Utah Valley senior guards Mariah Seals and Taylor Christensen and sophomore guard Alexis Cortez combined for 36 points, as the Wolverines notched their second-straight road win, 68-30, at Chicago State on Saturday inside the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center.
Seals filled the stat sheet for UVU (8-10, 2-1 WAC) in her birthday outing, finishing with team highs of 13 points and five assists against the Cougars (0-18, 0-3 WAC). Meanwhile, Christensen followed behind Seals with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting and Cortez added 11 points and went 3-of-6 from 3-point range to help the Wolverines sweep their Midwest trip.
"I thought it was a good team win today," said Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon. "We really focused on reaching some of our goals. We wanted to win the rebound battle and ended up outrebounding them by seven, with 19 offensive rebounds. We played outstanding on the defensive end against a Chicago State team that is better than their record reflects. They've given other WAC teams some tough competition, so I was proud of the girls for getting the lead early and maintaining it to sweep our Midwest games this week."
Outside of their strong guard play, the Wolverines' defense clamped down on the Cougars' offensive sets to hold them to opponent season lows in scoring and made field goals with 10. In addition, UVU stifled the CSU shooters throughout the afternoon en route to keeping CSU to the lowest shooting percentage by an opponent on the year at 23.8 percent from the floor and 10.5 percent from 3-point range.
Behind its strong defending, UVU erupted for a 17-4 run to close the second quarter for a 34-17 halftime lead. Following a bucket inside by sophomore center Leya Harvey, Seals drained a left-corner three and assisted on a Christensen layup to start the run.
Adding to the burst, Seals hit a two-pointer just inside the 3-point line to put the Wolverines up 21-15. She then added a second-straight UVU basket on a step-back jumper from the left elbow to push the UVU lead to 23-15 with 4:30 to go in the half.
Seconds later, Harvey's reverse layup underneath the basket stretched the run to 11-2 and UVU's advantage to double digits for the first time at 25-15. Cortez then hit her third three of the half at the left wing on a pass from Christensen to give the Wolverines a 28-15 lead.
Christensen continued UVU's scoring barrage with a three-foot jumper and junior guard Britta Spencer tacked on a breakaway layup to capitalize a steal by Harvey, stretching the Utah Valley lead to 32-15. After a pair of CSU free throws, Christensen took a Spencer steal the length of the court to beat the buzzer and send UVU to the locker room with a 17-point lead, 34-17, before distancing themselves more in the second half.
Chicago State held an early 9-4 lead before Cortez opened her scoring with back-to-back 3-pointers assisted by Seals and Spencer. The pair of early Cortez triples put UVU ahead the rest of the contest.
In addition to their stellar scoring defense, the Wolverines disrupted the passing lanes with a season-high 18 steals as a team. They also forced a season-best 29 turnovers against the Cougars to win the turnover battle and finish with 23 points off those takeaways.
Leading the way for UVU, Spencer racked up four steals to headline a group of three Wolverines with at least three steals. Harvey and Cortez joined Spencer among that list with three steals each.
After posting a season-high nine assists in her last outing, Seals has now reached five or more assists in three of the Wolverines' last five contests. Seals also racked up three assists in four of those games.
Along with their turnover margin victory, UVU won the battle of the boards with a 42-35 rebound advantage. Sophomore forward Jordan Holland grabbed a team-high 11 boards, while Cortez finished a career-high eight rebounds.
The Wolverines now return home for anothr pair of league contests, beginning with an 11 a.m. education day matchup versus UT Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, Jan. 18. UVU then welcomes three-time defending WAC champion New Mexico State for a 3 p.m. meeting on Saturday, Jan. 20.