March 13, 2012
OGDEN, Utah - Isiah Williams scored 26 points and sparked a late comeback but Utah Valley University's first trip to the postseason came up short in a 72-69 loss at Weber State University in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
"We've got a group that fights, a group that competes and has throughout the season. Today was no different," said UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker. "Weber is an outstanding team with a lot of weapons. Give them credit for a nice win."
The Wolverines (20-13) trailed by 13 in the second half but chipped away down the stretch. Ben Aird converted on four straight free throws to get UVU within five, 66-61, with 2:39 left. Keith Thompson drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game and then forced a turnover and fed Holton Hunsaker for a layup, tying the game at 66 with 1:40 to.
Damian Lillard and Williams then traded punches; Lillard hit a 3-pointer that nearly rattled out before hanging on the rim and dropping through only to be answered by a Williams three with just under a minute to go.
Lillard pushed WSU back up by a point after converting on 1-of-2 from the line and Scott Bamforth, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half, hit two from the foul line with 9.5 seconds to go.
The Wolverines had one last shot but Hunsaker's three at the buzzer wouldn't fall, allowing the Wildcats to move on to the second round and remain perfect at home.
"This was a terrific experience. It's a landmark. This is a team that will never be forgotten," Hunsaker said of his team that won its second straight Great West Conference championship and featured a school-record 13-game winning streak.
Aird added 13 points and eight rebounds while Thompson scored 10 points and blocked three shots. Geddes Robinson hauled in 11 boards, adding to his school-record rebound total and finishing with a 10.4 average on the year.
Lillard, the nation's second-leading scorer, led Weber State with 21 points.
The Wolverines jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a pair of buckets from Williams and a three from Thompson. The Wildcats came right back and, with the game knotted at 13, ran off seven straight to match UVU's early seven-point advantage, the largest either team would have in the half.
Williams then started a 16-3 Utah Valley run with a 3-pointer followed by a bucket and free throw from Hunsaker on a 3-point-play. After Jordan Richardson nailed a trey to put Weber State up 23-19, UVU scored the next 10 points; Aird on a lay-in, Robinson on a follow and Williams then converted six straight. The senior guard scored and made a free throw before capping the run with a three, giving Utah Valley a 29-23 lead.
The Wildcats closed the half with a pair of treys, from Lillard and Richardson, and the teams went in the break tied at 29.
Weber State used a 16-3 run of its own in the early portion of the second half to turn a 33-33 tie into a 49-36 lead. Kyle Bullinger and Bamforth both connected on 3-pointers during the run and Lillard scored six of the 16 Wildcat points. Weber State rode that run until Utah Valley's final push.