Utah Valley University saw its eight-game winning streak and perfect start in WAC play halted in a 72-49 loss at preseason favorite New Mexico State on Saturday in the Pan American Center.
Despite the loss, the Wolverines (13-8, 7-1) still reach the halfway point of the WAC schedule atop the standings, with a one-game lead over the Aggies (17-7, 6-2) and Grand Canyon, which UVU will face next Thursday in Phoenix.
A big second half helped NM State pull away late. The Aggies scored 15 straight during a game-ending 15-2 run and shot 59 percent in the half — 57 percent overall — in outscoring the Wolverines, 39-21, after halftime. New Mexico State also moved to 11-1 at home on the season and ended UVU’s four-game road winning streak.
“Give all the credit to New Mexico State,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “They came out and played with emotion and were prepared and had a good crowd behind them. They took it to us on the attack and played with a lot of aggression. We’ve got to do a better job of combating that when we play them again.”
Holton Hunsaker led Utah Valley with 15 while Ben Aird added 10. Preseason Player of the Year pick Daniel Mullings scored 21 points and hit all 12 of his attempts from the free-throw line. New Mexico State shot 19-for-23 from line while the Wolverines were only able to get to the foul line six times, hitting four.
The Wolverines trailed by as much as 10 in the first half before entering the break down 33-28. Taylor Brown gave UVU a spark off the bench in the first half, getting an assist on a Keawe Enos 3-pointer and hitting one of his own to get the Wolverines back within three, 29-26, late in the half.
Hunsaker led Utah Valley with 13 in the half, while Daniel Mullings also scored 13 for New Mexico State.
Aird scored on UVU’s first possession of the second half to get UVU within three, 33-30, before the Aggies scored eight straight to stretch it to 11, taking a 41-30 on a runner by Mullings. The Wolverines ended that run on two Mitch Bruneel free throws — the team’s first attempts from the line — with 14:19 left in the game.
Utah Valley trailed by eight before a 6-0 spurt gave the Aggies their biggest lead, 52-38. UVU got within 10 with 4:59 left before NM State pulled away with its run.
Hayes Garrity scored eight points off the bench for Utah Valley. Tshilidzi Nephawe scored 15, and DK Eldridge added 13 for the Aggies, who out-rebounded UVU, 31-20.
Next week’s contest at Grand Canyon will be the Wolverines only contest of the week.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.