One Team All Green

Toolson, Harward Help UVU Avoid Upset and Other Bullets from WAC Quarterfinals

Mark Nessia

LAS VEGAS — The No. 2 seed at the Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball looked dead in the water with 12:19 to play. In fact at one point, Utah Valley had committed as many turnovers (13) as they had made baskets (13). Not a good combination against a quality UMKC team. But then sophomore big man Richard Harward and senior guard Conner Toolson took over for the Wolverines.

Richard Harward is a big reason why UVU is still alive at #WACVegas. Photo by Mark Nessia.

Harward and Toolson combined to score 22 of UVU’s 26 final points to help the Wolverines fend off UMKC, 71-64, to advance to Friday night’s semifinals against No. 3 seed Grand Canyon.

Toolson finished with a game-high 21 points while Harward chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds. Five of those rebounds came on the offensive glass. UMKC guard Xavier Bishop finished with a team-high 17 points but it just wasn’t enough. The ‘Roos led 49-40 with 12:19 to play and had opportunities to put UVU away. But Rob Whitfield missed back-to-back 3-point attempts and UVU began to chip away. With the game tied at 59 with 3:25 to play, Bishop hit a long 3-pointer giving the ‘Roos the lead. However, WAC Player of the Year Jake Toolson finally found the bottom of the net on the next possession cutting the deficit to one. 

On the next UVU possession, Jake Toolson missed a 3-point attempt badly but UMKC’s Brandon Suggs was whistled for a flagrant one foul for hooking Richard Harward’s arm. It was a questionable call at the time and will leave a bad taste in UMKC’s mouth. But Harward hit both FT’s and UVU retained possession. Harward then grabbed an offensive rebound off a Ben Nawkwaasah miss and scored on the put back giving UVU a lead it never relinquished.

Harward “in a large sense, saved our season,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said.

The Wolverines advance to face No. 3 seed Grand Canyon on Friday night in the WAC semifinals.

New Mexico State Cruises Past Chicago State

This was a good game for about a half. But New Mexico State used a 16-0 run in the second half to blow open a 25-point lead en route to an 86-49 win over the Cougars. Eli Chuha finished with a game-high 14 points while Terrell Brown finished with 13, C.J. Bobbit with 11 and Clayton Henry with 10. 

UTRGV Runs Past CSU Bakersfield

This was supposed to be one of the funner games of the WAC quarterfinals. And in some ways, it lived up to it. But, UTRGV got off to a 14-2 start and never looked back, leading by as much as 22 at one point in the first half. UTRGV got its 19th win in impressive fashion, forcing 10 steals and setting a new program record with 323 on the season. It is also the first win in the WAC Tournament for the Vaqueros. One of the lone bright spots for CSU Bakersfield was a Taze Moore highlight-reel dunk. But the season just kept going downhill in the second half for the ‘Runners. 

UTRGV moves on to face New Mexico State in the second WAC semifinal on Friday night.

Grand Canyon Holds Off Seattle

This might be more about the fact that Seattle just had no depth, whatsoever. And that’s really not an understatement. Once Mattia Da Campo fouled out with 12:42 to play, the Redhawks were basically done. Jim Hayford’s bench isn’t deep so he played with the same 5-6 guys the rest of the way. And it showed. GCU’s Carlos Johnson got to the rim on numerous occasions, Michael Finke hit some big shots, and GCU just wore down the Redhawks en route to an 84-75 win in the nightcap. Johnson finished with a game-high 31 points while Finke chipped in 21 and Alessandro Lever finished with 12.

Terrell Brown and Morgan Means led Seattle with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Delante Jones finished with 13 points but no other Redhawk really did any damage scoring-wise.

GCU takes on Utah Valley in the first semifinal on Friday night. 

Coaching Carousel

According to a report from a new station in Kansas City, it appears that UMKC head coach Kareem Richardson is on his way out. According to 41 Action News, Richardson’s firing will becoming official on Monday. 

And there are some who believe that Seattle U head coach Jim Hayford is a high candidate to take over at Washington State after the school parted ways with Ernie Kent on Friday. 

 

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