Behind a balanced scoring effort with five double-digit scorers, Utah Valley women's basketball ended its four-game skid with a 68-65 victory to sweep the season series against UMKC on Saturday afternoon inside Lockhart Arena.
UVU (10-14, 4-5 WAC) senior Taylor Christensen, who was honored for reaching 1,000 career points prior to the game, finished with 14 points to match senior backcourt teammate Mariah Seals who tied a season-high nine assists. Sophomore forward Jordan Holland tallied 13 points and eight boards, while junior guard Britta Spencer added 12 points and sophomore guard Gabrielle Leos poured in 10 to round out the Wolverine double-figure scoring.
"Those losses are now in the past," said Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon. "I'm really proud of the way our team stepped up tonight. It could rattle you when you don't feel like you played well and stepped up to the challenge, so I'm just really proud of how the girls came in and competed. UMKC's not a bad team and they've won some big games, but I loved the balanced effort tonight."
Trailing 23-18 with 8:51 left in the second quarter, the Wolverines reclaimed the lead for the remainder of the game with a 19-5 run behind seven-straight made baskets and four 3-pointers to claim the lead for the remainder of the game.
During their explosive run, Seals knocked down two 3-point buckets and assisted on two Holland layups and threes by Leos, Spencer and Ally Bates to give UVU a 37-30 lead with 4:20 left in the first half. Along with catching fire from beyond the arc, the Wolverine defense turned up the pressure en route to forcing five turnovers within a one-minute, 15-second span to help UVU pull ahead for good.
UMKC (8-16, 4-6 WAC) then cut the UVU lead to three with an 8-2 run to end the third quarter that included a pair of threes from senior guards Aries Washington and Sierra Bone. Washington sparked the short-lived spurt by the 'Roos with a left corner 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining in the quarter and Bone banked one off the glass in front of the 'Roo bench to cut the score to 52-49.
Senior forward Kristen Moore recorded a game-high 24 points for the 'Roos, including five in the final 2:34 of play as part of a 9-4 UMKC run to end the game. Also reaching the 20-point plateau, senior guard Aries Washington added 23 points capped by a 5-2 personal run on a three and pair of free throws to chip into the Wolverine lead.
After Washington's personal run, Christensen came alive for UVU's next five points to stretch the squad's advantage to 63-56 with 3:39 to go in the contest. The newest member of the Wolverine 1,000-point club, Christensen caught fire with two straight pull-up jumpers off screens set up by Seals' last two dimes as part of her nine fourth-quarter points and 6-of-8 shooting effort on the day.
"My teammates got me the ball today and I felt really good. I was shooting the ball well in shootaround and during pre-game [warmups], so it felt nice coming out of my hand today. [The coaches] called my name on some plays and I made the shots," Christensen said.
Following a Holland free throw, Moore led UMKC's final push with a pair of free throws and layups to pull the 'Roos to within one of the Wolverines, 66-65, with 44 seconds on the game clock.
With six seconds left in the game and one last comeback attempt in the tank, Washington took a jumper in front of UVU's Christensen at the free-throw line that rattled in and out before Spencer came down with a defensive rebound and was fouled. Spencer then drained her ensuing pair of free throws to ice the game and end the Wolverines' win drought.
Before the contest, Christensen received a special ball signed by her teammates that was handed to her on the court by Nixon as part of a surprise ceremony in honor of her reaching the 1,000-point mark. In addition, Christensen enjoyed a highlight video and message to her from Nixon shown on the Lockhart Arena video board that drew praise from her coaches, teammates, fans and opposing players.
"It was really nice," said Christensen. "I didn't think they would do that, but it was really nice. It was a struggle last game and I didn't really want to get [1,000 points] that game, but it's fine since we got this win today."
Led by Seals' assist total, UVU finished with 18 assists on its 25 made field goals to finish with 17 or more dimes as a team for the third-straight contest. Spencer followed Seals with three assists, while Leos and sophomore guard Alexis Cortez chimed in multiple-assist performances with two each for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines also recorded double-digit steals for the second-straight game, as they racked up 11 steals en route to their 14th turnover battle victory of the year. Spencer's four steals, Leos' three takeaways and Christensen's pair of swipes helped UVU force UMKC to commit 23 turnovers compared to only 11 of its own mishaps.
Utah Valley will now take to the road upon closing its recent homestand, traveling to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for a contest at WAC powerhouse New Mexico State to open a two-game road swing on Thursday, Feb. 15. Tipoff from the Pan-American Center is slated for 7 p.m. MT.