OREM, Utah — Ben Aird finished with a double-double and Jason Johnson added 20 points, but Utah Valley University fell 73-58 to CSU Bakersfield in both squads’ regular season finale Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
The game served as a preview of next year’s Western Athletic Conference schedule. Both schools will join the WAC in 2013-14 and will play for the foreseeable future as league foes.
In the decisive second half, CSUB (14-16) shot at a 54.5 percent clip, while the Wolverines (14-17) finished the period at just 25 percent. Johnson scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the latter period, but it was not enough to keep pace with the efficient ‘Runners.
Trailing by 10 at the break, UVU converted its first field goal of the second half at the 13:05 mark when Johnson buried a long two on the baseline. The bucket snapped an eight-minute field goal drought going back to the first half and ignited what would become a 7-0 run over the next two minutes.
Aird knocked down a pair of free throws and Johnson struck again, knocking down a three during the spurt, pulling the Wolverines to within nine at 49-40 after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.
Nine was as close as UVU would come, however, as the Wolverines came up empty on its next few possessions and CSUB kept the Wolverines at bay down the stretch with timely three-point shooting and a strong effort on the glass.
“We had a few opportunities with quality possessions to make it a game late and we never converted,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “The credit goes to coach (Rod) Barnes and the fine play of his team. They were aggressive, made some timely shots, and controlled the game.”
Aird’s double-double came courtesy of 16 points — 10 of which came in the first half — and a game-high 13 rebounds. Holton Hunsaker also finished in double figures, scoring 13 points.
Aside from a 10-point difference on the scoreboard, the first half box score between the two teams looked even. The Wolverines and ‘Runners shot similar percentages from the field (50 to 48 percent), rebounded evenly (14 aside) and were close on turnovers (9 to 6). Still, Bakersfield took a 35-25 lead into the locker room with the first-half play of senior guard Tyrone White as the difference.
White shot 7-of-10 from the field in the first period, including a 4-for-5 mark from the three-point line, on his way to 18 first half points. He would go on to finish with 30 points, a new career-high.
UVU now sets its sights on the Great West Conference Tournament held March 14-16 in Chicago. The Wolverines open the tournament Thursday at 4:00 p.m. MT against Houston Baptist. The winner will advance to play top-seeded NJIT on Friday.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.