OREM A common struggle for a basketball coach is how to motivate a team against one that has been struggling all season.
Fortunately, Utah Valley State basketball coach Dick Hunsaker didn't have to worry too much as it dispatched North Carolina Central 68-52 on Tuesday night.
"There was leftover energy, excitement and enthusiasm from the win at Bakersfield that we carried over for the first seven or eight minutes," Hunsaker said.
Ryan Toolson scored a game-high 24 points for the Wolverines as he shot 9-of-16 from the field. Jordan Brady complemented that with a 14-point performance, grabbed nine boards and had five assists.
The win gives the Wolverines (8-13) their first winning streak since mid-November and a little extra bounce heading into the season's final month.
Completely dominating the beginning of the game, the Wolverines' 23-2 run at the start was what it took to get an insurmountable lead over a North Carolina Central (1-23) team that has obviously had growing pains in its first year of NCAA Division I play.
The Eagles could have given up easily. They didn't, going on a 8-0 run after UVSC's torrid start to cut the lead to 13 points.
But after Hunsaker called a time out to calm his squad down, Toolson came right out with a 3-pointer to cool off North Carolina Central.
Both teams settled down to a steady rhythm as UVSC led 36-21 at halftime.
North Carolina Central's problems stemmed from its shooting only 34 percent for the game. Transition play wasn't too bad as the Eagles' forced some turnovers in the second half and made the Wolverines at least earn the win instead of coasting.
UVSC did manage to lead by 28 points midway through the second half before the Eagles went on a 16-5 run to make the margin somewhat close.
It has been a tough road for the Eagles as they have been outscored by nearly 30 points a game on average. The only win for North Carolina Central this year came against Tennessee Tech at home in late November.
"There in a tough situation and they're a team that's trying to fight through a very difficult transition," Hunsaker said.
UVSC's next task is lighter than normal as it takes on Johnson and Wales, an NAIA school out of Denver, at home on Saturday at 2 p.m.