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UVU basketball: second-half cold spell bites UVU women against Nevada

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OREM — Utah Valley University paid the price for an offensive drought midway through the second half, falling to Nevada in the season opener, 79-67, on Friday in the UCCU Center.

"I thought there were a couple of different segments that really made the difference. In the first half, when they had a few of their top players bench and in that stretch when they zoned us in the second half," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "We had some good looks but they just didn't fall. That's what kind of swung the game in the other direction."

In her first game as a Wolverine, Katie Kuklok connected on six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Tina Doughty added 22 and set a new school record, hitting 16 free throws and tying a school record with 18 attempts.

Kuklok's fourth trey of the contest put the Wolverines in front, 47-45, with 12:40 still showing in the second half. But that was the last make from the field the Wolverines would see for over eight minutes as a cold spell set in offensively.

During the drought, Nevada pieced together a 16-3 run and grabbed a 61-50 lead before Kuklok ended the drought with a layup. But the Wolf Pack was able to hold off a late comeback effort over the final minutes.

It was a nip and tuck first half that saw nine ties, six lead changes and ended in a 37-37 tie. Kuklok and Doughty both had 10 points at the break to lead the Wolverines.

An emphasis throughout all of NCAA basketball on enforcing the hand checking and the block/charge rule made for a foul-plagued contest. A combined 30 fouls were whistled in the first half alone, more than the 29.7 combined per game average of Utah Valley games from a season ago. For the game, there were 52 fouls called — 28 on Nevada and 24 on Utah Valley.

Rhaiah Spooner-Knight scored nine points in her first career game, seven of which came in the first half. Kyra Prause led UVU with eight rebounds.

"I was really encouraged by tonight's game," Nixon said. "Nevada provided some personnel challenges for us but I was pleased with how the kids came out and competed. On the defensive end we made a handful of mistakes that we know we need to improve on, but overall I thought we played pretty well."

Mimi Mungedi led the Wolf Pack with 15 points and also clogged the middle defensively, registering four blocks and grabbing eight boards. Nyasha Lesure had a game-high nine rebounds for Nevada.

In setting Utah Valley's single game record for made free throws at 16, Doughty took 18 shots at the foul line. That figure eclipsed Doughty's total from last season when she went 11-of-17 for the year.

UVU was limited to 27.1 percent from the field (16-59), while the Wolf Pack shot 43.5 percent (27-62) and controlled the rebounding margin at 45-37.

The Wolverines are back on the court Saturday with a 7 p.m. tip against Walla Walla. That game will be at the PE Building.

Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.