Linsey Craig, UVU Athletics
OREM — Utah Valley University grabbed a slim lead midway through the first half and held on for the final 32:16 to grab a 74-66 win over IUPUI in the season opener at the UCCU Center on Friday night.
Holton Hunsaker led Utah Valley (1-0) with 18 points in the game, while Zach Nelson recorded a double-double in his Wolverine debut. The redshirt freshman scored 13 points and grabbed 10 boards in 31 minutes of action.
Trailing IUPUI at 12-11 with 13:26 remaining, Holton Hunsaker converted a pair of free throws to put UVU up for good. But the Wolverines could never get quite comfortable against a determined IUPUI (0-1) team as their lead reached double digits only one time in the game.
"IUPUI is an athletic team and presented us with some challenges that we couldn't replicate in practice," head coach Dick Hunsaker said. "It was a hard-fought and competitive game and we were able to keep just that slight edge throughout most of it. Every guy contributed one way or another and it was a good team win."
A 10-2 run midway through the first half put UVU ahead 21-14 before another 7-0 spurt pushed the Wolverines ahead, 33-23, with 2:16 before halftime.
Transfers Hayes Garrity and Brenden Evans helped power the initial rally, as Garrity dropped in a pair of tough lay-ins, while Evans scored two buckets inside. Both players finished with six points in the game.
Things remained in the balance until the final buzzer as UVU watched its lead dip to just four on a quartet of occasions. Four proved to be the threshold, though, as the Jaguars could get no closer. Seemingly every IUPUI run in the second half was stymied by a Wolverine bucket, with senior Ben Aird knocking down a jumper to put UVU back up six at the 6:17 mark, and Holton Hunsaker and Nelson hitting free throws down the stretch.
The senior duo of Aird and Holton Hunsaker did the bulk of their damage in the crucial second half scoring a combined 23 points in the period. Hunsaker tallied 13 over the final 20 minutes to finish with a team-high 18 points, while Aird scored all of his 10 points in the second half, playing much of the way with four fouls.
Senior guard Keawe Enos chipped in 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting to round out the double-figure scoring for the Wolverines.
IUPUI was led by 26 points and 10 rebounds from senior center Mitch Patton.
Forty-six fouls were called in the contest as both teams felt the repercussions of the NCAA's latest provision to cut down on hand checks and other physical play. As a team, Utah Valley shot 89.3 percent (25-of-28) from the line, while IUPUI was 70.4 (19-of-27) at the charity stripe.
Utah Valley has a quick turnaround as it returns to the UCCU Center for a Monday night tilt with North Carolina A&T. That game begins at 7 p.m., and kicks off a stretch of three consecutive games against teams that won games at the NCAA Tournament last season.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.