BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — In a battle of two squads slated to join the Western Athletic Conference next season, the Utah Valley University men's basketball team fell to CSU Bakersfield 75-62 in a non-conference matchup Saturday night. The game served as a WAC preview between the two schools that accepted invitations to the WAC on Oct. 9, 2012.
UVU got a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds from junior Ben Aird, who scored his 1,000th career point on a free throw late in the contest. Senior Nick Thompson chipped in 14 points to go with seven boards and four assists, while Holton Hunsaker rounded out the Wolverines' double-digit scoring with 12 points and a game-high six assists.
Aird is the fourth player in UVU's D-I history to eclipse 1,000 points.
"Bakersfield played with a lot of tenacity and got very good efforts from a number of players," head coach Dick Hunsaker said. "We've just got to do a little bit better job as a unit and play a little bit smarter. This was a grind of a game and we've got to grow from it as we prepare for our final stretch of conference play."
The Roadrunners' benefited from a big first half, shooting 65 percent in the opening frame. With 13 converted field goals over the first 20 minutes, CSUB matched their total field goal makes from their previous game, a loss at Santa Clara.
Leading the way for the 'Runners was senior Stephon Carter. The Bakersfield-native scored 13 of his game-high 23 in the first half on 5-of-6 shooting. His efficiency helped spark a big 16-4 run midway late in the first half that gave CSUB a halftime lead despite the Wolverines' own 44 percent shooting and a 22-14 advantage in the paint.
UVU trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, but twice got to within five points of the Roadrunners. However, CSUB was able to ride its hot three-point shooting to keep the Wolverines at bay. The Roadrunners shot 6-of-11 from beyond the arc in the second half, good for 55 percent.
The Wolverines meet CSUB again on March 9 in Orem — the second leg of the home-and-home series.
In the meantime, UVU returns home next Saturday to begin its second pass through Great West Conference play as Texas-Pan American visits Orem. The Wolverines will look to avenge a tough 62-60 loss to the Broncs down in Edinburg on Jan. 19.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.