OREM Utah Valley University outlasted Idaho in a high-scoring shootout, 89-88, to stay atop the WAC standings despite a 42-point effort from the Vandals’ Stephen Madison.
Holton Hunsaker scored 28 for the Wolverines (15-9, 9-2) including the go-ahead free throws with 3:05 left followed by a 3-pointer with 2:26 to go, giving UVU a 87-83 lead. Madison got the Vandals (10-16, 4-8) within two on a layup with 1:26 left and then, after two Zach Nelson free throws, scored again to make it 89-87 with 58 seconds to go.
Sekou Wiggs had a chance to tie it with 13.9 seconds left with two free throws. After hitting the first he missed the second, but Madison got the rebound and Idaho had two chances to win it. Glen Dean and Connor Hill each had looks in the final eight seconds, with Hill’s coming from a three with three seconds on the clock. His shot went long, and Ben Aird secured the rebound as time expired.
“Those are scenarios you can’t replicate,” UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker said of the final sequence. “I was pleased with how our kids handled that, under the circumstances and for what we’re playing for."
Madison’s career night came on 16-for-21 from the field and 8-for-11 from the line. Hunsaker’s 28 points came on 9-for-15 shooting including four 3-pointers in eight attempts. He also had seven assists on the night. Nelson had a strong night offensively as well, scoring 21 on 9-for-12 from the floor, while Aird finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Utah Valley shot 60.4 percent (32-for-53) from the field, its highest percentage since hitting 60.8 percent against Kansas City on Jan. 9, 2013. Idaho, after hitting 63.3 percent in the first half, finished at 55.9 percent (33-for-59) overall.
“There was a lot of offense, a lot of shot making tonight. Give Idaho credit for their preparation and their mental state as they entered the game,” Hunsaker said. “We were able to make the plays and do enough things to pull it out. It was a credit to the toughness and leadership our team has that we were able to stay in this game and stay within ourselves."
The Vandals built a 53-45 lead at the half behind the strong offensive performance. Madison scored 22 in the first half as Idaho led the entire way.
The Wolverines did not lead in the game until the 14:55 mark of the second half on a dunk by Mitch Bruneel. Wiggs came right back on the next possession to tie the game before Madison gave Idaho the lead with a bucket and free throw.
Keawe Enos, who finished with nine points and six assists, tied it again with one of his three 3-pointers. From there though, Idaho regained control, building the lead to six at 79-73 with 7:41 remaining.
The Wolverines came back with a 7-0 run on a layup from Aird before Hunsaker hit a jumper to get within two and followed that with a 3-pointer to put Utah Valley in front, 80-79.
Again, Wiggs came right back and scored for Idaho, and Madison later hit two free throws for an 83-80 Vandals lead. But another 7-0 run, again with Hunsaker leading the charge, gave UVU the lead for good though. Garrity knocked down a pair of free throws before Hunsaker hit the go-ahead foul shots and 3-pointer setting up the final two minutes.
Wiggs finished with 16 for Idaho and Hill added 14, all of which came early in the game. For UVU, Bruneel finished with eight, Garrity seven and Brenden Evans five points.
Utah Valley hits the road for the final time in the WAC regular season next week with contests at Chicago State on Feb. 20 and Kansas City on Feb. 22.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.