Akolda Manyang scored all 14 of his points in the second half, while two other Wolverines finished in double figures to lead the Utah Valley University men's basketball team to a 68-56 victory over Grand Canyon, snapping a six-game winless streak against the Antelopes.
The win pushed Utah Valley to 16-6 for the year and gave it control of second place in the WAC with a 5-1 conference record. The victory also marked the first time that the Wolverines have defeated Grand Canyon (15-7, 4-2) in coach Mark Pope's tenure. UVU outshot GCU from the field at a 43 to 37 percent mark, including a 55 percent clip from long distance while holding Grand Canyon to just 27 percent. Utah Valley scored 21 points off 16 forced turnovers, and its bench outscored GCU's 21-9.
"There's no doubt that this was a whacked-out game, but we'll take it every single day if we can have it," said Pope. "GCU is a really good team. They were picked to finish first in the league. This was a great win for us because we protected home and we're 12-1 (at home) now. I'm proud of our guys because they won when nothing was going right and that's the sign of a good team."
The game got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to find the basket early on. After five minutes of play, Grand Canyon held a 3-0 lead before Kenneth Ogbe got the Wolverines on the board with a driving layup. The Antelopes started the game on a 14-2 run.
Utah Valley finally got rolling offensively as Jerrelle DeBerry came off the bench to hit back-to-back threes and spark a 25-3 run. Conner Toolson sunk a pair of threes of his own during the run, while Kenneth Ogbe completed a four-point play. The run helped UVU to erase a 12-point deficit and take a 10-point lead of its own.
Grand Canyon hit a three in the closing minutes of the half to narrow the gap, but the Wolverines took a 30-24 lead into the break. Conner Toolson poured in 10 points to lead UVU in the half, while DeBerry pitched in eight off the bench. With Manyang facing early foul trouble, Isaac Neilson also came off the bench to contribute five points and two rebounds.
After GCU scored the first five points of the second half to pull within one, Manyang dropped in his first four points of the night to widen the margin. The Lopes again fought to tie the game at the 13-minute mark, but Utah Valley would not surrender the lead as Brandon Randolph and Jake Toolson both hit tough layups for the Wolverines.
UVU's lead continued to hover around six until Ben Nakwaasah knocked down a shot from long distance to put Utah Valley up by nine. Zach Nelson followed with a free throw to give the Wolverines a double-digit lead. The lead came by result of a 12-2 run for UVU.
Multiple steals and stops on the defensive end preserved the double-digit lead for Utah Valley, and a pair of makes from DeBerry at the charity stripe pushed the lead to 15 with just less than three minutes to play. Five quick points from GCU made it a 10-point game, but an electric alley-oop from Randolph to Manyang capped off the 12-point victory for UVU.
Manyang's 14 points on a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the charity stripe led the Wolverines in the scoring column, and he pitched in six rebounds and two blocks. Conner Toolson finished the game with 12 points, while hitting a pair of threes, and came away with three steals on the defensive end. Ogbe was the final Wolverine in double figures with 10 points for the game.
DeBerry, Neilson and Nakwaasah contributed major minutes off the bench for UVU. DeBerry's eight points sparked Utah Valley's offense in the first half, and Neilson scored nine points to go along with three rebounds, an assist and a block. Nakwaasah's only points of the night came on a three that ignited the run that helped the Wolverines put away the game. He also dished out four assists and grabbed two steals.
The Wolverines now gear up for a three-game road trip as they first head to Washington to take on Seattle U on Saturday, Feb. 3. The battle with the Redhawks tips off at 8 p.m., and can be viewed live via the WAC Digital Network. Following the matchup with SU, UVU will travel for contests at Chicago State and UMKC.