OREM, Utah - The Utah Valley University women's basketball team clinched its first Great West Conference Regular Season Championship with a 59-46 win over Houston Baptist in its regular season finale at the UCCU Center Saturday. Senior Sammie Jensen led the way in her final home game with a career-high 32 points and 19 rebounds.
"I'm just so excited for these kids," said 18th-year head coach Cathy Nixon. "It's been a pleasure for me to coach these girls because they come to work and because they come to play together. As a coach that is exactly what you want and I'm grateful for them."
Behind Jensen's monster game, which included shooting 11-19 from the field and a near-perfect 10-11 from the line, fellow senior Kaycee Mansfield added a double-double of her own with 15 points and 11 boards. Senior Cydne Gray also had a solid game as she dished out a game-high five assists.
Jensen finished the regular season with a UVU (14-14, 7-1 GWC) single-season school record of 19 double-doubles as well as currently being ranked second in the nation in rebounding with 14.2 rebounds per game.
"Obviously Sammie has been a huge part of our success statistically but stats don't always tell the whole story," added Nixon. "Her work ethic is second to none and she's so consistent. If we all were as consistent at our job as Sammie is at hers we would probably all be a lot better. She's a competitor and has a special gift especially at rebounding the basketball."
Utah Valley used a 12-2 run early in the game to take a 16-9 lead. Senior Jensen capped the spurt with three consecutive layups.
HBU's (5-22, 0-6 GWC) Erin McGarrachan later pulled the Huskies to within one by hitting the next three buckets but the Wolverines countered back by scoring 12 straight points of their own to take a 28-16 lead late in the half.
Another layup by Jensen just before the halftime buzzer gave UVU a 30-20 lead into the break. Jensen led the Wolverines in the opening half with 16 points and nine rebounds. Utah Valley scored 22 of its 30 first-half points in the paint.
The Wolverines later extended their lead to 15 points, at 50-35, midway through the second half following a three-point play from Jensen.
Shanice Steenholdt, the Great West Conference's leading scorer, helped keep the Huskies in the game with 15 second-half points but UVU maintained its double digit lead down the stretch as it held on to take the game by 13 points.
"All of these seniors have meant so much to our team. They've come such a long way over the years," Nixon said. "I'm looking forward to the conference tournament. We've still got another championship to win and hopefully more games after that. Today we reached just one of our goals and we're looking forward to what lies ahead of us."
The Wolverines will now be off until the Great West Conference Tournament that will take place March 14-16 at the Jones Convocation Center in Chicago, Ill. By locking up the one-seed, UVU will receive a first-round bye and will begin the tournament in the semis against the winner of the four vs. five seed game on March 15.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.