OREM, Utah - A balanced offensive night and a staunch defensive effort helped Utah Valley University knock Texas Pan-American from atop the Great West Conference standings, 66-49, Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
The Wolverines (11-13, 2-3) limited the Broncs (12-13, 3-2) to just 32 percent shooting for the game, including 20 percent in the first half. UTPA's 49 points matched the season low for a UVU opponent.
While four players for UVU finished the night in double figures - including a pair of double-doubles - the Broncs' top two leading scorers finished with only seven points combined.
Ben Aird and Jason Johnson led all scorers with 15 points apiece, with Aird picking up a game-high 12 rebounds along the way. Holton Hunsaker's 12 points was next while 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists saw Nick Thompson flirt with what would have been his second triple-double.
"They are a tough team and they are a consistent team," UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said of UTPA. "This was a game our kids needed and we had to come out and play well. I was happy with how hard we worked and I thought everybody played a part on both ends of the floor."
Despite the offensive balance and efficiency - the Wolverines shot 53 percent for the game - UVU's stingy defense decided the game.
After scoring the first five points of the contest, UTPA shot just 4-of-28 from the field on its way to 17 first half points. On the flip side, UVU countered its early 5-0 deficit with a 16-2 run over the next seven minutes, highlighted by seven consecutive points from Thompson. The lead would grow to as many as 17 in the opening frame when UVU constructed another 9-0 run late in the half.
Seventeen points stands as the fewest points allowed in a half by the Wolverines this season. The Broncs, who will join the Wolverines in the WAC next season, shot just 20 percent in the opening frame as UVU took a 31-17 lead into the locker room.
UTPA's senior backcourt of Aaron Urbanus and Brandon Provost - who combine to average 26.0 points per game - were limited to just three and four points, respectively. The duo combined to shoot 3-of-16 from the field.
The Broncs made a run early in the second half, climbing within eight on two occasions, the latest coming with 15:31 to go. A flagrant foul sent Antoine Hosley to the line for two free throws and started a 7-0 spurt in the span of 53 seconds for UVU. The run was capped by a Johnson 3-pointer, one of three triples on the night for him. The lead stayed in double figures the rest of the night.
Hunsaker's scoring night left him two points shy of becoming the program's sixth player to reach 1,000 career points.
The Wolverines host Northern New Mexico on Monday night before a pivotal Great West Contest at league-leader NJIT, which moved to 4-1 in the conference with a win on Saturday.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.