Nov. 11, 2013
OREM, Utah --Utah Valley University saw five players reach double-figures as it fended off a resilient North Carolina A&T 78-71 Monday night at the UCCU Center.
Guard Holton Hunsaker led UVU (2-0) with 16 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Fellow senior Ben Aird recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds while Mitch Bruneeladded 14 points and five boards to lift the Wolverines to their first 2-0 start since the 2008-09 season.
Redshirt freshman Zach Nelson scored in double-digits for the second consecutive contest with 12 points and sophomore Hayes Garritychipped in 10 off the bench.
In a game that saw 51 fouls whistled, UVU made 27 of 40 free throws. Meanwhile, A&T (1-1) shot 23 free throws, but only converted 13.
Utah Valley led for the majority first half and the lead eventually reached double-digits just over a minute into the second period when Nelson capped a 6-0 burst out of the intermission with two free throws to make the score 41-31. Nelson had opened the scoring in the half with a dunk along the baseline before Aird converted a pair of free throws.
The advantage would grow to as many as 12 on a pair of occasions earlier in the period, but A&T kept things interesting. Senior guard Lamont Middleton, who led the Aggies with a game-high 19 points on the night, brought the visitors to within five after dropping in a lay-in while being fouled. Middleton sank the ensuing free throw to cut UVU's lead to 52-47 with 11 minutes to go.
Middleton also snatched 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
An empty Wolverine possession gave the ball back to A&T with a chance to make it a one-score game, but Hayes Garritycame up with a steal and buried a transition jumper on the other end to put UVU back up seven. But back came the Aggies, responding with a triple from Jeremy Underwood to make the score 54-50 -- UVU's smallest lead since 2:09 to go in the first half -- with 10 minutes still to play.
The Aggies eventually found their way all the way back at the 6:42 mark when Middleton got all the way to the rack for a lay-in. The bucket, which followed back-to-back empty Wolverine offensive trips, finished a 6-0 run and put A&T within a possession at 57-56.
Ten of the next 14 points belonged to Utah Valley as the Wolverines won back some breathing room at 67-60. A three-point play from Garrity and a trey from Hunsaker helped fuel the spurt.
But, in keeping with the basic storyline of the half, A&T responded yet again when Bruce Beckford hit a 17-footer from the wing. That would prove to be the final Aggie push, however, as the Wolverines got another three from Hunsaker and a put-back from Aird to run the lead back to 10 at 72-62 with just over two minutes to play.
A&T kept things interesting in the final minute with a couple buckets and a made three, but the Wolverines never lost control. Bruneel added an exclamation point with a two-handed dunk in transition while Nelson iced the game with two free throws over the final 45 seconds.
Points came at a premium early for the Wolverines who went the first 5:17 without a basket. In that time, A&T grabbed a slim 6-0 advantage as it battled through its own early shooting woes at just 2-of-6 from the field. But Keawe Enosgot the home team on the board with a jumper at 14:43 and what followed was a 16-4 spurt that put the Wolverines ahead 16-10 at the half's midway point.
UVU scored 10 points in the paint during the run on its way to 14 in the three-second area for the half.
A&T gradually worked its way to within three just shy of the four-minute mark after a quick 9-2 run powered by three consecutive buckets inside. But it was the Wolverines taking a seven-point advantage into the locker room as the first period decelerated to a free-throw shooting contest. UVU's final nine points of the half came from the charity stripe to comprise a 7-3 run that put it ahead 35-28 at halftime.
Utah Valley will have hardly any time to enjoy this win as it boards a plane for Stillwater, Okla., early Tuesday morning. The Wolverines are back in action that night when it faces eighth-ranked Oklahoma State at the famed Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys are 1-0 on the young season and boast guard Marcus Smart, a preseason National Player of the Year candidate. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. MT and will be televised on Fox College Sports Central (channel 263 on Comcast, 679 DirecTV). Fans can also tune into the game on 960 AM The Zone.
UVU 78, NCA&T 71 from WolverineGreen on Vimeo.
UVU Men's Basketball vs. North Carolina A&T Highlights from WolverineGreen on Vimeo.