Led by a 19-point, 12-rebound, double-double from Isaac Neilson, the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team bounced back and defeated Texas San Antonio 88-80 Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
The Wolverines improved to 5-3 on the season with the win while UTSA dropped to 5-4.
“That was a wild game and I’m so proud of our guys,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “We worked all summer long, we’ve played conference champs and it’s been as hard as it gets. The outcome of that normally is that it just sucks the life out of you. My guys’ tanks were really low, and they just found some way to kind of find some reserve to win this game against a really good team.”
Including Neilson, Utah Valley finished the night with five players scoring double figures. The Wolverines outrebounded the Roadrunners 55-29 on the night, and hit 26 free-throws to UTSA’s 14. UVU also finished the game with 36 points in the paint and got 25 points off the bench.
Kenneth Ogbe got Utah Valley rolling early by knocking down a three and a pair of free throws. UVU used runs of 10-3 and 11-2 to grab an early lead in the opening half. Three different Wolverines knocked down threes to spark the offensive attack.
A 10-2 run, capped by a Conner Toolson three with just under four minutes remaining in the half, extended the Utah Valley lead to 16, the biggest lead of the first half. UTSA closed the gap with an 8-0 run of its own, but the Wolverines got four quick points from Brandon Randolph to take a 42-32 lead into the break.
Conner Toolson’s 11 first-half points led UVU in the scoring column, while Akolda Manyang and Zach Nelson grabbed six rebounds apiece. Manyang also swatted three shots in the half. Randolph had a solid, all-around half with seven points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
The Roadrunners opened the second half with an 11-2 run to cut the lead to one, and eventually tied the game at 47-47. A 10-0 run from there put UTSA up by 10. Utah Valley responded with a 12-2 run, which included seven-straight points from Jake Toolson, and knotted the score at 59 apiece.
The run continued for UVU out of a timeout, and two Jake Toolson free-throws regained the lead for the Wolverines. A three from Conner Toolson moments later capped a 17-2 run for UVU.
With just over a minute to play, San Antonio cut UVU’s lead to four on a pair of free-throws. Neilson responded by hitting a pair of free throws of his own and recording an emphatic block on the defensive end to preserve the lead for Utah Valley. The Wolverines then hit their free throws down the stretch to ice the game and secure the victory.
Randolph came up just one rebound shy of joining Neilson with a double-double of his own. The senior guard finished the night with 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. Though Manyang saw limited minutes due to foul trouble, he led Utah Valley on the boards by setting a new career high with 14 rebounds and tied a career high with six blocks.
Conner Toolson finished his night with 19 points on five threes and a perfect 5-of-5 clip from the charity stripe. Jake Toolson and Ogbe both reached double figures in the scoring column as well, finishing the night with 16 and 13, respectively.
The Wolverines will complete their homestand on Wednesday, Dec. 6, as they welcome Weber State to the UCCU Center for an in-state battle. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and live streaming of the contest will be available on the WAC Digital Network. The game can also be heard on ESPN 960 AM. Following the matchup with the Wildcats, UVU will hit the road to take on Cal State Fullerton.