Wolverines take sole possession of first with OT win over NM State

WOLVERINEGREENDOTCOM Ben Aird scored 21 to lead the way on Thursday
Ben Aird scored 21 to lead the way on Thursday

Feb. 27, 2014

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OREM, Utah -- Utah Valley University took sole possession of first place in the Western Athletic Conference following a 66-61 overtime win over New Mexico State on Thursday night at the UCCU Center. Keawe Enos knocked down three free throws with 4.3 seconds to send the game into the extra frame and Ben Aird scored six of his game-high 21 during the OT.

The Wolverines (17-10, 11-3) moved in front of the Aggies (21-9, 10-4) by one game in the WAC standings with two games left in the regular season. The Wolverines host Texas-Pan American on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. MT and can clinch at least a share of the regular season title with the win.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the effort and how hard we played tonight," said Utah Valley coach Dick Hunsaker. "This is a team the believes in one another that kept competing and made some big plays when we needed it."

Utah Valley trailed by seven with 2:49 and was down three, 53-50, with under 10 seconds to go when Enos drew a foul beyond the 3-point line by NM State's Sim Bhullar. Enos was perfect on all three free throws, hitting the third following a timeout.

In the overtime frame, UVU trailed by a point when Mitch Bruneel took a feed from Zach Nelson for an alley-oop dunk, putting the Wolverines up 57-56 with 3:07 let. Aird followed on a layup and then knocked down a pair of free throws to push the margin to five, 61-56. Enos hit two more from the line with 11 seconds left to push the lead again to six before Kevin Aronis knocked down a three for the Aggies. Enos then iced the game with 0.4 seconds to go with two more free throws.

Aird scored 15 of his 21 in the second half and overtime while Enos finished with 11, hitting all seven of his attempts from the line. UVU was 24-for-30 from the foul line while NM State, which is ranked 10th in this week's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll, shot just 15-for-30 from the line.

Nelson scored 10 points and also had seven rebounds and seven assists. Holton Hunsaker scored eight for Utah Valley. Daniel Mullings led New Mexico State with 19 while Bhullar and DK Eldridge both had 10. Bhullar also had 14 rebounds and six blocks.

Both teams shot an identical 37.5 percent (21-for-56) from the floor for the game.

In the first half, the Wolverines jumped out to a 13-4 lead early but the Aggies used a 15-4 run to go ahead 19-17. New Mexico State went into the half with a 26-25 lead.

Both teams were saddled with foul trouble early in the second half, with Aird and NM State's Tshilidzi Nephawe each picking up their fourth fouls less than five minutes in. Nephawe eventually fouled out late in the contest with Bhullar also picking up his fifth foul early in the overtime.

Utah Valley's win came in front of a season-high 4,954 fans. It was the first overtime for UVU this season.