CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Despite a 37-point night from Holton Hunsaker, Utah Valley University fell short in the championship game of the 23rd Dr Pepper Classic, 76-69, on Saturday night at Chattanooga.
It was a career-high effort from Hunsaker on a night when the junior point guard also tied a school record with eight 3-pointers, following a 21-point night in a win over Austin Peay on Friday. He scored 28 points of his points and hit seven treys in the second half.
Hunsaker and Nick Thompson, who recorded the school’s first-ever triple-double Friday, were both named to the all-tournament team.
Z. Mason scored 26 points for Chattanooga (5-8) and also pulled down 13 rebounds and was named tournament MVP. The Mocs also got 11 points each from Ronrico White and Gee McGhee and outrebounded UVU 48-33 - 21 of which came on the offensive glass - to win a rematch of the 2011 classic championship game.
“Congratulations to Chattanooga. They outplayed and outhustled us on the backboards,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “We did a better job of settling down and taking care of the basketball in the second half but I’m disappointed we didn’t compete better physically.”
Chattanooga went into the break with a 30-27 after turnovers plagued both squads in the first half.
In the second half, the lead changed hands six times and was tied three times. It was tied at 53 with 8:19 to go when Mason and Hunsaker traded baskets. Hunsaker’s was a triple to give Utah Valley a 56-55 lead but was answered by a three from White, giving the Mocs the lead for good.
The Wolverines never trailed by more than seven the rest of the way, but every attempt to carve into the lead was answered by a big bucket from the Mocs. Chattanooga then hit 11 out of 14 free-throw attempts in the final 2:15 to seal the win.
Alfonzo Hubbard added 12 points for Utah Valley, Thompson finished with nine and Taylor Brown had six off the bench for the second straight night. Ben Aird, who scored a career-high 26 Friday, matched Mason with a game-high 13 rebounds and also blocked four shots.
Hunsaker's 37 points is the highest total for a Utah Valley player since Ryan Toolson's 63-point night at Chicago State on January 29, 2009.
The Wolverines will open their final Great West season Saturday, Jan. 5, at 7:05 p.m. against NJIT at the UCCU Center. UVU is the preseason favorite to win its third straight GWC title.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.