds and although Cardwell only finished with 2 points, he was key in not turning the ball over and to getting the offense set up.  Boston Gubler was a beast tonight.  He provided physicality and ended with 5 rebounds, 3 of which came on the offensive side.

Mitch Bruneel gave the Wolverines some momentum heading into the locker room at the half as he got an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive with 29.4 seconds and they took advantage as Bruneel hit a shot in the lane to push the lead to 25-21 at the half.  Bruneel chipped in 11 points to go along with 5 rebound and he played a team high 33 minutes tonight.

The second half saw both teams struggle to make shots as neither team could find their rhythm.  Half the points for both teams came at the free throw line as UVU went 9-11 and Idaho State went 9-13 in the second half from the charity stripe.  Idaho State had the lead late in the game but with about 7 minutes to play UVU started attacking the rim and getting to the foul line with Donte Williams going 5-6 from the stripe down the stretch.  Neither team wanted to take control and it seemed like both teams were playing not to lose.  In fact, before Brendan Evans basket with 47 seconds to play, UVU went about 10 minutes without making a field goal. There was a change in the last 2 minutes of the ball game and according to Donte Williams it stemmed from “being afraid to lose, it’s been a while since we got a win.”  The Wolverines got that win and in the process, broke a losing streak, and have momentum to build off.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy but somehow, someway UVU found a way to win the ballgame and these guys will take it.

Donte Williams finished the night with 12 points to lead the Wolverines.  Jeffrey Solarin finished with a double-double for Idaho State as he led all scorers with 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds (6 offensive).  This was not a night where the stat sheet was filled up.  The biggest stat to take away from this game is the turnover stat from about the 7:19 mark of the second half.  UVU and Idaho State both had 15 turnovers at that point in time.  UVU finished with 17 and Idaho State 16.  It was a pretty clean game down the stretch for both teams.  It was just a matter of hitting a few more shots and making a few more free throws. Luckily for the Wolverines they were the ones who were able to put the ball in the hole when it counted the most.

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