Karlee Kartchner's last-second attempt to tie went begging at the buzzer as Utah Valley University fell to Bakersfield, 61-59, in both schools' WAC opener at the UCCU Center on Saturday afternoon.
UVU (3-11, 0-1 WAC) dropped its first in-league game since January 26, 2013, while CSUB (7-6, 1-0 WAC) claimed its program's first-ever conference win.
"We had a lot of open looks today that we didn't hit and I thought we executed enough to where we could have had the win today," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "I can't be disappointed in our effort. We fought hard when the momentum was going the other way and got stops when we needed to. We've got a lot of things to get better at, but once we get there I think we can be very good in this conference."
A topsy-turvy second half that featured three ties and four lead changes found the two teams knotted at 55-55 with 3:10 still to play. Guard Georgia Agnew converted a layup at 2:40 to put the Wolverines back in front, but it was the last time the home team would carry the lead. A 3-pointer from Brookelyn Hinkens put the Roadrunners out in front with 1:30 to go, and Tyonna Outland, on her way to a game-high 25 points, followed an empty UVU possession with a trey of her own to put CSUB ahead by two possessions, 61-57.
Needing a quick bucket, Rhaiah Spooner-Knight converted a 12-foot jumper near the left elbow to get the Wolverines within a score with 41 seconds still showing on the clock. The `Runners came up empty on the ensuing possession and nearly saw their lead vanish when a long rebound saw Whitney Jenkins break free into the open floor on a fast break opportunity. But Jenkins' layup attempt was swatted out of bounds from behind by CSUB guard Melissa Sweat, giving UVU possession beneath its own basket with 2.1 seconds left.
Agnew, who finished the game with eight assists, took the ball out of bounds along the right lane line and was able to find forward Kartchner rolling after a screen to the near block. Kartchner powered the shot up over two `Runner defenders, but the ball caromed off the back iron as the buzzer sounded to seal the final outcome.
Kartchner finished the game with nine points — eight of which came in the second half — to go along with six rebounds. Spooner-Knight, the reigning WAC Player of the Week, recorded her first career double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, while Tina Doughty also posted double-digit scoring at 11 points.
"Karlee, Rhaiah and Georgia were all really strong for us today," Nixon said. "It's easy to overlook Georgia's contribution since she's a little subtle in what she does. But she did a great job quarterbacking this team today."
Utah Valley faced its largest deficit of the game almost immediately in the second half when Bakersfield banked in a three 14 seconds into the period to push its lead to 34-23. But the Wolverines chipped away at the deficit until it reeled off a huge run to regain the lead.
Trailing 38-28 with 18:32 still showing, UVU pieced together a 19-3 rally over the next 7:30 to grab a 47-41 advantage. The run was kick started by Doughty's right-handed scoop shot in the lane and was sustained by a run of three straight 3-pointers from Ashley Klemz, who connected on one, and Jenkins, who buried two. The trio of triples knotted things at 41-41, setting the stage for Kartchner to pour in the next six unanswered points, all in the paint, to give the Wolverines their largest lead of the second period.
"Bakersfield is a good team," Nixon said. "They have real athletic kids that can score in a variety of ways. That being said, I was really happy with our defensive presence today. We dug down when it was do-or-die on the defensive end, we just couldn't get the shots we needed to fall on the offensive end."
CSUB went 1-for-11 from the field during UVU's extended rally but found its offensive rhythm over the final nine minutes to climb back in front over the decisive final stretch. The `Runners went 8-for-14 over the final 8:56, four of which came from beyond the arc, as the visitors escaped with the win despite shooting only 35 percent from the field for the contest.
After Bakersfield took a quick 4-0 lead to begin the game, Utah Valley answered with 14 of the game's next 17 points to take a tentative 14-7 lead at the 12:17 mark — its largest advantage of the half. Doughty and Rebecca MaWhinney connected on 3-pointers during the run while Spooner-Knight scored five of her 10 first-half points.
What followed though was a 21-4 `Runner spurt that saw the visitors lead by as many as 10 late in the half at 29-19 before settling for an eight-point advantage heading into the locker room.
UVU will look to grab its first WAC win and first road win simultaneously next weekend when it travels to Phoenix to face Grand Canyon at 2 p.m. on Friday. Grand Canyon entered the weekend at 11-3, 0-1 WAC.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.