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Utah Valley Wolverines edge NJIT in double overtime

By Jay Hinton

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 9 2012 11:32 p.m. MST

NEWARK, N.J.Ben Aird scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while teammate Isiah Williams added 24 more in leading Utah Valley to a 99-97 double-overtime victory over NJIT Thursday night.

With their ninth win in a row, the Wolverines improve to 16-10 overall and 6-0 in Great West Conference play, while the Highlanders fall to 10-13 overall and 3-3 in league play.

Also, the win was No. 350 in the career of UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker.

When the dust settles Thursday night, the Wolverines will have no less than a two-game lead with four games remaining. UVU will meet Chicago State at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Windy City.

Thursday, the lead changed hands 16 times and was tied nine times before Utah Valley held on for the two-point victory.

In all, five Wolverines scored in double figures: Geddes Robinson, who hails from Bronx, N.Y., scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Holton Hunsaker, who was scoreless at the half, finished with 14 and Keith Thompson added 11.

"It was a game that wasn't played perfect by us," Dick Hunsaker said. "There were plays made by both teams with big, crucial shots. I thought we have the game at the end of overtime, but we had a couple of errors that extended the game."

Utah Valley trailed by as many as eight points with 13:30 left before making its comeback.

Trailing by five with 10:50 left, the Wolverines knocked down five straight three-pointers — including three straight by Holton Hunsaker — to take the lead at 67-66 with 6:27 left.

In the final six minutes, the game was tied or the lead changed hands 11 times.

The Highlanders had the chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Chris Flores hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3.8 seconds left to send the game into OT tied at 79.

Utah Valley led by four points with less than a minute to go, but the Highlanders answered with four straight, including a steal and lay-up with 18 seconds left to tie the score at 90.

Two minutes into the final OT, the Wolverines led by four before the Highlanders cut the lead to one with a 3-pointer with 1:08 to go.

Robinson hit 1-of-2 foul shots and the Wolverines held on the win.

"It was a good win for us and we feel fortunate," Dick Hunsaker said. "We knew they were going to come at us hard. "

The Wolverines shot 54.3 percent from the field, while NJIT shot 50 percent. UVU outrebounded the Highlanders, 40-32. Utah Valley shot 14-of-22 from the line and NJIT hit 17-of-23.

Utah Valley jumped out to an 8-0 with the first six coming from Williams. The Highlanders cut the lead to 10-8 before UVU increased the lead back up to eight with a 6-0 run with 13:37 left in the half.

The Highlanders, however, answered with an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the game at 19-18 on a bucket by Lamar Kearse.

The Highlanders eventually built their largest lead of the half at 32-26 with 5:33 left on the Arjun Ohri's fourth 3-pointer of the half.

Williams scored five straight points to trim the lead to one with 4:43 left in the half.

A three-point play by NJIT's Ryan Regis equaled the Highlanders' largest lead of the half at six with 3:04 left, but they wouldn't score again.

The Wolverines ended the half with a 5-0 run to trail 39-38.

Williams had 15 points in the first half, while Robinson added 10 points and five boards in front of his family and friends.

The Wolverines shot 57.1 percent from the field, while NJIT shot 55.6 percent, nut the Highlanders hit 5-of-11 three-points attempts and had 14 points off eight UVU miscues.

Ohri, who averages just 6.1 points a game, had 14 at the break, while the Great West Conference's leading scorer, Isaiah Wilkerson, who didn't start, had just two in four minutes of action.

Jay Hinton is a sports information assistant at Utah Valley University.

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