On Wednesday night, it was a tale of two halves in Denver, CO for both the Utah Valley Wolverines and the Denver Pioneers.
The first half was all about the Pioneers, as they were able to take a 21-point lead into halftime, at 54-33. In the second half, it was all about the comeback for the Wolverines.
Utah Valley began chipping away from start of the second half, and took a lead of their own with just 3:58 left in the game.
After a missed three pointer from Brandon Randolph that would have all but sealed the game for the Wolverines, Isaac Neilson grabbed the offensive rebound, forcing Denver to foul. Jordan Poydras hit both free throws, putting the Wolverines up by four with nine seconds on the clock.
Three players scored in double-figures for Utah Valley, and the Wolverines clawed their way back from a 21-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Pioneers, 88-85.
In the first half, Denver stretched their lead to as many as 27 points. With under a minute to play in the opening half, Abiola Akintola got a layup to fall that gave the Pioneers at 54-27 lead.
Utah Valley cut the deficit down to 21 before the buzzer, as Poydras scored five points in the final 23 seconds to get the Wolverines into the break with a shot of momentum.
As the second half opened, they would slowly build off the momentum that Poydras created, gradually chipping away at the lead.
With 3:58 to play in the game, their comeback was complete. Poydras connected on a three pointer, giving the Wolverines their first lead since early in the first half, at 76-75.
Joe Rosga would respond shortly thereafter for the Pioneers, completing an and-one play to put Denver back up by two.
Back and forth the teams would go down the stretch. The Wolverines would open up a five-point lead, but a pair of free throws from Rosga cut the lead down to a single point with 41 seconds to play.
Unlike the Wolverines, the Pioneers were unable to complete the comeback.
After Randolph missed a three pointer with 16 seconds left, Neilson grabbed the rebound, forcing Denver to foul. Poydras hit a pair of free throws to give the Pioneers a three point lead. Rosga hit one of two for Denver shortly thereafter, but Kenneth Ogbe answered with a free throw of his own in the closing seconds to put the game on ice.
Utah Valley found their groove in the second half, eliminating their 21-point halftime deficit with 3:58 to play in the game, and they held on down the stretch for the 88-85 win over the Denver Pioneers on Wednesday night.
In the win, the Wolverines had three players score in double figures. Kenneth Ogbe scored a game-high 28 points, while going 7-of-10 from the field for the night. Jordan Poydras came off the bench to add 23 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
Zach Nelson was the third player in double figures for Utah Valley, recording 18 points and 5 rebounds.
Not to be outdone, the Pioneers also had three players in double figures on the night. Sophomore guard Joe Rosga led the way once again for Denver, scoring a team-high 23 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He finished the game shooting just 1-of-5 from three point range.
Daniel Amigo recorded a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, while C.J. Bobbitt chipped in with 15 points in the loss.
With the win, the Utah Valley Wolverines (3-1, 0-0) have won three straight games after a season-opening loss against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They will look to make it four straight on Saturday afternoon when they take on the BYU Cougars.
The loss for the Denver Pioneers (1-2, 0-0) was their second straight at home to open the season. However, they’re 1-0 on the road, and will look to nab their second road win of the year on Saturday afternoon, when they visit the Eastern Washington Eagles.
– T. Bennett