NEWARK, N.J. — Senior Cydne Gray's final three-point attempt rimmed in-and-out at the buzzer as the Utah Valley University women's basketball team suffered its first loss in Great West play Saturday afternoon, falling 49-46 to NJIT at the Fleisher Athletic Center in Newark.
Trailing by three with 22 seconds to play, sophomore Tina Doughty tied up NJIT's Melanie Griffin to give the Wolverines the ball with a chance to tie the game. UVU got three solid looks at the basket in its final possession but none would drop as the Highlanders (9-14, 2-1 GWC) entered into a tie for first-place in the conference standings with the Wolverines (7-13, 2-1 GWC) with the win.
In the final possession, sophomore Taylor Huber attempted an eight-foot runner from baseline that rolled out, but UVU got two offensive rebounds and Gray fired up two three-pointers but both were just off the mark.
"The game wasn't really won or lost at the end necessarily. We had some lapses in the middle where we kind of lost our focus," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "We really had some good open shots today but they just didn't fall. The kids kept battling, but you've got to credit NJIT for hitting the big shots down the stretch."
UVU began the game red-hot from the field as it jumped out to an 11-0 lead right out of the gate. NJIT countered back however with seven unanswered points of its own to cut the score to 11-7 with 13:08 to play in the opening half.
Back-to-back baskets from senior Sammie Jensen and Doughty pushed UVU's first-half lead up to seven, at 19-12, with 5:30 minutes to go until intermission. The Highlanders fought back from there and pulled within a point a couple of times in the closing minutes of the half, but UVU managed to hold the lead for the entire half as it took a 24-22 advantage into the break.
Senior Kaycee Mansfield led the Wolverines in the opening period with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and Jensen led the way from the glass with nine first-half boards.
The Highlanders tied the game at 24-all right out of the chute in the second half on a Rayven Johnson layup. Griffin then gave NJIT the lead for the first time in the game on a three-ball to give them a 33-30 advantage with 14 minutes to go.
NJIT extended its lead up to six points with 2:30 to go, but the Wolverines fought back and made it a three-point game thanks to a trifecta from Doughty, a layup from Mansfield and two free throws from Jensen down the stretch.
Mansfield led UVU in the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds, for her third double-double of the season. Jensen and Doughty were next with eight points apiece. Jensen also added with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Johnson led NJIT with 12 points, while Griffin also finished in double figures with 10.
The Wolverines will finish their current three-game road trip at Great West foe Houston Baptist next Saturday, Feb. 2. UVU will then return home to take on Walla Walla University on Monday, Feb. 4.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.