The Utah Valley women’s basketball team split their season series with New Mexico State, putting their record at eight wins and five losses. They lost in a heart-breaking fashion on Friday, Feb. 19 with a final score of 65-62. The Wolverines then bounced back, defeating the Aggies 56-47.
Friday, Feb. 19
In their first meeting with NMSU this season, the Wolverines came out in the first half attempting to score as they always do — playing the inside-out game. The Aggies played a very aggressive style of defense, similar to the Grand Canyon defense that gave the Wolverines trouble in the past. Junior center Josie Williams was double-teamed in the post, and the Aggies attempted to deny post entry, preventing the Wolverines from scoring inside. With the inside closed off, the Wolverines looked to junior guards Kayla Anderson and Maria Carvalho to score. Anderson, who is usually a facilitator on the offense, had seven first-half points. Carvalho also had a big half of scoring, notching nine first-half points. It was a very back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. The Wolverines did a notable job at keeping their turnovers down, with only five in the half. After two quarters of hotly contested play, the Wolverines led 30-26.
Coming out in the second half, NMSU looked to put pressure on the Wolverine guards, setting up the full-court press. The press was a thorn in the Wolverines’ side, causing eight turnovers in the third quarter alone. The Wolverines got into foul trouble as well, with both Anderson and redshirt junior Nehaa Sohail picking up two fouls each in the period. Along with turnovers and stifling defense by the Aggies, the Wolverines allowed 10 offensive rebounds in the second half. After giving up a 39 point second half, however, the Wolverines were still very much in the ball game with an opportunity to tie the game. Down 65-62 with 10.2 seconds left, sophomore Shay Fano got off a three-pointer that rattled in and out and the Wolverines lost in the final seconds. Despite the defense of the Aggies, Carvalho and Williams both notched double figures in scoring. Carvalho had a team high of 16 points, and Williams put in 15 points. The Wolverines were ultimately undone by poor shooting and turnovers, as they shot 6-for-21 from behind the three-point line and had 15 turnovers in the game.
Saturday, Feb. 20
The Wolverines looked to end their recent two-game skid, playing the same Aggies team on the second day of a back-to-back. Coming out of the gate, the Wolverines showed that they could handle the full-court press much more efficiently than the previous night. It was much easier this time around to enter the ball into the post, and they looked to press their size advantage. Williams knocked in nine first-half points, and Fano scored eight points as well. With the bigs leading the way, the Wolverines were able to set up the half court offense and focus on their defense as well. UVU flipped the script on the Aggies from the previous night, forcing turnovers and putting tenacious pressure on the ball. Both teams struggled offensively, but the game was free flowing with fewer fouls. The Wolverines were ice-cold from three, shooting 1-of-8 from three and 35% from the field in the first half. Despite cold shooting, the teams were locked in a 26-26 tie by halftime.
The Wolverines charged out of the gate attacking in the second half. They pushed the fast break and were able to successfully execute the inside-out game, getting excellent looks within the paint and beyond the arch. The three pointers began to fall as well. UVU had shot 1-of-11 up until midway through the third quarter but splashed four out of their next seven three-point attempts after that. The Wolverine defense was pesky, forcing eight turnovers in the half. Once they took the lead early in the fourth quarter, they never looked back. UVU rode an 18-8 run to close out the game, and they took the win with a score of 56-47. Fano recorded a season high in scoring, redeeming herself from her missed shot late during the previous night’s game. She had 16 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists, a well-rounded performance. Both Fano and Williams notched double-doubles, with Willaims putting up 15 points and adding 10 rebounds as well. The Wolverine bigs combined for 31 of the teams 56 points in a statement victory.
The Wolverines are now tied with GCU for second place in the WAC behind California Baptist. It is important to note that CBU is ineligible for postseason play, so if they won the WAC tournament, whichever team claims the second place seat behind them would indeed receive the NCAA tournament bid. The Wolverines next face off against the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros in Texas on Friday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. MT.
Sports Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Junior at Utah Valley University majoring in Communications with emphasis in Journalism and Media