One Team All Green

Tale of Two Halves as Wolverines Fall Late at Arizona

Clark Clifford

On Thursday night in Tucson, it might have seemed like de ja vu for the UVU men’s basketball team. If you remember, the Wolverines led by 12 points early in the second half against 4th-ranked Kentucky in the 2017-18 season opener. However, an 18-0 run helped the Wildcats take control in a 73-63 win.

Well, different venue, same story for UVU.

The Wolverines led 41-29 going into the locker room at halftime in the McKale Center. UVU shot 50 percent from the field and held Arizona to just 38.5 percent shooting. The Wolverines also forced 11 turnovers and had four steals. The exact recipe for an upset bid.

Unfortunately, Arizona and head coach Sean Miller made adjustments at halftime. The Wildcats used a 16-2 run to open the second half to take a 45-43 lead with 16:49 remaining. UVU then went on a 12-5 run to take a 55-50 lead with 10:49 remaining, but from there it was all Wildcats. 

Dylan Smith got Arizona rolling with a 3-pointer and the Wildcats finished the game on a 23-8 run to seal the 80-69 victory. Arizona outscored UVU, 51-28, in the second half and held the Wolverines just 31.8 percent shooting. 

“They turned up the intensity defensively and we responded really well in the first half, taking the pressure and playing with more force and sharing the ball,” said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope. “When they turned that intensity to another level, the ball got sticky and that is like our Achilles heel. Our offense is special when we can play with enough force that we keep the ball moving and we couldn’t do that in the second half.”

It was the 52nd straight non-conference home win for Arizona. UVU saw its five-game win streak come to a halt. The Wolverines are also 0-4 in true road games this season. 

Jake Toolson had a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds for UVU. Conner Toolson and TJ Washington both finished in double digits with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Ironically, Brandon Randolph (not former UVU guard) led Arizona with 16 points while Brandon Williams had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Wildcats. Justin Coleman and Dylan Smith were also in double figures with 15 and 13 points respectively.

“This is a great team and obviously they’ve won a bunch of games at home and I’m proud of my guys,” said Pope. “By the time the season ends, we have to learn how to finish that game and win that game.”

The Wolverines finish up their Arizona road trip by traveling to Flagstaff to take on Northern Arizona on Saturday night. Tip is 6 p.m. MT and can be seen on Pluto TV or heard on ESPN 960AM.

 

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