The Wolverines walked away from GCU Arena with a 59-55 victory against the Grand Canyon Lopes on Friday night. With the win, Utah Valley clinched at least a share of the WAC regular season title.
It was a sloppy game with 13 turnovers from both teams. This was attributed in part to the high emotions that were caused by GCU’s senior night ceremony that was held prior to the game and both teams’ desire to secure the title. The high emotions manifested themselves in multiple instances of players physically tying up with each other.
Forward Evan Cole got into a heated exchange with members of GCU’s team after taking a blow from center Asbjørn Midtgaard. Redshirt sophomore Fardaws Aimaq briefly got involved but was quickly taken away by teammates before any real escalation could occur. Cole and Aimaq redeemed themselves by having strong performances, Cole with 20 points and four rebounds, and Aimaq with nine points and 15 rebounds. Another standout performance was junior Trey Woodbury with 16 points and three defensive rebounds.
Guard Sean Miller-Moore of GCU played great in the first half, moving the ball around to his teammates and hustling up and down the floor until he suffered a leg injury with just under 3:30 to go in the first half. He was able to return at the beginning of the second half, but with a noticeable limp. The Wolverines’ highest lead was 11 points, the first occurrence being at 11:13 and again at 7:15. Shortly thereafter, the Lopes’ Oscar Frayer heated up and started closing the gap. Unfortunately for GCU, Frayer fouled out toward the end of the second half with 10 points and three rebounds.
Sophomore guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. made a shot that closed the deficit to 3 points just before the two-minute mark. UVU pulled ahead in a brief back and forth of scoring until Lever brought it back to a three-point game at 41.6 seconds. Lever had a good game with 16 points and six rebounds. The Lopes brought it back to a three-point game once more at 6.8 seconds when Miller-Moore put back a 3-point attempt that was missed by his teammate. Junior Blaze Nield was fouled with 5.1 seconds to go. His made free throw sealed the win for the Wolverines.