Utah Valley University stayed unbeaten in the WAC, using a 20-1 run in the second half to pull away from Kansas City, winning 66-48 on Thursday in the UCCU Center.
The win sets up a first place showdown with Chicago State on Saturday night in Orem. The Cougars moved to 4-1 in the WAC with a win at Bakersfield on Thursday.
The Wolverines (11-7, 5-0), who have won six straight overall, got 18 points off the bench from Hayes Garrity, 14 from Ben Aird – all of which came in the second half – and 13 from Holton Hunsaker. Martez Harrison scored 15 for the Kangaroos (6-12, 3-3).
Zach Nelson chipped in seven points to go along with a career high five blocks and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Mitch Bruneel hauled in 11 boards on a night UVU out-rebounded UMKC, 50-35.
“We kind of got stagnant offensively at times but we competed and made some good decisions with the basketball and really hustled on the backboards,” coach Dick Hunsaker said. “We had some guys get balanced and were able to convert on the offensive end and equaled with some defensive stops. Good things happened.”
Trailing 12-10 after both teams got off to a slow start from the field, the Wolverines used a 13-2 run to take a 23-14 lead.
Led by nine first-half points from Garrity, Utah Valley led 34-27 at the half.
UMKC chipped away and got within a point, 44-43, on a 3-pointer from Caleb Johnson with 13:10 to go. From there, it was all Utah Valley. Hunsaker started the 20-1 run on a three to make it 47-43. Garrity followed with a jumper, and Brenden Evans knocked down two free throws to put UVU in front, 51-43.
Trinity Hall hit a free throw for Kansas City, but the ‘Roos didn't score for nearly six minutes after, during which the Wolverines ran off 13 straight points. Nelson started that spurt when he took the ball the length of the court for a dunk followed by a Garrity bucket and a free throw for a 3-point play. Garrity scored seven points during the run, capping it with consecutive buckets and putting Utah Valley ahead 64-44 with 4:29 to go.
The Wolverines held Kansas City for over 11 minutes without a field goal in the second half, with UMKC scoring just three points from the foul line during that stretch. Harrison ended that field goal drought on a layup with 1:44 left.
Utah Valley was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line while Kansas City got to the line 21 times but connected on only 12 for 57 percent. The teams will meet again in Kansas City on Feb. 22.
Garrity grabbed six rebounds for the second straight game while Hunsaker, who leads the WAC in assists per game, dished out six assists.
Saturday’s tip against Chicago State is set for 7:05 p.m. MT.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.