UVU basketball: Utah Valley women host UTPA, NM State in WAC action this week

By Kellen Hiser

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29 2014 1:03 p.m. MST

Fresh off its first-ever WAC win last Saturday, the Utah Valley University women's basketball team looks to continue its winning ways this week with a pair of home games. Fellow WAC newcomer Texas-Pan American will be on hand at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the UCCU Center, while New Mexico State, one of the league's longest tenured members, awaits the Wolverines on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the PE Building.

The UTPA Broncos (10-9, 4-2 WAC), who entered the WAC alongside Utah Valley from the Great West Conference, enter the week riding a three-game winning streak. The Broncs swept Kansas City and Chicago State before knocking off NM State last week. All three wins came at home where UTPA holds a 7-1 overall record. On the road, however, the Broncs are 1-7 and 0-2 in the WAC.

"UTPA is very athletic at every position," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "They shoot a lot of threes and we'll need to be able to do it all on the defensive end. They can shoot, they can drive, they get out well in transition with a point guard that distributes a lot. So we'll have our hands full defensively."

True freshman Shawnte' Goff is the only player to average double figures on the UTPA roster as the guard is putting up 12.1 ppg. Jasmine Thompson, a junior guard, is not far off the pace at 9.2 ppg and is coming into Thursday's game off a 14 point, eight rebound performance against NM State. Brittany Bush, a junior college transfer, controls the glass for UTPA at 8.1 rpg.

Thursday marks the 19th meeting all-time between Utah Valley and Texas-Pan American. The two programs first met back in 2004-2005 and have met every year since as members of the GWC and now the WAC. UVU leads the series, 12-6, and swept both games of last year's home-and-home.

First-year head coach Larry Tidwell leads UTPA in its first WAC season. Tidwell arrived in Edinburg from Lamar University where he led the Cardinal women's basketball program for six seasons. Tidwell's Lamar squad met Nixon's UVU squad back in 2010, with the former prevailing, 83-66.

New Mexico State (6-13, 3-3 WAC) will be seeking its first road win of the season this weekend when it travels to Bakersfield before finding its way to Utah Valley on Saturday. The Aggies are 0-10 away from the Pan American Center, including an 0-3 mark in conference play.

Three NM State players are scoring in double digits, led by junior Danesia Williamson's 20.3 ppg. That figure would rank second the conference, but Williamson has appeared in just 10 games due to injury and does not meet the WAC's 75 percent participation minimum for its rankings. Nonetheless, Williamson comes into the week off back-to-back 30-point outputs. She poured in an even 30 against UTPA and Kansas City immediately after scoring 21 against Chicago State.

Sophomore guard Sasha Weber averages 11.9 ppg for the Aggies, while Elena Holguin, another sophomore guard, sits at 10.3 ppg.

"It's the same kind of thing with New Mexico State as UTPA — they are very athletic at every position," Nixon said. "If we can defend them well, we feel like we can capitalize on the offensive end. They are very personnel driven and that can cause some issues for us if we aren't prepared."

UVU and NM State have met just twice in their respective histories. Saturday marks the first meeting in six seasons as the two programs last met on Jan. 5, 2008. The Aggies pulled out an 82-73 win in Las Cruces, avenging a 79-72 loss to the Wolverines in Orem the year before.

Utah Valley is coming off a 72-46 victory at Chicago State on Saturday — a victory that provided not only the first WAC win in program history, but the first road win of the 2013-14 season. The Wolverines were led by a season-high 15 points from freshman Rebecca MaWhinney. Rhaiah Spooner-Knight scored 13 points to reach eight consecutive games of double figure scoring, while Sam Loggins scored 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting.

Spooner-Knight now ranks second on the team in scoring at 10.7 ppg, just ahead of Tina Doughty's 10.2 ppg. Doughty and Spooner-Knight sit behind Katie Kuklok's 18.7 ppg, but Kuklok has missed the last four games with an injury.

The Wolverines begin their second pass through WAC play next week when Grand Canyon comes to town. That game concludes UVU's short, three-game home stand as the Wolverines finish the season with five of their last seven games on the road.

Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.