Jake Toolson poured in 15 points as Utah Valley fended off Fresno State down the stretch to defeat the Bulldogs, 64-60, on Saturday evening at the Save Mart Center. The Wolverines finish non-conference play on a five-game winning streak and push their record to 11-4. The Bulldogs wrap up their non-conference slate at 9-3 as the team suffers its first loss of the season at home.
"This team is a top-40 team in the rankings, and we knew we were in for a challenge of a lifetime, coming on the road," said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope. "It's rewarding for this team after having a couple games where we were right there and we just couldn't get over the hump, and for our guys to fight in a game that was only pretty in the sense that it was a big fat 'W'. I'm so happy for our guys, and I'm so proud of them."
Utah Valley used an 8-1 run to take an 11-6 advantage with 16:17 to go in the opening half before Fresno State responded with a 9-0 run. After exchanging baskets, the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-17 lead with 5:12 to go in the half. Wyatt Lowell hit a three with less than a minute to go to push the lead to six, but the Bulldogs scored the final five points of the half to trim the Wolverine lead to 33-32 at the half.
After Fresno State momentarily took the lead, the Wolverines used an 11-3 run to extend their lead to 51-43 with 10:43 to go in the game. As the game went back and forth, the Bulldogs used a late 8-0 run to tie the game at 59 apiece with 1:59 to go. TJ Washington converted the go-ahead basket on a driving layup, and the Wolverines led the rest of the way. Baylee Steele slammed home the exclamation point off a pass ahead from Toolson to seal the game.
Utah Valley shot 46.2 percent from the field while holding Fresno State to a season-low 34 percent. The 60 points scored by the Bulldogs is also a season low. The Wolverines dominated the paint, outscoring the home team, 40-14. Ben Nakwaasah and Conner Toolson led UVU with six rebounds apiece, while Isaiah White added three steals.Comment on this story
"This non-conference schedule has been really hard and the way our guys have responded as a team and what they have brought from themselves is really special," said Pope. "We identified this as the hardest three-game stretch on our entire schedule. Fresno State is the highest ranked team on our schedule, and then we know how hard it is to go to Grand Canyon and our arch nemesis Cal State Bakersfield. We're going to celebrate this win, and then we're going to hit it hard on Monday."
The Wolverines begin WAC play on the road, traveling to Phoenix to take on Grand Canyon on Jan. 3, at 6 p.m. MT. The road trip continues at CSU Bakersfield on Jan. 5, before returning home to face Seattle U.