Utah Valley University overcame a late second half deficit to force overtime, then held momentum throughout extra period to dispatch of Pepperdine, 67-63, Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
The win, coming in just UVU’s (4-5) second home game of the season, snapped a three-game skid for the Wolverines dating back to Nov. 21, as well as Pepperdine’s (4-3) four-game winning streak.
“A solid team win tonight in what was a battle of wills,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “We worked hard defensively and we did a fabulous job taking care of the basketball. We found a way to win and at this stage in the season that’s going to help us build some confidence.”
With the game dead even through the first 35 minutes of play, the Waves appeared to have grabbed the late momentum when Stacy Davis hit a jumper to give the visitors a 51-45 lead with only five minutes to go.
But guard Holton Hunsaker responded in a big way for the Wolverines. The junior buried a triple just before the four-minute mark to cut the lead in half – and after another Pepperdine score – canned another to keep UVU within striking distance at 53-51.
Hunsaker wasn’t done there, however, as he was able to find a cutting Jason Johnson for a layup at 2:24 to tie the game at 53-53.
A jumper in the lane from Davis put the Waves up a bucket with under a minute to play, but Ben Aird knocked down two clutch free throws with 39 seconds remaining to push the game into the extra period.
With momentum squarely on their side, UVU took control from the jump in overtime. A layup from Antoine Hosley proceeded by another trey from Hunsaker sent the Wolverines to a 61-56 advantage with 2:21 still showing.
Lorne Jackson answer with trey to get Pepperdine back within two, but Aird scored off the glass with less than a minute to go to make it a two possession game.
There would be no late letdowns for the Wolverines, as extended possessions and solid free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the Homecoming win.
Hunsaker would finish the game with 22 points, followed by 19 and nine rebounds from Aird. Nick Thompson, a senior, chipped in nine.
UVU turned the ball over just six times, while dishing out 18 assists, compared to 17 turnovers from Pepperdine. The Waves got 17 from Jackson and 12 points and 12 boards from Stacy Davis.
The Wolverines are back on the road next week but stay local for the first leg of the trip. UVU will head north to face Weber State in a rematch of the opening round game of last year’s CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. That game tips at 7 p.m. in Ogden. From there, the Wolverines head to Alabama to face Troy University of the Sun Belt Conference.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company