OREM, Utah - A late comeback fell short for Utah Valley University on Saturday night in a 69-63 loss to Utah State University at the UCCU Center.
Hunsaker and Alfonzo Hubbard led the way for UVU (5-7) with 17 points apiece – 14 of which came from Hubbard in the first half. Thompson also notched 13 points, while Jason Johnson added 10 to round out the Wolverines’ double-digit scoring.
The Aggies (6-1) got 17 points from Marcel Davis and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Jarred Shaw. USU had a decided 35-20 edge in rebounding.
"We didn't play well enough to win. Give Utah State credit. They outplayed us," UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. "We didn't have a sustained, competitive effort on the backboards and they did."
The play was essentially level over the first 35 minutes, with USU holding a slim 42-39 lead over the Wolverines with 15:18 remaining in the game. That was when the Aggies struck their first blow – an 8-0 run that gave them their first double-digit advantage of the game at 50-39.
UVU battled back, though, getting a trio of free throws before Ben Aird knocked down a jumper in the lane to bring the Wolverines to within five at 52-47.
But it was another big USU run that may have sealed UVU’s fate, as the Aggies scored seven straight points over the next two minutes to establish their largest lead of the game at 59-47.
A quick 9-2 spurt from the Wolverines, powered by layups from Nick Thompson and Aird, as well as a trey from Holton Hunsaker, cut the deficit to five again at 61-56 with 5:05 still to play.
USU was able to keep UVU at bay from there, however, as it seemed the Aggies had an answer for every Wolverine bucket down the stretch. That, along with eight offensive boards in the second half, allowed USU to control the clock when it counted.
A deep, 30-foot three from Hunsaker with just 15 seconds left brought UVU to within four to keep things interesting at 67-63. Even more dramatically, the Wolverines nearly stole the ensuing Aggie inbounds pass, but the tipped pass from Taylor Brown ultimately trickled to USU’s Preston Medlin who iced the game at the line.
Both squads came out firing to open the game, as UVU and USU combined to shoot 6-for-6. That trend continued well into the half as the Wolverines and Aggies enjoyed shooting percentages well above 50 percent for most of the frame.
UVU wraps up its pre-Christmas schedule next week as it hosts the second leg of a pair of home-and-home non-conference series. The Wolverines welcome Troy to the UCCU Center on Wednesday night and North Carolina Central the following Saturday.
The Wolverines topped Troy last Saturday in Alabama, picking up a 67-63 double overtime win, and fell to NCCU in late November, 70-52.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.