Historic season ends in first round of NIT at California

WOLVERINEGREENDOTCOM Ben Aird had 19 points and nine rebounds in his final game
Ben Aird had 19 points and nine rebounds in his final game

March 20, 2014

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BERKELEY, Calif. - Utah Valley University's historic season came to an end on Wednesday in the opening round of the NIT, 77-64, at Haas Pavilion against California. It was the program's first-ever trip to the NIT in a season the Wolverines also won the WAC regular season in the school's first year in the league.

UVU (20-12) was led by two of its seniors: Holton Hunsaker scored 22 points, hitting 5-of-8 from three, and Ben Aird added 19. The duo finish their careers second and third on the all-time scoring list -- Hunsaker scored 1,555 to Aird's 1,535 career points -- trailing only Ryan Toolson.

"I have four great seniors in Taylor Brown, Keawe Enos, Ben and Holton," said UVU head coach Dick Hunasker. "Holton and Ben were four-year starters and their contributions will certainly set a standard for the program in the future. They know how to win and both were able to make big shots throughout their careers."

Utah Valley hit nine of its first 14 shots to start the game and led 23-20 after Hunsaker hit his second three of the half. The lead had changed hands five times to that point. Cal (20-13) then ran off 10 straight to lead 30-23 before Hunsaker made another from beyond the arc to get UVU within four, 30-26.

It was 36-32 when the Golden Bears used a 7-0 run to take an 11-point lead, their largest of the half before Zach Nelson's put back beat the buzzer to make it 43-34 at the break.

Aird scored six points early in the second half to help UVU make it a six-point game, 47-41, before Cal went on an 11-0 run punctuated by three 3-pointers. Justin Cobbs hit two of the three from beyond the arc during the spurt. Utah Valley couldn't recover from there.

Hunsaker hit a 3-pointer, the 238th of his career, with 1:01 on the clock for his final bucket.

The Golden Bears finished the game hitting 52.5 percent from the field. Five Cal players scored in double figures led by 14 from David Kravish on 7-for-9 shooting. Kravish also blocked five shots. Cal now advances to host Arkansas in the second round of the NIT.

In addition to his scoring night, Aird pulled down nine rebounds while Mitch Bruneel finished with seven points and eight boards.