CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Nick Thompson recorded Utah Valley University’s first-ever triple-double as the Wolverines opened the 23rd Dr Pepper Classic with an 84-77 win over Austin Peay on Friday.
Thompson finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and also set a new school record with 12 assists for the Wolverines (7-8), who now advance to the championship game of the classic for the second straight season Saturday at 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT.
Ben Aird established a new career high with 26 points and also pulled down eight rebounds and Holton Hunsaker scored 21 points and dished out five assists. Hunsaker scored 18 points and hit four of his five 3-pointers on the night in the second half.
Alfonzo Hubbard added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Jason Johnson chipped in eight and Taylor Brown scored six off the bench for UVU, which shot a season-high 61 percent from the floor.
“This was a very good team win. We were very efficient offensively, competed and played unselfish basketball,” UVU coach Dick Hunsaker said. “The team was able to get out in transition and had a good attacking mode to the rim and we had guys make key plays down the stretch. I’m very happy for the guys and how hard they worked.”
Both teams hovered near 60 percent shooting for the first 10 minutes of the game. UVU got the bulk of its scoring from inside the paint, while the APSU did its scoring from long range. The Wolverines scored 26 of their 38 first-half points in the paint while the Governors (4-9) hit 8-for-14 from the 3-point line in the half and led 40-38 at the break.
In the second half, Austin Peay led by five, 64-59, with 9:23 remaining, matching the largest lead either team had to that point.
After a pair of Aird free throws cut the lead to three, Hunsaker and Johnson converted on back-to-back 3-pointers for an 8-0 run and a 67-64 UVU lead. Anthony Campbell responded with a three for the Governors to tie the game for the 13th and final time.
A Johnson jumper with 4:57 left gave the Wolverines the lead for good and, after a Betran free throw, Hunsaker drilled a three to make it 72-68.
Up two with 3:31 to go, Utah Valley got a bucket from Aird and consecutive layups by Hubbard on assists from Thompson to lead by eight, 78-70, with 2:07 left.
Austin Peay made one last run, scoring the next five points, but an Aird layup pushed the lead back to five and Hunsaker converted on four free throws in the final minute. The win for the Wolverines is the first in the last four victories that didn't not go to overtime.
In addition to the 13 ties, the lead changed hands 17 times in the game. The Wolverines outrebounded the Governors 32-22 and had 27 assists on 33 field goals made. The Wolverines also finished with a 41-18 edge on points in the paint.
Betran led all scorers with 27 -- hitting six 3-pointers -- and Anthony Campbell added 22 for APSU. The game was the first-ever meeting between the schools and UVU’s first against a school from the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Wolverines play the winner of Friday night's Chattanooga/High Point contest in Saturday's championship.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.