Utah Valley University ran past St. Katherine on Saturday night, 89-37, behind a balanced offensive output and a defensive effort that limited the Firebirds to just 22.2 percent shooting.
Ben Aird led four players in double figures with 16 points with Hayes Garrity scoring 14, Zach Nelson 13 and Holton Hunsaker 11. Mitch Bruneel had a game-high 10 rebounds and chipped in eight points, Keawe Enos had nine and Brenden Evans finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Aird also blocked four shots and finished with seven boards on a night the Wolverines (3-5) out-rebounded the Firebirds, 49-34. Hunsaker grabbed six rebounds, and he and Enos each had five assists. UVU finished with 21 assists on 29 makes.
“Tonight’s game was certainly what the doctor ordered. I liked the way we came out and we defended and worked,” head coach Dick Hunsaker said. “I’m glad the kids got the feeling of a win and we have a better taste in our mouths after that tough stretch on the road.”
The loss snaps a five-game losing streak, all of which came on the road. UVU moved to 3-0 at home with the win while playing at home for the first time since Nov. 11. The Wolverines raced out quickly, scoring the game’s first eight points on two Aird free throws and consecutive 3-pointers from Enos and Hunsaker. UVU connected on six of its first nine attempts from beyond the arc — Enos hit his first three attempts — and led 21-7 less than seven minutes in after Garrity knocked down a trey.
Nelson hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give Utah Valley a 28-8 lead with eight minutes left in the first half. That shot pushed a Wolverines run to 13-1, which extended to a 20-1 spurt that put UVU up 35-8 with just under five minutes left in the half. The Wolverines eventually went into the break with a 45-13 lead.
Utah Valley limited St. Katherine to just 16.1 percent shooting — just five makes in 31 attempts — and out-rebounded the Firebirds, 31-17, by halftime. UVU hit 7-of-14 from three in the half.
The Wolverines went on a 13-2 run early in the second half with the largest margin coming in the final score on a Cory Cardwell 3-pointer. Eli Robison scored five, and Chad Ross had two points, along with two steals, with all 10 Wolverines to hit the floor scoring.
UVU shot 51.8 percent from the field on the night and also made 11-for-23 from the 3-point line. St. Katherine, an NAIA program, was led by 11 points from Jonathan Wood. The 52-point margin of victory is UVU’s third largest in the program’s NCAA Division I era and biggest since a 65-point win against Warren Wilson College on Jan. 22, 2004.
Utah Valley is now set to play two in-state contests next week starting Wednesday at home against Big Sky favorite Weber State at 7:05 p.m. Saturday the Wolverines will travel to Logan to face Utah State.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.