Conner Toolson poured in 22 points on a 5-of-8 clip from distance, and the Utah Valley University men's basketball team earned its 20th win of the season with a 70-47 victory over CSU Bakersfield in a tough environment at the Icardo Center on Thursday night.
Utah Valley improved to 20-8 for the year and 9-3 in WAC play with the win. This marks the fifth 20-win season for UVU since becoming a Division-1 program and the first since the 2013-14 season when the Wolverines won the WAC regular-season title and played in the National Invitational Tournament with a 20-12 record. The win is also just the third time that UVU has come away victorious in Bakersfield and the first since 2014. It snaps a three-game winless streak at the Icardo Center and gives head coach Mark Pope his first win in Bakersfield.
"I'm really proud of our guys because this Bakersfield team is really on the road to finding themselves. They were coming off a big win against Grand Canyon and we knew we had a monstrous challenge ahead of us," said Pope. "We were great in the first four minutes coming out of halftime and we won here in a place that's really tough to get a win in."
UVU claimed a big advantage in field goal percentage, outshooting Bakersfield, 52.2 percent to 35.2 percent. The Wolverines knocked down 12 3-pointers on the night while the Roadrunners could only hit three. Utah Valley also won the rebounding battle, 33-28, and blocked seven shots compared to just one for Bakersfield.
The Wolverines went to the paint early as their first six points came on layups from Isaac Neilson, Jake Toolson and Akolda Manyang. Manyang stayed in the paint as he completed a three-point play moments later to even the score at nine apiece. With just more than 10 minutes to play in the half, Brandon Randolph hit the first outside shot of the night for UVU to grab a three-point lead.
Utah Valley stayed hot as Kenneth Ogbe knocked down a long three while the shot clock expired. Conner Toolson added one of his own and Randolph put in a contested layup to cap a 13-4 run and force a timeout from the Roadrunners. The run resulted in a nine-point lead for UVU.
The threes continued to drop for the Wolverines as the lead grew to as much as 12, but Bakersfield chipped away and made the score, 31-27, heading into halftime. Conner Toolson led UVU in scoring through the half with eight, while Jake Toolson and Manyang had seven and six, respectively.
The halftime adjustments paid off for UVU as it quickly got to work on building its lead with a 22-4 run out of the break. Ogbe and Conner Toolson each knocked down a pair of shots from distance as part of the burst. The run spanned the first 10 minutes of the second half and saw Utah Valley's lead grow as large as 22 points.
The 'Runners trimmed the deficit down to 16, but the Wolverines answered with three threes in a row from Randolph, Ogbe and Conner Toolson to preserve a comfortable lead. Utah Valley continued to score steadily on offense while also locking down the defensive end of the court and cruised to the 23-point victory.
Conner Toolson's 22 points on 5-of-8 shooting from distance led the Wolverines on the night and he added three rebounds, one assist, one block and three steals. Ogbe added 14 points on four made threes to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Manyang came off the bench to score 11 points, grab three rebounds and block four shots. Jake Toolson and Randolph did a little of everything for UVU as Toolson had seven points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Randolph scored eight points to go with four rebounds and two assists.
UVU will round out its road trip with a visit to Arizona to take on Grand Canyon on Saturday, Feb. 24. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST, and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Following Saturday's matchup with the Antelopes, the Wolverines will return home to the UCCU Center for the regular season finale against Seattle U on Saturday, March 3. Utah Valley will honor its seniors prior to the game.