Led by a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double from Akolda Manyang, the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team pulled away late in the clock to defeat Sam Houston State, 75-64, on Friday afternoon at the Bernard Johnson Coliseum.
UVU’s win improved its record to 9-5 for the season and handed Sam Houston State its first home loss of the year. As a team, the Wolverines shot 48.1 percent from the field compared to the Bearkats’ 36.5 percent clip. Utah Valley enjoyed a slight advantage in the paint with two more points than SHSU and recorded seven blocks compared to just one for Sam Houston State.
“I’m happy that we were able to go on the road and win a game in a place that’s really hard to win,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “We overcame some adversity with the early whistles in the second half and adversity created by ourselves, but we finished up this pre-Christmas run really positively. I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”
Utah Valley struggled to get on the scoreboard early, and after Sam Houston State scored the first four points of the game, a 9-0 run put the Wolverines up for the first time. Back-to-back layups from Manyang fueled the run, along with a five-minute scoreless stretch from the Bearkats.
Three-straight makes from 3-point range for UVU just moments later put Utah Valley up by 11 and continued an 18-3 run. Manyang and Kenneth Ogbe connected on consecutive layups as the hot stretch went on. Before SHSU was able to score its next bucket, the Wolverines had pulled off a 22-3 run.
The Bearkats were able to find a bit of rhythm on offense around the seven-minute mark and trimmed Utah Valley’s lead down to nine with just less than three minutes to play in the half. A three from Brandon Randolph gave UVU some relief and pushed the lead back to 12, and the Wolverines took a double-digit lead into halftime, 38-27.
Ogbe led UVU in the scoring column through the half with 10 points and was followed closely behind by Manyang and Randolph’s nine and eight, respectively. Manyang’s five rebounds led Utah Valley, and three Wolverines finished the half with two assists. UVU connected on 51.7 percent of its field goals in the first half of play and grabbed three more rebounds than the Bearkats.
Sam Houston State came out of the locker room hot and scored the first seven points of the second half. Ogbe finally connected on a three to stop the bleeding for the Wolverines and pushed the lead back to seven. UVU faced some early foul trouble in the second half as SHSU found itself in the bonus just four minutes in.
The next stretch of the contest saw both teams trade baskets as Utah Valley’s lead stayed in single digits for nine minutes. With 11 minutes to play in the game, Conner Toolson hit his second three of the half to restore the Wolverines’ lead to double digits.
The Bearkats scored the next eight points to cut the lead down to two, but Jake Toolson knocked down a shot from distance to preserve the lead for the Wolverines. Moments later, SHSU cut the deficit down to one, but another Conner Toolson three kept UVU ahead.
UVU continued to hit timely threes and knocked down its free throws as it closed the game with a 10-0 run to win by 11.
In addition to his double-double, Manyang blocked four shots for Utah Valley. Randolph nearly joined Manyang with a double-double of his own as he finished the game with 14 points and eight assists to go with four rebounds. Ogbe was the final Wolverine in double figures as he ended the game with 13 points.
The Wolverines now return home for a five-game homestand at the UCCU Center. First up is UC Riverside on Thursday, Dec. 28. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST, and live video is available via the WAC Digital Network. Following the matchup with the Highlanders, UVU will host Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 6 p.m. The contest with the Titans will be a rematch from earlier this season where Utah Valley fell on the road, 91-83.