Utah Valley University took defending WAC champion Seattle University to the wire but couldn't find the shooting touch down the stretch as it dropped its fourth straight contest by way of a 75-67 loss Saturday in the PE Building.
"I was thrilled with the way my team competed today," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "They brought their full effort and we had every kid fully engaged and battling for the entire game. There just isn't much room for error in these conference games and we did some things that hurt us in the end. But Seattle is a good team and their experience won out today."
After trading leads multiple times in the first half, Utah Valley (3-14, 0-4 WAC) led by as many as 10 early in the second half after a hanging jumper from Tina Doughty put the Wolverines out in front, 46-36. The bucket capped a short 8-3 rally to open the second period during which Sam Loggins converted a jumphook in the lane for two of her 13 points and Makaily Worthington got free for a layup inside off a Doughty feed.
The double figure advantage also came courtesy of SU's (9-10, 4-2 WAC) 1-of-8 shooting start to the second half. But the Redhawks, last season's regular season conference champions, began to settle into their offensive rhythm upon facing their largest deficit, reeling off 10 of the game's next 12 points to get within 48-46 at the 12:01 mark.
UVU looked to have weathered the storm when an Ashley Klemz three and two Whitney Jenkins free throws helped the home team to a 55-50 lead with just over 10 minutes to go, but SU kept in stride to promptly level things again at 55-55 after a Kaylee Best 3-pointer with 8:44 to go.
Separation was hard to come by for the next four minutes as the two teams battled to another 60-60 tie, the eighth of the game, with a little more than five minutes to play. But it was SU that finally broke free when Best hit another one of her three triples on the afternoon to put the Redhawks out in front, 63-60.
Rhaiah Spooner-Knight responded with a bucket and a foul on the other end, but the freshman's freebie went begging as SU clung to a 63-62 lead with four minutes left.
That slim, one-point lead would hold, though, as the Redhawks never relinquished the modest advantage. Ten of the game's next 15 points went toward the visitors as UVU went 1-of-4 from the foul line with four turnovers over the game's final minutes.
When the dust settled, Utah Valley saw the game turn on rebounding and efficiency at the free-throw line. UVU found itself on the wrong end of a 43-35 rebounding margin, which also featured 21 second-chance points for the Redhawks. The Wolverines also shot just 13-of-24 from the foul line for the game, negating UVU's edge in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and points off turnovers.
Three Wolverines scored in double figures Saturday, led by Spooner-Knight's 18. The New Zealander has now led UVU in scoring in each of the last six contests. Loggins tallied 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while senior Jenkins buried a pair of treys on the way to her 12 points.
"Hats off to Sam Loggins," Nixon said. "She really came to battle tonight and to have 13 points and four rebounds against the reigning conference Player of the Year (SU's Kacie Sowell) is no small accomplishment. And looking at Rhaiah, I love the way that she has been stepping up and competing over the last several ballgames. We've asked her to do a lot and she's done a nice job filling in our scoring needs lately. And Whitney has put together a couple good games in a row. The effort and numbers she produced tonight are what we need from her."
Utah Valley took a 38-33 lead into the halftime locker room after Spooner-Knight and Jenkins teamed up for a quick four points just before the halftime buzzer. Spooner-Knight knocked down a turnaround jumper as the clock ticked below 20 seconds just before Jenkins intercepted a pass on the ensuing SU possession and finished on the other end for an easy two. The short spurt gave UVU a little breathing room heading into the locker room after the first half produced four ties and four lead changes.
The Wolverines shot 15-of-30 from the field in the opening period, their best first-half shooting percentage in four games.
Next week, UVU heads to the WAC Midwest next week for a pair of road contests. The Wolverines will face Kansas City on Thursday, Jan. 23, before facing old Great West Conference rival Chicago State the following Saturday.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.