Sophomores Leya Harvey's and Alexis Cortez's career highs in scoring and senior guard Taylor Christensen's go-ahead basket helped Utah Valley pull out its first road win, 66-59, over UMKC in come-from-behind fashion Thursday in the Swinney Recreation Center.
Harvey scored a team-high 17 points, and Cortez added 16 points on a perfect shooting night from the floor (4-of-4 FG), including three 3-pointers and five free throws (5-of-5 FTs), off the bench as UVU (7-10, 1-1 WAC) completed a seven-point turnaround in the final seven minutes of play against the Kangaroos (5-12, 1-1 WAC). Paired with their offensive output, Christensen hit two-straight jumpers just outside the paint to give the Wolverines the lead for good with 2:07 remaining, finishing with 15 points as part of four UVU double-digit scorers in the contest.
"The biggest thing I saw tonight was mental toughness and resiliency," said Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon. "To win any game you have to have those, but especially to win on the road against a good team. I'm really pleased with the way we defended, where in the second and fourth quarters we locked down on them defensively. We also took pretty good care of the ball, but one of the most important parts was Alexis and Leya having really good games scoring the ball, getting to the free-throw line and being aggressive for us."
Behind their spark off the bench, Harvey and Cortez teamed to score all of UVU's season-high 33 bench points in the contest to mark the first time the squad received two double-digit efforts from non-starters on the year.
"We started off a little slow in both halves, so when we got in the game we wanted to help up the tempo a bit, and as a team we started swinging the ball more. I only got great shots because my teammates gave me great passes and I think that helped us pull out the win tonight," said Harvey.
Utah Valley closed the game on a 22-8 run that started with a trio of free throws by Cortez after she was fouled nearly one foot behind the 3-point line to bring UVU within four of the Roos in the final stretch. Harvey then dropped in a pair of layups inside off assists by Christensen, responding to a three by UMKC senior guard Samantha Waldron and again after a two-pointer by junior forward Kristen Moore as part of the quarter-ending burst.
Moments after Harvey's buckets, UVU junior guard Britta Spencer received a skip pass from Cortez and drained her ensuing 3-pointer at the left wing to cut the deficit to two. Christensen continued the Wolverines' spirited surge by making her pair of two-point baskets from the left and right side of the painted area that marked the third and final lead change of the night.
In response of a 13-2 Kangaroo offensive burst to start the second half, senior guard Mariah Seals ignited a 13-2 Wolverine charge by either scoring or assisting on each UVU field goal during the final 5:04 of the third period to put them within striking distance of UMKC, 47-44. Seals opened that outpouring of UVU points by threading the needle on a pass to Harvey on the left block.
That quarter-ending Utah Valley run continued as Seals delivered another one of her season-high nine assists to Cortez for a left-corner three with 4:39 left in that period. In between dishing dimes on a pair of baskets by Christensen and Cortez, Seals buried a three from the top of the arc on a pass from Cortez to finish with her team-best third triple of the game in the final minute of the third.
The Wolverines also put together a 20-4 run to end the second quarter to battle back from a 10-point deficit to UMKC with 6:56 to go in the first half. That scoring burst by UVU started off with Seals and Cortez setting each other up for 3-point makes.
Harvey joined in on the run to end the first half, converting a free throw to bring UVU even with UMKC and then finding pay dirt down low on back-to-back trips down the court for the Wolverines to help them grab a 29-25 halftime lead.
During their fourth-quarter outpouring, the Wolverines made six-straight shots that culminated with Harvey's final field goal in the final 5:43 and Christensen's 3-pointer that followed her game-winning shot. With the clutch shooting during the closing moments of the contest, UVU ended the fourth quarter with its highest shooting clip in any quarter this season by knocking down 75 percent of its shots in the last 10 minutes of the night.
Utah Valley's stifling defensive rotations held UMKC to a 0-of-5 shooting slump and five-straight misses from the floor in that same stretch, including four misfires from 3-point range. The Wolverines overcame a game-high 23 points and seven made 3-pointers from Waldron in their first league victory of 2017-18.
Meanwhile, Seals rounded out the list of four double-digit scorers for UVU with 11 points and a game-high nine assists. Christensen tallied four assists, while Cortez and Leos each had three helpers to give the Wolverines its highest assist total in a road game this year with 20 dimes on their 24 field goals.
UVU will now conclude its WAC-opening, three-game road trip with a contest at Chicago State on Saturday, Jan. 13. Tipoff in the Windy City is slated for 2 p.m. CT.