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Utah Valley women rally for upset victory over CSU Bakersfield in WAC Tournament

LAS VEGAS — The Utah Valley women’s team pulled off a big upset in the first round of the WAC Basketball Tournament with a 59-53 victory over CSU Bakersfield Wednesday night at Orleans Arena.

The Wolverines had lost to the Roadrunners twice already this year and came into the game as the No. 6 seed with a 3-11 league mark and an 8-21 overall record. But after trailing throughout the second half and by as many as seven in the final quarter, they fought back to send the game into overtime, where they outscored their opponents 7-1.

The Wolverines will next play in the semifinals against Seattle Friday at 3:30 p.m. MT. New Mexico State and UMKC play in the other semifinal.

Mariah Seals, a 5-3 junior from Richmond, California, led the way with 22 points, while Sam Lubcke, a 6-1 junior center from Australia, added 19. Taylor Gordon, the team’s leading scorer, struggled much of the night and scored only 10 points, but came up big at the end of regulation, scoring the final four points to force overtime.

“I told the girls I knew we could win this game and they made it happen,” said Cathy Nixon, who's in her 22nd year as UVU head coach. “Every season’s a journey and this one’s been a rocky one in a lot of ways. But these girls stuck together and knew they could win. Tonight I could not be more proud of them.”

CSU Bakersfield, which had finished 10-4 in WAC play and 15-13 overall, were led by senior forward Erika Williams with 21 points, giving her 1,000 points for her career. However, she was held scoreless over the final three minutes of regulation and the entire overtime.

The Wolverines stayed close throughout the first half — tied 12-12 after the first quarter and 28-28 at halftime. However, in the third quarter, they suddenly went cold and made just 2 of their first 9 shots as the Roadrunners pushed out to seven-point lead before settling for a 41-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Seals kept the Wolverines in the game in the fourth quarter, hitting three straight baskets, including a 3-pointer to pull her team within three at 49-46 with 2:43 remaining.

Gordon cut the margin to two, 52-50, with a drive and score with 45 seconds left. At the 21-second mark, the Roadrunners were called with an offensive foul, giving UVU one last chance. Gordon drove up the left side and was fouled with 6.8 seconds left and sank both tries. In overtime Jordan Holland got UVU started with a putback basket and the Wolverines clinched the game with five free throws.

“We knew anything was possible and knew not to give up,” said Lubcke of her team’s comeback win.

In earlier games at the tournament Wednesday, Seattle defeated Chicago State 78-60 and UMKC upset UT Rio Grande 77-69.