OREM, Utah — Utah Valley University held off a late surge from CSU Bakersfield to grab a 72-69 victory Wednesday night at the UCCU Center.
With the win, the Wolverines (13-14) avenged an earlier season loss to CSUB, 67-65, in Bakersfield.
Sammie Jensen, the nation's second leading rebounder (14.0 rpg), pulled down a game-high 15 boards.
"I was really proud of the way the girls stepped up and found a way to win tonight," head coach Cathy Nixon said. "It was chaotic at times and it wasn't pretty, but to win championships you've got to be able to succeed amidst chaos. Our girls just had the right mentality to get it done."
Trailing by three at the break, UVU buried eight of its first 11 shots in the second half to jump out to 49-44 advantage six minutes in. Four of those buckets came from Kaycee Mansfield as the senior opened the frame 4-of-5 from the field after going 0-of-6 in the first. She would go on to finish with 14 points.
The Wolverines pushed the margin to 12 behind a 12-2 run midway through the half. The spurt consisted primarily of free throws and layups as Mansfield, Jensen, Jenkins and Doughty all recorded points in the paint.
The Roadrunners (11-17) hung around, though, getting to within five at 65-60 after a Tyonna Outland layup with just under three minutes remaining.
Outland went to the foul line again two possessions later and sank both freebies to cut UVU's lead to 65-62 with 1:37 to play.
Two free throws from Cardwell pushed UVU back in front by five, but Ciarra Ford converted a tough lay-in on the other end and picked up a foul along the way. Ford missed her free throw, but the rebound deflected out of bounds off a Wolverine, keeping possession with the visitors.
On the ensuing possession, Janae Coffee pulled down an offensive rebound and got the put back, suddenly bringing CSUB to within one with 1:13 still showing.
Jensen worked her way to the foul line the next trip down for UVU but went just 1-of-2. Needing two to tie, the `Runners' Outland drove the baseline from the left side. Suddenly in traffic, she tried to flip a pass to the opposite corner only to see Cardwell jump in front for the steal.
Back at the line, Jenkins knocked down two free throws, seemingly icing the game for the Wolverines. But CSUB's Coffee, after a frenetic scrum on the other end as the game clock ticked away, dropped in a layup along with a foul.
After the made free throw, the Wolverines quickly inbounded the ball to Cardwell who was fouled with just 5.1 seconds left.
The senior buried both free throws, making the lead 72-69, and Ford's desperation three for the tie was off the mark as UVU clinched the victory over its future Western Athletic Conference foe.
Defensively, the Wolverines came up huge in the second half. They limited the `Runners to just 33 percent shooting and an 0-for-11 mark from beyond the arc.
The Wolverines trailed by as many as eight in the opening half, due in large part to some early offensive struggles. Converting just 9-of-26 field goal attempts and turning the ball over 13 times, UVU kept things tight with several tough, grind-it-out possessions and a 22-16 edge on the boards.
A late push in the first half was capped by Doughty's running 40-footer as time expired. The heave from distance brought the crowd to its feet and cut the halftime deficit just 31-28, giving the Wolverines momentum heading into the break.
UVU closes out its 2012-13 regular season Saturday when it hosts Great West Conference rival Houston Baptist. A win gives the Wolverines their first-ever outright GWC regular season title. The 3 p.m. tipoff will be preceded by Senior Day festivities as the careers of six UVU seniors will be honored.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.