UVU basketball: Wolverine women look to continue winning ways at NM State, UTPA

By Kellen Hiser

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014 3:10 p.m. MST

Winners of its last two games, the Utah Valley University women's basketball team looks to extend that streak when it begins a season-ending three-game road swing this week at New Mexico State and Texas-Pan American. The Wolverines visit NM State on Thursday before trekking to Edinburg, Texas, to face UTPA on Saturday. Both games tip off at 6 p.m. MT.

Thursday's contest against the Aggies can be seen live on ESPN3 or with the WatchESPN app.

Utah Valley (6-20, 3-10 WAC) tripled its conference win total last week when it topped Chicago State and Kansas City in the season's final home games. Those two wins snapped a five-game losing streak and tied the Wolverines' longest winning streak of the season.

Guard Katie Kuklok, who leads UVU in scoring at 16.8 points per game this season, averaged 20.0 ppg last week. She scored 24 points against CSU — connecting on seven 3-pointers along the way — before dropping 16 against UMKC. Thirteen of those 16 points came in the second half as she sparked the Wolverines' comeback midway through the second half. Kuklok scored nine of UVU's 11 points during an 11-2 rally that erased a seven-point deficit and put the home team out in front.

Rhaiah Spooner-Knight, who saw her streak of 13 consecutive games in double-digit scoring snapped against the Cougars on Thursday, got back to her high-scoring ways against the Kangaroos. She finished with a double-double, her third of the season, after scoring 16 points and snatching 10 rebounds. Two of those points came when she dropped in the go-ahead score with only 36 seconds left just before completing the double-double with a decisive defensive rebound on the ensuing UMKC possession.

Spooner-Knight averages 11.5 ppg, placing her alongside Kuklok as the only Wolverines averaging double figures. Spooner-Knight's 5.9 rebounds per game also lead the team.

UVU faces a team on Thursday night that has also won back-to-back contests as NM State enters the week with a record of 10-16 and 7-6 in the WAC. The Aggies hold the fourth spot in the conference standings, getting there behind wins over UTPA and CSU in their last two contests.

Junior guard Danesia Williamson paces NM State in the scoring column, averaging 20.6 ppg. That figure would be good for third in the WAC, but because she has played in fewer than 75 percent of the Aggies' games due to an injury, she does not currently qualify for the conference's individual rankings.

Williamson is followed by 13.5 ppg from sophomore Sasha Weber and 10.3 ppg from Abby Scott, another sophomore.

The trio combined to score 50 points in UVU's 83-78 overtime loss to NM State in this season's first meeting. Weber led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Scott and Williamson finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively. True freshman Brianna Freeman came away with a season-high 16 points.

"New Mexico State is a team that can combine speed and athleticism with some very dangerous 3-point shooting," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "Those things will give us some challenges on the defensive end, but I think we've been doing pretty well lately of sticking to our game plan and taking away people's strengths. But we'll definitely have to pick our poison when it comes to defending a team like New Mexico State."

The Wolverines got 24 points from Kuklok in that initial meeting — the third all-time between the two programs. The Aggies lead the all-time series, 2-1.

Utah Valley also dropped this season's first game against former Great West Conference rival Texas-Pan American. Playing in Orem, the Broncs came away with a 64-54 victory after limiting the Wolverines to just 29 percent shooting for the game.