Photo by Mykah Heaton
OREM, Utah— The Utah Valley University women’s basketball team beat Pepperdine University 72-65 Tuesday night to win the battle between the two winless squads and gave UVU its first victory of the season. Junior Mariah Seals scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Wolverines to victory in the closely-contested first all-time meeting between the schools.
UVU (1-6) scored a season-high 72 points Tuesday, eclipsing its season average of 56.7 points per game. The Wolverines benefitted from a strong performance from Junior Sam Lubcke, who secured a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, part of 30 points scored in the paint on the night. Freshman Leya Harvey gave a needed boost off the bench to a front court struggling with foul trouble scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds. Lubcke struggled in the first half shooting just 2 of 6 from the field but found her groove in the third and fourth quarters.
“I challenged Sam at halftime to really be more mentally and physically tough,” head coach Cathy Nixon said. “I was proud of the way she stepped up.”
The Wolverines’ backcourt, consisting of Seals, sophomore Britta Hall and junior Taylor Gordon leads the Western Athletic Conference in scoring and torched Pepperdine for 45 points. Seals nearly missed a double-double herself by tallying eight assists and five rebounds. With Lubcke’s big game, more attention was paid down low on defense, opening up more opportunities for the trio.
“I tried to emphasize getting them the ball,” Seals said. “Because that’s something I do want to do. Once they become a threat then everybody becomes a threat on the court.”
Gordon, who has been UVU’s most consistent player, was again instrumental in the win adding five rebounds, six assists and six steals to go along with her nine points.
“Taylor had a really good overall game,” Nixon said. “You look at those [stats] and that’s an incredible game for her.”
Despite 14 lead changes in the game, the Wolverines held the lead for almost 28 minutes. The last lead change came with 5:19 remaining in the fourth quarter when Seals drained a 3-pointer to break up a 60-60 tie and UVU never trailed again.
“Right before I took it, I knew I had to find a way for us to get some kind of momentum,” Seals said. “I was just trying to be aggressive to make sure that everybody was in the game.”
UVU controlled the turnovers against the Waves, committing just 14 compared to its season average of 20.7. Despite failing to score a field goal the final five and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines played a tight game with fewer of the mental errors that have plagued them this season.
“I’m proud of the girls for stepping up,” Nixon said. “This was a game that we had to win. There when the game was tight and on the line, I saw our girls dig down and show some confidence and grit that we haven’t shown at times in the past. I felt like that was the difference in the game. The resolve on the defensive end to get stops when we needed it.”
UVU goes on the road Friday to face Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in the Air Force Academy Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. MT.
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.