After dropping a road contest to Cal State Fullerton earlier this season, the Utah Valley University men's basketball team won the grudge match, 87-78, in its final non-conference game of the season on Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
The Wolverines pushed their win streak to four with the victory while wrapping up non-conference play with a program-best 11-5 record. UVU is now an impressive 8-1 at home this season. Three different players hit the 20-point mark for UVU, while the team shot 40 percent from the field compared to a 34 percent clip for Fullerton. Utah Valley assisted on 17 of its 24 made field goals.
"We were really disappointed with our performance at Fullerton, so we were really excited to get another chance at them," said UVU head coach Mark Pope. "This is a huge win for us. I'm really proud of where we ended up after non-conference play and I'm excited to jump into conference."
Brandon Randolph initiated the offense for UVU early on as he scored the first bucket for the Wolverines and found Akolda Manyang for an and-one alley-oop. Manyang went on to score nine-straight points.
With just less than 10 minutes to play in the opening half, Kenneth Ogbe knocked down back-to-back threes to give UVU its largest lead of the half, 22-14. Moments later, in his Utah Valley debut, Jerrelle DeBerry knocked down a three to score his first points in a Wolverine jersey and push the lead to nine.
UVU's lead continued to hover around double digits, but Fullerton closed the half on a 12-5 run and cut the deficit down to five as the half ended with the score 39-34. Manyang led the way for the Wolverines in the scoring column in the first half with 11, and Randolph was close behind with nine. Randolph also led Utah Valley on the glass with four rebounds and in assists with three.
Through the opening stretch of the second half, the Titans trimmed UVU's lead several times and with just less than 16 minutes on the clock, a pair of free throws gave Cal State Fullerton its first advantage of the game, 47-46. The Wolverines responded with a quick 7-0 burst to recapture the lead.
The score bounced between a one and two-possession game before DeBerry scored six-straight points for UVU, and Manyang threw down a big dunk to put Utah Valley up by eight with 10 minutes to play. Fullerton got as close as four, but the Wolverines extended their lead as Ogbe hit a three with five minutes remaining to put the Wolverines up by 10.
The Titans cut the deficit down to five but were unable to get any closer. Ogbe and Randolph both knocked down late free throws and UVU got stops on the defensive end to close out the game.
Ogbe led all scorers on the night with a season-high 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, including a 4-of-9 clip from long range. He also dished out five assists with a pair of rebounds. Randolph and Manyang dropped in 20 apiece. Randolph knocked down 5-of-7 shots from the floor and was an impressive 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. Manyang led UVU on the boards with a game-high nine rebounds to go along with his 20 points. He also tallied two blocks in 26 minutes of action. DeBerry finished his debut with 12 points and three rebounds.
The Wolverines now prepare to open WAC play as they host CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Jan. 6. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST. The contest can be viewed on the WAC Digital Network and heard on ESPN 960 AM. Following the matchup with CSUB, Utah Valley will host Kansas City on Jan. 11 and Chicago State on Jan. 13.