The Utah Valley women’s basketball team defeated UT Rio Grande Valley in the final seconds of a thrilling finish with a score of 53-50.
This was the third consecutive win for a Wolverine team that is beginning to hit their stride heading into the postseason. Junior center Josie Williams had a well-rounded performance with a team high of 19 points and nine rebounds in the win. Redshirt junior Nehaa Sohail also had an impressive all-around performance with nine points, six rebounds and six assists. Junior guard Maria Carvalho added in 11 points as well. The team gave up only seven turnovers in the game and did not allow UTRGV a single free throw attempt, an unusual feat for any team, let alone a defense as tenacious as the Wolverines.
Off of the tip, UTRGV jumped out to an advantage. The Wolverines quickly fell to an early 12-2 deficit as they struggled to make shots. Despite cold shooting — the Wolverines net 23% from the field in the first quarter — they were able to force the issue with an 8-0 run to close the gap. At the end of the quarter, the Wolverines trailed 14-10.
The Wolverines changed up their attack to start the second quarter, focusing on getting the ball inside to the bigs and driving the lane. The Wolverines used a balanced scoring attack and ball movement to keep the game tight, assisting on all but one of their made shots in the quarter. The Wolverines are currently ranked 12th in the nation in team assists per game at 17.5, and the ball movement was on full display. The Wolverines used their size to take the rebounding advantage in the quarter as well, out-rebounding UTRGV 11-7 in the quarter. Heading into halftime, the Wolverines narrowly trailed 26-24.
The tempo of the game significantly increased as both teams shifted an emphasis from the half-court offense to fast breaks and forcing turnovers. The Wolverines’ offense again began to struggle as shots simply were not falling, shooting 3-for-12 in the period. The Wolverines were down as much as 10 at one point. With shots not falling, they looked to Williams to carry the offense. Behind 26-36, Williams slowly began to take over the game. She sparked the beginning of an 8-0 run that kept the Wolverines in the game. Despite their shooting percentage, the Wolverines were still hanging around, behind 39-34 heading into the final period.
UVU was finally able to shake off the cold shooting, and shots began to hit their marks in the fourth period. The Wolverines came out hot, demonstrating their will to win and went on an 11-0 run to take the lead. Carvalho led the charge on offense, scoring six of her 11 points in the quarter. After taking the lead, the game became hotly contested down the stretch.
With a narrow two-point lead and a minute left, Carvalho came up with a clutch steal and score, putting the Wolverines ahead four. UTRGV would answer, but with only 19 seconds left, Williams iced the game scoring in the post and putting the Wolverines ahead permanently, 53-50. UTRGV had a chance to tie the game, but junior guard Madison Grange came up with a huge steal to put the nail in the coffin. The Wolverines forced 14 turnovers and combined for 17 team assists, doing all of the little things in order to come up with the win.
With this win, the Wolverines now have sole possession of the number two spot in the WAC standings, breaking the tie with Grand Canyon.. With a tight race in the conference standings, the upcoming matchup against Tarleton State on March 2, 2021 could have a significant impact on the outcome of the WAC tournament, slated to be held in early March. Lacking strength of schedule, the Wolverines would most likely need to win the WAC tournament to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
Sports Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Senior at Utah Valley University majoring in applied communications.