Feb. 26, 2013
FARGO, N.D. -- In a game that saw nine ties and 10 lead changes, Utah Valley University found itself on the wrong end of a tight ballgame, coming up short against NDSU, 63-56, Tuesday at the Bison Sports Arena.
UVU (13-16) got a pair of terrific halves from the junior duo of Holton Hunsaker and Ben Aird as it pushed the home-standing Bison (21-8) to the brink of their second home loss on the season. Hunsaker ended the game with 15 points, 13 of which were scored in the first half, while Aird scored 17 in the second half on his way to a game-high 25.
"We came out and showed resilience and I thought there were some bright spots tonight," said head coach Dick Hunsaker. "Unfortunately, we had some breakdowns late that hurt us against a very tough and physical team. We'll leave here with some things we can work on to hopefully be a better team in our final regular season games."
The Wolverines opened the game hot, canning eight of their first 10 attempts from the field. Five of those field goals came from Hunsaker as UVU took an 18-14 lead just a little over eight minutes into the contest. The guard converted a couple tough layups in the lane during the stretch and buried a deep three from the right side to give him nine of the first 14 Wolverine points.
That hot start was followed by a dry spell, however, as UVU went without a made field goal for nearly seven minutes late in the half. The Bison capitalized during that stretch, retaking the lead and pushing it to 29-25 with 2:47 to go until the break. But the home team would not score again in the half as a Zach Jones jumper followed by a pair of free throws from Hunsaker sent the two squads into the locker room knotted at 29-all.
A back-and-forth second half saw the lead change hands six times in the first nine minutes as Aird went to work down low. He scored four of the Wolverines first four points of the half and scored nine consecutive points at one point midway through the period.
NDSU, 12-1 at home on the year, stayed with UVU basket for basket as it upped its second half shooting percentage to 42 percent, compared to just 39 percent in the opening period.
With 8:37 still to play and the score tied at 48-48 after a pair of Aird free throws, the Bison got a big performance from an unlikely source. Senior Nate Zastrow, playing his final game in front of the home faithful, dropped in a right-wing three that broke the tie. He had already converted a trey earlier in the half to put NDSU ahead 41-43 immediately after an Aird jumper had restored the lead to UVU.
Zastrow's three kick started what would become 7-0 Bison run late in the half. He added a pair of free throws during the run to give him seven points - all in the second half. The 55-48 was the largest for NDSU to that point and proved too much for the Wolverines to overcome.
UVU would get as close as five after a couple Jason Johnson freebies at 5:15, the Bison -- a game back of first place in the Summit League -- were able to ride the win out from there.
Also turning in solid performances for the Wolverines were Nick Thompson and Jason Johnson. The two scored seven points apiece with the former hauling in nine boards.
UVU now returns to Orem to close out the regular season, beginning with the Great West Conference finale Saturday against Chicago State. That game tips at 7:05 MT time. The Wolverines then close the season the following weekend when CSU Bakersfield visits the UCCU Center.