Sophomore Katie Kuklok's last-second 3-pointer rimmed out as the Utah Valley women's basketball team opened its four-game home stand with a 64-61 loss to Santa Clara on Saturday afternoon in the PE Building.
The Wolverines (1-10) found themselves trailing the Broncos (3-6) of the West Coast Conference by five points with just 20 seconds to play. But after a quick coast-to-coast layup by senior Kyra Prause, UVU pulled to within three with 16 seconds left. Freshman Ashley Baugh then deflected and stole the impending inbound pass to give Utah Valley one final chance. The ball then got passed around to an open Kuklok, who wasted no time as she stepped into a 3-ball at the top key, but the shot bounced off the rim and Santa Clara came away with the rebound and the victory.
"I was very pleased with how the girls fought back tonight but we need more consistency from each one of them," head coach Cathy Nixon said. "We started the game kind of flat and missed a lot of good looks. Our team is a little beat up right now and we just don't have room for error. We'll be OK if we're able to be more consistent individually as well as collectively."
After back-to-back treys by Santa Clara, the Wolverines found themselves trailing the Broncos by 10, at 23-13, with 6:54 to play in the opening half. UVU used an 8-0 spurt to bounce right back, however, as it pulled to within two at 23-21. Kuklok led the way during the run with a pair of free throws and a layup.
The deficit remained at just two points, 29-27, at the half as Baugh hit a late layup for Utah Valley just before the break. Kuklok paced UVU with 13 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from distance.
In the second half, Utah Valley quickly tied things up at 29-29 on a pretty hook shot by sophomore Sam Loggins, but the Broncos responded with a 9-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 38-29 advantage. The Wolverines stormed right back, however, by scoring seven unanswered points over the next minute and a half to pull within two at 38-36.
SCU later stretched its lead back to 10 midway through the second half but back came the Wolverines once again as they got within one at 51-50 after an 11-2 run. Freshman Rebecca MaWhinney led the stretch with a pair of buckets, while junior Ashley Klemz added a trifecta. The game remained close the rest of the way, but a pair of free throws by SCU's Montana Walters in the final minute gave the Broncos a late five-point advantage. The deficit proved to be too much for UVU to overcome, as its last-ditch comeback attempt fell just short.
Despite the defeat, UVU outshot the Broncos at the charity stripe and behind the arc. The Wolverines also committed four fewer turnovers than SCU in the contest.
Kuklok led all scorers in the contest with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from distance. She also added a game-high tying four steals. MaWhinney was next in the scoring column for UVU as she chipped in 11 points, while redshirt freshman Karlee Kartchner added a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with six points. Prause also had a solid outing for the Wolverines as she recorded a game-best seven assists as well as six points and four steals.
Ruta Zurauskyte paced the Broncos with 14 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting performance from the field. Zurauskyte also added a team-high eight boards for Santa Clara.
The contest marked Utah Valley's ninth consecutive defeat.
The Wolverines will look to snap the skid next Friday in the UCCU Center against Idaho State. The game will begin at 3 p.m. and will mark Utah Valley's final game before the holiday break.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.