The UVU men’s basketball team had only won two games heading into Friday’s WAC opener against Cal Baptist at the UCCU Center in Orem but had shown stretches of brilliance in every contest.
After each game, there were questions about what the Wolverines might look like if they were able to play at a high level for a full game.
It can be pretty impressive, as the visiting Lancers found out.
UVU used a 31-9 run in the first half to turn a small early deficit into a double-digit lead, one the Wolverines never let slip away. UVU ended up pulling away to get the 77-50 win, their biggest win of the year.
“Cal Baptist has a great team,” Wolverine head coach Mark Madsen said. “I hope no one misinterprets the final scorecard because there were a number of factors that went into that but Cal Baptist does a great job. I was pleased with our guys.”
The satisfaction over the lopsided victory, however, was somewhat marred by an incident midway through the second half when UVU guard Jamison Overton and Lancer forward Te’Jon Sawyer got tangled up on a fast break, with Overton going down hard.
Players from both teams came in aggressively, although fortunately it didn’t escalate from a scuffle to a brawl.
After things settled down, two players — UVU center Fardaws Aimaq and Cal Baptist guard Elijah Thomas — were ejected and five other players (two Lancers and three Wolverines) were assessed technical fouls.
Four members of the UVU coaching and training staffs were also ejected because they came on the floor with the intent to prevent the situation from getting ugly.
“The officials — very good officials — studied the tape carefully and they made a determination,” Madsen said. “They made that it was not up for discussion. They made one disqualification per team and issued some technical fouls. But then both teams were able to move forward. These are young student athletes playing an emotional game.”
He said that his staff felt like things could be dangerous for the players and thus they tried to proactively prevent that from happening, but in doing so faced the consequences.
“I would rather our staff err on the side of protecting student athletes than not,” Madsen said. “It was unfortunate that they did step onto the court but at the same time, it was to protect the young men on both teams. It was to help de-escalate it.”
It will be up the WAC to decide if further suspensions are warranted, a decision that will probably be made late Friday night.
Although the situation was unfortunate, it didn’t do anything to slow the impressive way the Wolverines were playing.
Madsen said that the early run UVU put together was made possible by buying in to the program goals.
“Things we talk about in this program are energy, enthusiasm and having an ego,” Madsen said. “When you step out onto the court you’ve got to have an ego in the positive sense of the word, meaning you have to believe that you can make a big-time contribution in a game. I just feel that tonight our defensive execution was there and every offensive execution was there. I credit our guys with staying the course.”
UVU ended up having a balanced scoring night with three players in double figures.
Overton tallied 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Aimaq had 12 points and 14 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action (due to the ejection). Wolverine guard Trey Woodbury added 11 points as well.
Cal Baptist was paced by 14 points from center Gorjok Gak, while guard Tre Armstrong tacked on 11 points.
The two teams will now turn around and face each other again on Saturday evening at the UCCU Center in Orem.
“We had a good, good performance and got good execution tonight, but we need to follow that up with more good execution and another strong performance tomorrow night to be able to have an opportunity to compete for a win,” Madsen said. “Cal Baptist is an explosive team. They know how to win.”
He hopes the teams are able to put the emotional moment of the previous game behind them and focus on just playing basketball.
“That’s always a concern,” Madsen said. “The one thing I do know is that we’ve talked to our players and our players are tremendous student athletes but so are those from Cal Baptist. I know that they’re addressing it internally also. In a perfect world, those types of situations would never happen on the court. But it’s not. There is a human element, there is an emotional element, and I think we can all relate to that in every walk of life.”
The Lancers and the Wolverines are scheduled to tip off the second game of the series Saturday night at 7 p.m.