Utah Valley University wraps up its pre-Christmas schedule Friday with its penultimate non-conference game against Idaho State at 3 p.m. in the UCCU Center. The game is part of a doubleheader with the men's team, which will take the floor against Haskell University later that night at 7.
Friday marks the 10th meeting all-time between UVU and ISU with the series, dating back to January 2004, virtually even. The Bengals hold a slight 5-4 advantage, but neither school has ever won more than two consecutive games in the series and the home team has emerged victorious in each of the last four meetings.
Little has separated the two teams over the last couple meetings as ISU claimed last year's contest in Pocatello, 69-67. Utah Valley rallied from a 12-point deficit with less than four minutes to play and had a chance to win or tie when it regained possession with 3.9 seconds remaining and trailing by two. The Wolverines failed to get a shot off, though, as the Bengals regained a slight series edge.
Then-senior Sammie Jensen scored her 1,000th career point in Pocatello last season after tallying a game-high 16 points in the loss. Current junior guard Ashley Klemz also put together a stellar performance last year, scoring a career-high 11 points and burying a trio of 3-pointers to help UVU battle back from deficits just before halftime and at the end of regulation.
The Wolverines last topped the Bengals in the 2011-12 season — a 68-59 victory in Orem. Jensen scored 19 points and grabbed 13 boards in that one to help UVU to its first win of the season in early November.
Both schools enter Friday's meeting looking to snap recent losing streaks. Utah Valley, sitting at 1-10 this season, has dropped its last nine contests — a skid that continued Saturday with a 64-61 home defeat to Santa Clara. It was the fourth time this season that UVU has lost by three points or fewer and the second time it has found itself on the wrong side of that slim margin at home. The Wolverines never led Saturday, but they had an opportunity to tie the game in the waning seconds when Ashley Baugh stole the SCU in-bounds pass beneath the UVU basket with eight seconds still showing. The ball recycled to the top of the key, but Katie Kuklok's would-be equalizing three rimmed out.
Meanwhile, Idaho State (2-6) has suffered six consecutive losses, each of which has come on the road in the midst of the Bengals' current nine-game road trip. ISU last took the floor on Dec. 7, when it completed its two-game swing in the state of Iowa with a 95-47 loss in Iowa City at the hands of the 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes. The Bengals also dropped a 78-59 decision to Drake in Des Moines during that trip.
Also included in ISU's six-game skid are losses to No. 13 Oklahoma State, Utah State and Boise State.
"I think Idaho State is a good team, and a lot better team than their record indicates," Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon said. "They've played a very tough schedule this season, but they are also a team that we've played a lot and are familiar with. We know that every time we take the floor against them it's going to be a battle and their team is going to bring a lot of effort and intensity."
UVU's Kuklok continues to see her name at the top of several WAC statistical categories this season. She leads the conference in scoring (20.9 ppg), free throw percentage (92.5), 3-point field goal percentage (51.2) and threes made per game (3.91). She also ranks third in field goal percentage (51.9).
Tina Doughty is the only other Wolverine averaging double figures, putting up 13.7 ppg. Forward Karlee Kartchner isn't far behind, though, scoring 8.0 ppg to go along with her team-leading 7.3 rebounds per contest. Freshman Rebecca MaWhinney, averaging 3.9 ppg, is coming off her second 11-point output of the season against SCU on Saturday.
For Idaho State, it has gotten a good deal of its production from senior guard Lindsey Reed. The Kingman, Ariz., native is leading the team in scoring and in assists at 14.6 and 3.4. Another senior, Jessica Tingey, scores at an 11.8 ppg clip and also paces the team on the glass with 7.8 boards per outing.
"Idaho State does a lot of things very well and they have some shooters on their roster that are very active offensively," Nixon said. "They'll create some interesting matchup assignments for us. But we're excited to be through with finals and be back home. We've made good progress, but we've all got a bittersweet taste in our mouths after dropping some close ones recently."
Utah Valley will break for just over a week for the Christmas holiday before returning to the court on Dec. 28 for its final non-conference game. The Privateers of New Orleans will be in Orem that day for a 3 p.m. tip at the UCCU Center. The Wolverines open WAC play at home the following Saturday, Jan. 4, when they play host to Bakersfield.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.