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Utah Valley will look to NIT now after loss in WAC semifinals

SHARE Utah Valley will look to NIT now after loss in WAC semifinals

LAS VEGAS – Although Utah Valley’s hopes of playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament are shot because of Friday night’s loss to Idaho in the WAC semifinals, the Wolverines are eligible to play in the National Invitational Tournament by virtue of winning the WAC regular-season title.

“Our kids will refocus and regroup and look at that as an opportunity to get to play again,’’ said UVU coach Dick Hunsaker. “It’s a pretty special deal to look ahead to be able to play in the NIT. We get a chance to play and it will be a high-level opponent.’’

The NIT pairings will come out Sunday night and games could start as early as Tuesday and first-round games will be played the next two days. Most likely the Wolverines will play on the road and it’s possible they could play at the University of Utah, which is expecting to host a first-round NIT game.

“We’re extremely proud of our season and the opportunity to play in the NIT is more than we ever hoped for,’’ said Holton Hunsaker.

EX-UTE PART OF VICTORY: Idaho guard Glen Dean played for Utah last year after transferring from Eastern Washington. Because he had graduated, after sitting out a year, he was able to transfer without losing any eligibility.

He didn’t start Friday, but played 28 minutes and scored six points with three rebounds, an assist and a steal

Last year at Utah, Dean started 21 games and averaged 5.5 points per game. This year, he started 19 of 29 games and was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.3 ppg, and second in assists at 2.5 per game.

FORMER AGGIE: Idaho coach Don Verlin was a longtime assistant to Stew Morrill at Utah State for 10 years and for four years at Colorado State. This is his sixth season as the head coach at Idaho. His twin brother, Ron, is head coach at Pacific.

He called Friday’s victory “bittersweet” because the Vandals are moving to the Big Sky Conference next season.