The Utah Valley University women's basketball team captured its first-ever WAC victory Saturday afternoon when it ran past former Great West Conference rival Chicago State, 72-46, at the Jones Convocation Center.
"Our first WAC win didn't come as quickly as we would have liked it to, but this is the first of many and something we've looked forward to for some time," Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon said. "It's a significant milestone for us. Being in the WAC and coming this far after our transition to Division I is something I can say I didn't see coming all those years ago, but it's exciting to be a part of it now."
The victory also snaps UVU's recent five-game skid and gives the Wolverines (4-15, 1-5 WAC) their first road win in nine tries this season.
True freshman Rebecca MaWhinney led the way for Utah Valley, scoring a season-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. MaWhinney buried a trio of 3-pointers in the second half and also led her squad in rebounding with a season-best eight.
UVU led CSU (3-17, 0-7 WAC) by only three entering the second half of play, but MaWhinney, making her third consecutive start, got the Wolverines rolling when she hit the first of her three triples near the 19 minute mark. With the shot clock winding down, MaWhinney was forced into a contested 3-pointer from the right wing. Leaning to her left, the Midway, Utah, native knocked down the shot to double the UVU advantage.
The bucket spurred what would become a 17-4 Wolverine run — a spurt that saw two more MaWhinney treys and another from Whitney Jenkins. A three-point play from Rhaiah Spooner-Knight and a Sam Loggins layup comprised the only two-point field goals scored during the rally.
Spooner-Knight went on to finish with 13 points, giving her eight consecutive games with double digit scoring, while Loggins tallied 12 on a perfect 6-for-6 mark from the field.
"We knew that if we were patient and stuck to the game plan then things would go our way," Nixon said. "They hit some shots to keep things close in the first half, but the kids stuck with it and we had a bunch of kids step up. Sam had a great game and it would have been interesting to see where she could have finished had we been able to keep her out of foul trouble. And of course, we got a great effort from Rebecca."
The Cougars got the deficit down to 15 after a Cailin Nix jumper at 11:19 but would come no closer after a Georgia Agnew layup sparked a short 5-0 run to pull away for good. Tina Doughty capped the rally with a corner three, giving UVU five made in the half after going 0-of-7 from distance in the first period. Doughty finished with nine points while Agnew's eight assists matched a season-high.
A steal and fast break lay-in by Ashley Baugh settled the final tally, giving the Wolverines a 26-point road victory.
For just the second time this season, Utah Valley shot better than 50 percent, shooting 54 percent on Saturday. The offensive efficiency came courtesy of a 34-18 advantage in the paint, 14 points of turnovers and a 20-7 advantage in bench points.
All nine players that entered the game for Nixon's squad found their names in the scoring column, with none scoring fewer than three points.
Konner Harris and Layne Murphy led CSU with 12 points apiece. Leading scorer Tierra Williams was limited to six points, over eight below her season average.
The Wolverines will play their next three games in Orem, their longest home stand on the remaining schedule. Another former GWC rival in Texas-Pan American will be on hand Thursday, while New Mexico State comes to town on Saturday. Grand Canyon awaits UVU the following Thursday, Feb. 6.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.