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UVU opens Great West Conference play on Saturday

By Clint Burgi

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 5:21 p.m. MST

OREM, Utah — Utah Valley begins defense of its Great West Conference championship this Saturday when the Wolverines host North Dakota in the UCCU Center, with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m.

UVU (10-10) won 11 of 12 games last year in the Great West to capture the league title, and in the preseason the team was selected by coaches to repeat as champions. UND (8-9) was picked to finish second after winning the GWC Tournament last March in the UCCU Center. North Dakota returns 13 players including all five starters from last season’s tournament-champion squad.

“The team is excited for conference play to begin,” said Utah Valley head coach Dick Hunsaker. “North Dakota is an experienced, sound and confident team. Coach (Brian) Jones will have them well-prepared to play us.”

Last season, the two teams played a pair of classic contests, including UVU’s 107-96, quadruple-overtime win in Grand Forks a year ago. Then, on Feb. 19 in Orem, in another game where the outcome hinged on late play or two, the Wolverines escaped with a 67-64 win. The all-time series between the schools is tied 2-2.

North Dakota is coming off a big win over North Dakota State on Tuesday. UND defeated the Bison, who entered the game with a 13-4 record, by five points and were led by 17 from Brandon Brekke. Troy Huff’s 13.1 ppg average leads three North Dakota players in double figures on the season.

Utah Valley has won three straight overall, sweeping a home-and-home series with Seattle and defeating Saint Mary on Monday. Saturday’s contest is the second of four straight at home for UVU.

Against Saint Mary, six Wolverines reached double figures in scoring for the second consecutive game. Ben Aird had 18 to lead the way for UVU while Geddes Robinson finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Holton Hunsaker dished out a career-high nine assists. The Wolverines scored a season-high 98 points in the win and hit 81 percent from the field in the second half and 59 percent for the game.

Utah Valley will continue league play next week with a pair of home games against Chicago State (on Thursday) and NJIT (on the following Saturday). UVU will sport pink uniforms as part of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers week. Also, following the Jan. 28 game, musician Kalai will play an acoustic concert for those in attendance at the game.

Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit http://www.WolverineGreen.com.

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