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UVU basketball: Utah Valley set for road tests at Boise State, Weber State this week

With half the non-conference season already gone, Utah Valley University hits the road for its second road trip of the 2013-14 season. The Wolverines head to Boise State for a 5:30 p.m. tip at Taco Bell Arena on Thursday before returning to Utah for a meeting with in-state rival Weber State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

At 1-6 on the young season, UVU enters the week having dropped its last five contests. The Wolverines went 0-2 in their recent home stand, dropping an 80-66 decision to Northern Arizona just two days after falling in an 87-84 footrace with Sacramento State. Utah Valley led at halftime of both games and held leads late in the second half, but both contests saw the Wolverines go cold over the final stretch.

True freshman Rhaiah Spooner-Knight, who got her first two starts of the season last week, led UVU in scoring over its brief home stand. The forward from New Zealand scored a season-best 23 points against Sacramento State and was just one rebound short of a double-double with nine. Spooner-Knight tallied another 10 points in the NAU game, giving her 16.5 ppg last week. For the season, Spooner-Knight is averaging 8.0 ppg.

Sophomore guard Katie Kuklok continues to lead the Wolverines in scoring at 19.7 ppg — the third-highest mark in the WAC. Kuklok currently ranks 11th in the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage (51.9), third in free-throw percentage (96.0) and second in 3-pointers made per game (4.0).

Junior Tina Doughty is the only other Wolverine averaging double figures. The New Mexico transfer is scoring at an 11.7 ppg clip and put up 12 points against Northern Arizona on Saturday.

In Boise State, UVU will be facing its second Mountain West Conference opponent of the season after falling to Nevada in the season opener, 79-67. The Broncos enter the week at 3-3 overall and have alternated losses and wins since dropping their first game to Southern Utah. Included in their three wins are two victories over non-DI opponents (Lewis-Clark State and College of Idaho) and, most recently, a 72-70 triumph against Idaho State on Friday.

After losing five letterwinners last season and seeing its two seniors go down with injuries prior to the start of the season, Boise State has utilized what is one of the youngest starting lineups in the country. Three sophomores and two true freshmen will take the floor for Boise State, led by forward and South Jordan, Utah, native Miquelle Askew. The 6-foot-3 sophomore is averaging a team-best 14.2 points per game and is pulling down 7.2 boards per contest. Another sophomore forward, Lexie Der, is next at 13.0 ppg and is stride-for-stride with Askew at 7.2 rpg.

"It's always a tough game up at Boise," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "They always provide a challenge for us. Hopefully we can step up and compete after having things not go our way over the last couple games."

Utah Valley is just 2-7 all-time against Boise State and has dropped the last four meetings. The last time the Wolverines emerged victorious against the Broncos was Nov. 29, 2008. That 73-70 win was also the last time UVU came away with a win at Taco Bell Arena.

Meanwhile, Weber State enters the week off a 75-55 loss at San Diego on Sunday — a setback that dropped the Wildcats to 3-3 on the year. Four players average in double figures for Weber State, led by Jalen Carpenter's 11.5 ppg. Carpenter is also the leading rebounder at 7.3 boards per outing. Not far behind on the scoring list is Regina Okoye (11.4 ppg), Desiree Ramos (11.2 pgg) and Amanda Hughes (10.7 ppg). Ramos is second in the Big Sky in assists at 5.0 per game.

With a 107-25 win over Walla Walla to open the season, Weber State snapped its 48-game losing streak that had dated back to the 2011-12 season. Furthermore, its 81-69 victory against Air Force on Nov. 26 gave the Wildcats their first win over a DI opponent in over 50 games.

"Weber State is a very athletic team and a very hungry team," Nixon said. "We'll need to match that with good, fundamental basketball. It's another game on the road where we'll need to battle."

UVU has an active streak of three consecutive wins over Weber State and leads 5-3 in the in-state series that dates back to 2004. The Wolverines are also just 2-2 in WSU's Dee Events Center. The Wildcats stand as the fourth of five UVU non-conference opponents from the Big Sky Conference after the Wolverines' last three came against Southern Utah, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. The only remaining Big Sky representative on the schedule comes in Idaho State on Dec. 20.

Following Saturday's contest at Weber State, the Wolverines face another local foe in Pac-12 member Utah. Utah Valley will make the short trip to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 11 for a 7 p.m. tip at the Huntsman Center. From there, UVU returns home for a Saturday contest against Santa Clara.

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