NEWARK, N.J. - Utah Valley University cut NJIT's 13-point halftime lead to four late in the contest, but couldn't quite break through in suffering a 63-55 Great West Conference loss Saturday afternoon.
UVU's Zach Jones started a 6-0 run midway through the second half with a bucket and Justin Johnson followed with four straight points to cut the lead to four with 6:34 left, but the Wolverines wouldn't get any closer.
The lead was five with 6:06 left when Chris Flores drilled a three-pointer. Three minutes later it was five again before NJIT's Ryan Woods drained a three-pointer to end the Wolverines' charge.
"Too many untimely errors in the first half gave NJIT a confident cushion," UVU basketball coach Dick Hunsaker said. "In the second half we made some runs and we didn't give up, but they found their way to a couple of timely three-point shots."
Two foul shots by Aird, a three-point play by Johnson and a bucket by Nick Thompson fueled the Wolverines' 7-0 run to open the half in cutting the lead to six with 18:44 left in the game.
Johnson whittled the Highlander lead to five with a basket with 15:02 left.
With 10 minutes left in the, contest the Highlanders took their lead back up to 10 points before the Wolverines mounted a final charge.
With the loss, the Wolverines fall to 12-14 on the year and 2-4 in Great West Conference play with two conference games remaining.
The Wolverines trailed by three points with 13:59 left in the first half following a bucket by Johnson, but over the next 7:30 the Wolverines scored just two points.
During the Wolverines' dry spell, the Highlanders built their lead to 11 with 6:44 left in the half, thanks to an 8-0 run.
The NJIT remained in double-digits until a three-point play by Jones cut the lead to eight at 29-21 with 3:39 left in the half, but that was as close as the Wolverines would get in the half. UVU trailed 37-24 at the half.
Utah Valley shot just 34.6 percent from the field in the opening half, while the Highlanders shot 48.5 percent from the floor and recorded eight points off eight UVU turnovers.
Jones led the Wolverines with nine points in the half, while Aird had five and Johnson and Hunsaker had four points each.
For the game, Johnson led Utah Valley with 16 points, while Jones tied a career high with 14 points. Aird finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Wolverines shot 34.6 percent from the floor for the game, including 0-of-9 from the three-point line. They connected on 19-of-25 foul shots.
NJIT shot 44.8 percent from the field, including 7-of-20 from the three-point line.
Woods led the Highlanders with 14 points, while PJ Miller and Flores added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Wolverines are back in action Monday night at 7 p.m. when they host Pacific Union College at the UCCU Center, and they return to Great West Conference action Saturday at 1 p.m. at Houston Baptist.
Jay Hinton is a sports information assistant at Utah Valley University.
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