Ben Aird’s second consecutive double-double helped Utah Valley University move to 2-0 in the WAC with a 65-58 win over Grand Canyon University on Saturday night at the UCCU Center. The game marked the first-ever WAC home game for UVU.
Aird finished with 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as the Wolverines (8-7, 2-0) won their third straight game. Holton Hunsaker added 15 points, and Mitch Bruneel scored 12.
“We scratched through a game that had a lot of different ebbs and flows,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “Grand Canyon has a good collection of players. They’re athletic and have an inside presence and really stretch the court with their 3-point shooting. But we hustled and stuck together and made some timely shots throughout the game.”
Like they did last week at Bakersfield in their WAC opener, the Wolverines erased a slim halftime deficit in defeating Grand Canyon. UVU trailed 30-25 at the half before outscoring the Antelopes (7-10, 2-2), 40-28, after the break.
The game was tied at 40-40 with 12 minutes to go when Hunsaker hit one of his four 3-pointers to put UVU in front. Hunsaker and Keawe Enos hit timely shots from three in the second half for Utah Valley.
Enos’ 3-pointer with 8:37 to go gave the Wolverines their biggest lead to that point, 50-44. After Jerome Garrison got GCU back within four, a Zach Nelson bucket and a 3-point play on a layup and free throw from Bruneel pushed the UVU lead to nine, 55-46.
Hunsaker make another trey with 4:20 to go, pushing the advantage into double-figures for the first time, 58-48. Bruneel later had his second 3-point play of the half to give Utah Valley a 12-point lead, 62-50, its largest of the night.
Aird scored his 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. The Wolverines made 5-of-10 from three in the second half. Both Enos and Nelson contributed eight points for Utah Valley, with Nelson also grabbing six boards and dishing out five assists.
For Grand Canyon, Garrison led the way with 18, getting 12 of his points on 13 free throw attempts. Daniel Alexander finished with 15, 10 of which came in the first half, and Sam Daly added 12. Killian Larson had 10 rebounds for the ‘Lopes.
Utah Valley and Grand Canyon will meet again on Feb. 6 in Phoenix. The Wolverines will now play five of their next seven games on the road in WAC play. UVU travels to Idaho next Thursday for an 8 p.m. MT tip before a Sunday contest at Seattle U at 2 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.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company