March 10, 2012
CHICAGO - The Utah Valley University women's basketball team trailed the University of North Dakota by just three points at the half in the Great West Conference Championship game Saturday in Chicago, Ill., but the Fighting Sioux pulled ahead in the second half and went on to defeat the Wolverines 69-56.
With the loss the Wolverines finished an even .500 for the season at 15-15. The .500 record is UVU's best mark since the 2008-09 season when it went 17-10.
"It's disappointing. We really just wanted to keep playing. This is a very special team. I couldn't be more proud of the girls," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "North Dakota is a very good basketball team. I would've loved to have seen our girls get a championship but they can hold their heads up high."
After falling down 4-0 to open the game, UVU answered with seven straight points to pull ahead 7-4. Whitney Jenkins started the scoring with a 3-ball and the newly named GWC Player of the Year Sammie Jensen finished it with back-to-back baskets.
The Wolverines' shooting then went cold midway through the half as the Fighting Sioux (21-10) pulled ahead. UND managed to stretch its lead to 12 points with 3:43 to go in the half but Utah Valley got huge play from Jenna Johnson and Taylor Huber late in the frame to close the gap to just three points at the break, 32-29.
Johnson started the 9-0 run for the Wolverines to close the half with consecutive baskets. One of which was started by Huber via a block and outlet pass to a streaking Johnson for a fastbreak layup. Huber then followed it up with a steal and fastbreak layup for herself and finished it off with a deep 3-pointer.
In the opening period Johnson led UVU with 10 points on 5-8 shooting while Huber was next in the scoring column with five.
North Dakota started the second half hot as they enjoyed an 8-2 run to build a 40-31 advantage. Jensen countered with a 3-pointer for UVU to cut it back to a six-point game but the Sioux stayed hot and scored the next eight points to pull ahead at 48-34. A beautiful no-look pass from Cydne Mason
to Erika Newbold
ended the Wolverine drought moments later however.
With UVU trailing by 16 points with 13 minutes to play, Johnson, Kaycee Mansfield and Newbold scored consecutive buckets to pull the Wolverines within 10 at 52-42.
The game remained around a double-digit lead for UND until Abbie Beutler hit a floater in the lane to pull the Wolverines within nine with 7:10 to play. UVU hung around for the next couple of minutes but the Sioux managed to extend their lead up to 18 points with a minute and a half to play.
Seniors Johnson and Beutler led UVU in their final game with 12 and nine points respectively. Huber also tallied eight and Jensen chipped in seven points and nine rebounds. Newbold, who is a redshirt junior but recently announced this will be her final season in a UVU uniform, finished with six points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Mason also added a game-high five assists.
Following the game, Johnson and Jensen were both named to the GWC All-Tournament Team after Johnson averaged 15 points in the two UVU contests this weekend and Jensen averaged 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. Johnson will also leave Utah Valley in fourth place in points in the school's record books with 1,033.
Emily Evers led UND in the game with 16 points, while Allyssa Wall added 14 points and nine rebounds.
GWC All-Tournament Team
Sammie Jensen (UVU)
Jenna Johnson (UVU)
Rayven Johnson (NJIT)
Emily Evers (UND)
Tournament MVP - Allyssa Wall (UND)