Idaho (15-17) vs. Utah Valley (20-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 14, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Idaho 7-6, Utah Valley 13-2. Away Record: Idaho 5-10, Utah Valley 7-8. Neutral Record: Idaho 3-1, Utah Valley 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 7-9, Utah Valley 13-3. Series Record: Utah Valley leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: A spot in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title game is up for grabs, as the Utah Valley Wolverines clash with the Idaho Vandals in the semifinals of the 31st annual event at Orleans Arena.
Both squads were in action on Thursday in the quarterfinals, with top-seeded Utah Valley having an easy time of it against eighth-seeded Texas-Pan American, 83-63, as the Wolverines set a tournament record with a staggering 70.5 percent shooting from the floor. The victory for Utah Valley was the fourth in a row and the sixth in the last seven outings for a program that is one of many new to the WAC this season.
As for the fifth-seeded Vandals, they're one of the more established programs in the conference, along with New Mexico State, but coming into this year's tourney the team had won just one of nine decisions in the event. Idaho was able to improve on that record slightly with a 73-70 victory against UMKC on Thursday afternoon. It was the second win in as many games for the Vandals versus the Kangaroos in a span of less than a week.
The Wolverines won both regular-season meetings with Idaho, the first two matchups ever between the squads, posting a 71-66 victory in Moscow in January and then taking a narrow 89-88 decision at home a month later.
The winner here will move into the title game against the winner of the CS- Bakersfield/New Mexico State meeting.
In a game that featured eight ties and 19 lead changes, the Vandals led by as many as eight points with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, yet had to hold on down the stretch for the win against UMKC yesterday. Stephen Madison absolutely dominated play all over the floor as he registered a double-double consisting of 26 points and 17 rebounds, both of which were game highs. Madison converted all 11 of his attempts at the free-throw line and 3- of-5 behind the 3-point line. Sekou Wiggs and Glen Dean were huge off the bench as they contributed 18 and 14 points, respectively, the latter tying for the team high with six assists.
In addition to limiting the Kangaroos, a 10-win team this season, to just three offensive rebounds, the Vandals also outscored UMKC by a 27-16 margin at the free-throw line.
UTPA may have held a lead of three points about two minutes into the meeting with the Wolverines, but that was before the latter went on an absolute tear from the floor, shooting a mind-boggling 80 percent through the first 20 minutes, including 7-of-9 behind the 3-point line. Utah Valley led by a 51-25 score at the break and continued to light up the scoreboard with 57.9 percent from the floor in the second half of the onslaught.
On the way to setting a new program record for shooting from the field in a half at the Division I level, Holton Hunsaker led the charge with 24 points and seven assists, followed by Mitch Bruneel and Keawe Enos with 18 and 12 points, respectively. Ben Aird chipped in eight points and cleared a game-high 13 rebounds, nearly matching all of UTPA's efforts on the glass (14 rebounds), before fouling out. With his rebounding effort, Aird became the first player in program history to eclipse 1,000 rebounds for his career.
If the Wolverines are expecting a repeat of their incredible effort on Thursday they are sorely mistaken. Granted, Utah Valley is a very talented team, but Madison and the rest of the Vandals might see this as a golden opportunity to finally make a name for themselves in the WAC.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho 72, Utah Valley 67
03/14 10:39:29 ET