OREM — Utah Valley senior guards Taylor Christensen and Mariah Seals had a combined 39 points as the Wolverines cruised to a 61-43 victory over in-state foe Utah State inside Lockhart Arena Saturday afternoon.
Christensen tallied a season-high 22 points and three assists, while Seals added 17 points and a season-best six dimes for the Wolverines (4-6) on the day. UVU's win over the Aggies (2-7) marks its second 4-0 start at home in the last three years, which included a fourth straight home victory over San Francisco in 2015-16.
"We keep getting better," said Seals, who has tallied three or more assists for the fifth straight game. "We want to continue to do the little things that we've been doing to help us win. I myself am trying to limit my turnovers a little more to help us out, but we did a good job overall of taking care of the ball."
Christensen and Seals, the Wolverines' senior leaders, came up big down the stretch with all 18 UVU points in the fourth quarter to hold off any last Aggie comeback attempts. Following four straight points from Christensen to start the final period, Seals capped a 9-0 run between them on a driving layup from the left corner and a 3-pointer off a screen up top for UVU's largest lead of the game, 52-42, with 8:22 remaining in the contest.
In addition, UVU's big fourth-quarter splash included a string of four straight defensive stops for four of its 19 forced turnovers on the defensive end against USU. With their defensive play, Utah Valley won the turnover battle for the seventh time of the year and forced 19 turnovers for the third time in four games.
"I thought it was a good solid team effort," said Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon. "Utah State is a good team. They just beat BYU last week, so we knew we had to come in and play especially well defensively. November was rough with five games on the road, but I think it was a good experience that we're using [for our benefit]."
During the second quarter, Christensen went on a personal 6-2 run with six straight points for the Wolverines over a two-minute, 29-second span to help them grab a 24-13 lead with 4:44 left in the half. A pair of layups with free throws in between gave the senior guard nine of her 11 points in the first 20 minutes of action.
Seals, who ended the first half with 10 points, pushed UVU's overall run to 11-5 with back-to-back threes that helped UVU take its largest lead at the halftime break this season. Seals started the scoring spurt with a 3-point bucket in the right corner, assisted by a driving Christensen, which she followed up with a step-back shot from the top of the arc with 2:37 to go in the period.
UVU held the Aggies to a season low in made field goals during a half this season, as the Aggies finished with only six made shots (6 of 24) on 25 percent shooting from the floor. Behind their ability to stifle their opponents' shooters, the Wolverines kept USU to a season-worst shooting percentage by an opponent at home with a 30.6 percent clip (15 of 49) from the field.
Utah State cut the UVU advantage to single digits with a 9-2 run, led by four points from sophomore forward Hailey Bassett during the opening six minutes and 23 seconds of the third quarter. Sophomore guard Olivia West drained a 3-pointer to bring the Aggies to within 36-27 of the Wolverines.
Along with their 11 forced turnovers in the second half, the Wolverines tallied six of their game-high nine steals on the afternoon over the final 20 minutes of the game. Christensen, the WAC steals leader at the beginning of the week, racked up four takeaways in the final two quarters en route to matching her season high in steals with five.
UVU opened the game on a 9-0 run, sparked by six points from Christensen and three from sophomore forward Jordan Holland. After junior guard Britta Spencer found Holland open for a three from the right corner, Christensen hit a 2-point jumper in the paint with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter.
A put-back by sophomore center Leyah Harvey after a layup attempt by Christensen put the early Wolverine lead at 9-0 with 6:40 left in the opening period. The rebound gave Harvey two of her team-high-tying three offensive boards in the early part of the game.
The Wolverines will have a week to prepare for their next game when they host Idaho State on Saturday, Dec. 16, as part of a six-game homestand to close the calendar year. Tip-off against the Bengals is set for 3 p.m. MST inside Lockhart Arena.