OREM, Utah — The Utah Valley University men's basketball team is set to close out the 2012-13 schedule with a preview of next season's slate. CSU Bakersfield arrives in Orem for a 7 p.m. tip Saturday at the UCCU Center.
As the last game of the regular season for UVU, three Wolverine seniors will have their careers recognized prior to tipoff. Seniors Zach Jones, Alfonzo Hubbard and Nick Thompson will each see their final game at the UCCU Center. All junior college transfers, each senior put together strong campaigns through the 2012-13 season.
"Senior Night is a special night for Zach, Alfonzo, Nick and their families," head coach Dick Hunsaker said.
Jones, hailing from Phoenix, has seen his career's best stretch of basketball over the last several games for the Wolverines. On Feb. 11, the forward dropped in a then career-best 14 points against Northern New Mexico. He duplicated that total at NJIT on Feb. 16, only to set a new career mark with 18 points against Pacific Union two nights later.
A native of Gallup, N.M., Hubbard ranks third on the team at 11.6 ppg but saw his collegiate career come to a premature halt. In the week following a career-high 24 point performance against Houston Baptist on Jan. 24, the 2011 GWC Sixth Man of the Year suffered a season-ending knee injury. In two seasons with UVU, Hubbard has averaged 8.8 ppg and 4.4 rebounds.
A transfer from Oklahoma, Thompson left his mark in the record books during his lone season at UVU. On Dec. 28, the Clearfield, Utah, native became the first player in the program's Division I history to record a triple-double, scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out 12 assists. Thompson is currently tops in the GWC in assists average at 4.2 per game.
Saturday marks the second leg of a home-and-home series between the two schools, giving what was a non-conference matchup a strong impression of conference play.
UVU (14-16) and CSUB (13-16) accepted invitations to join the Western Athletic Conference on Oct. 9, 2012, and each will join the league for the 2013-14 season.
The Roadrunners claimed the first meeting out in Bakersfield on Feb. 2, holding off the Wolverines 75-62 with some clutch, long-range shooting late in the game. Center Ben Aird scored a game-high 15 points in the loss, including his 1,000th career point on a free throw midway through thesecond half. Thompson and Holton Hunsaker also finished in double-digits, with 14 and 12 points between them.
Leading the way for CSUB was senior and Bakersfield native, Stephon Carter. The forward dropped in 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
At 16.3 points per contest, Carter has been a steady leader for the `Runners for much of the season. Most recently, he buried a baseline jumper with just two seconds remaining to lift CSUB to a 75-74 victory at Seattle Wednesday night — its fifth win in its last six games.
"Coming off a big overtime road win at Seattle, we know they'll carry that emotion and good feeling to the court against us Saturday," Hunsaker said.
Guard Brandon Barnes — son of head coach Rod Barnes — is second on the team in scoring at 12.1 ppg and guard Javante Maynor is next with 10.6 ppg. Barnes and Maynor each scored 10 points against UVU in early February.
The `Runners also pulled off their most impressive win of the season in recent weeks, snaring a home, double-overtime win over South Dakota State on Feb. 20. SDSU is currently ranked 70th in the RPI and will enter the upcoming Summit League tournament as the top seed.
UVU also comes into Saturday's contest off a win. The Wolverines closed out the Great West Conference slate with a victory over Chicago State, 76-69. Guard Jason Johnson dropped in a career-high 24 points while Aird added 23.
Aird still leads UVU in scoring and rebounding at 14.9 ppg and 8.9 rpg. Hunsaker is the only other active Wolverine averaging double-figures with 13.3 ppg, but forward Nick Thompson (9.8 ppg) and Johnson (9.0 ppg) are not far behind.
With the season coming to a close Saturday night, UVU will travel to Chicago for the GWC men's basketball championships. The tournament gets underway Thursday, March 14, with seeding becoming finalized following this weekend's slate of games.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.