Tshimanga steps up as UVU pulls away from Weber State
With every season trend flipped on its head, why not Nate Tshimanga?
The junior reserve forward entered Tuesday night’s men’s basketball matchup between Utah Valley and Weber State with 11 field goals in eight games this season. For 55 games of his career, the Troy transfer had scored in double digits three times, two of those against non-Division-I opponents.
But Tuesday night, he might as well have been Hakeem Olajuwon.
Tshimanga finished with a career-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and led the Wolverines to a convincing, 70-54 victory at the UCCU Center.
Weber State (4-3) star Dillon Jones drove the lane for a bucket to make the score 45-43 with 14:38 left to play. But Tshimanga finished his career night by sparking a game-winning rally. He first posted up and scored over WSU’s Arnaud Revaz and, on the next possession, put the ball on the deck for a smooth, mini-fadeaway in the paint that dropped cleanly through the cylinder.
That began what became a 17-2 run for Utah Valley (6-3) over the next six minutes. WSU made just two field goals over the next 13 minutes, one of two massive shooting droughts for the Big Sky hopefuls.
Tshimanga’s night came inside the arc, but UVU flipped its team shooting trends as well. The Wolverines entered Tuesday shooting 24.5% from the 3-point line as a team but cashed in 8 of 15 against WSU. Caleb Stone-Carrawell, who led both teams with 19 points, shot 3 of 6 from deep. Jaden McClanahan (who scored 10 points) made both of his deep takes and Tanner Toolson was 2 of 4.
Weber State opened the game shooting 12 of 17 from the field and took a 29-22 lead with 6:50 left in the first half, taking relatively good care of the ball and getting knockdown 3s from Jones, KJ Cunningham and Steven Verplancken Jr.
The Wolverines ramped up their defensive physicality, and to great effect. UVU gladly traded its 16-10 foul disadvantage the rest of the way for the disruption it caused to Weber State’s offense. After a 12-of-17 start, WSU shot 9 of 42 for the final 27 minutes of the contest. Jones shot just 5 of 16 from the floor, leading WSU with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The other flipped trend helped Utah Valley begin its run from the 29-22 deficit. Weber State, which entered Tuesday as the best free-throw-shooting team in the country at 82.5%, missed its first seven takes from the charity stripe and, when its in-character scoring drought hit, those misses caught up when UVU began to force turnovers from the visitors.
Weber State finished 6 of 18 from the free-throw line.
What became a 16-1 run in the first half started when UVU’s Osiris Grady took a steal the distance for a dunk. Trevan Leonhardt scored on a runout and later grabbed a steal that became a Stone-Carrawell dunk. WSU avoided missing 10 straight field goals to end the half when Blaise Threatt nailed a long, lean-back two-pointer at the buzzer and the Wolverines led 38-32 at the break.
Grady added six points and six rebounds for Utah Valley. Toolson scored eight points.
For Weber State, Verplancken scored 11 points in the first half, shooting a red-hot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, but shot 0 of 5 after halftime and finished with 11 points. Blaise Threatt added nine points and Cunningham scored seven. Alex Tew added eight rebounds.
WSU next hosts Cal Poly on Saturday. Utah Valley visits Oregon State on Saturday.