OREM — By the time the final buzzer sounded Saturday, the 271 fans in attendance at the McKay Center to watch the Utah Valley State women's basketball team take on Fresno State had worked themselves into a frenzied state much more characteristic of March Madness than a late-November regular season contest.
The reason for the jubilation: the Wolverines (1-2) notched the biggest win of their brief Division I existence by defeating the Bulldogs (2-2) 72-64.
"It feels good, really good," UVSC coach Cathy Nixon said. "We haven't arrived yet, but I think it was a big win for us. As far as the Division I wins we've had, I think this is definitely the biggest. Fresno State played postseason last year—they got an NIT bid—and they're a very good team."
Sophomore guard Rebekah Fales came off the bench to lead Utah Valley with 17 points, with all of her scoring coming in the game's final 21 minutes.
UVSC led 19-14 with seven minutes left in the first half. Fresno State, though, seized control of the game with an 11-0 run. With a 25-19 lead and an enormous amount of momentum, the Bulldogs appeared on the verge of a blowout victory.
But to the rescue came Fales. Despite having missed her first six field goal attempts, she hit two shots in the final minute of the first half to quell the Fresno run. A 3-pointer by Fales as time expired sent the Wolverines into the locker room with a 27-26 halftime lead.
It was a seesaw battle in the second half. When Fales rebounded her own miss and sank a bank shot with 2:23 to go, UVSC led 62-60. UVSC won the game by making eight straight free throws in the final minute and swarming Amy Parrish, the Bulldogs' top scorer, every time she touched the ball.
A Parrish put-back basket with 18 seconds left brought Fresno to within 68-64, but UVSC forward Miriam Palkki drained four free throws for the 72-64 final score.
For the game, the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Wolverines 61-40, but UVSC made 21 free throws to Fresno State's six. Both teams shot 36 percent from the field.
Palkki and Sandy Marvin each added 13 points for the Wolverines.
UVSC returns to the court Tuesday, hosting Westminster .