Conventional wisdom in college basketball is that the home team has the advantage, since they are used to the arena and are more comfortable.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a team playing at home won’t fall victim to a stretch when the ball just refuses to go in the basket.
That proved to be the undoing of the UVU women’s basketball team Saturday afternoon at the UCCU Center in Orem as the Wolverines struggled to score in the fourth quarter and the visitors from Grand Canyon took advantage.
The Lopes built a big lead and then held off UVU’s late push to get the 66-59 win and hand the Wolverines their second straight defeat.
“It came down to the small things,” UVU head coach Dan Nielson said. “I know it is cliche to say but it is the truth. It was not playing things we guarded well in the first half and taking the easy route. It was a really frustrating game by us. It was probably the worst defensive half we’ve played in a month.”
The two teams jockeyed back and forth for most of the contest but after the Wolverines tied the game at 44-44 on a short jumper by sophomore center Josie Williams to start the final quarter, things started to shift in favor of the visitors.
Grand Canyon started knocking down their shots (making 7-of-14, 50%) while the Wolverines went cold (6-of-17, 35%). The result was a 14-3 Lope run that proved to be too much for UVU to overcome.
“It’s tough when you miss shots,” Nielson said. “Our mantra has been that defense leads to offense but it was probably a little reversed in the second half. We were missing those shots and got a little lax on defense.”
The Wolverines fell behind early in the game as Grand Canyon went up 17-10, but UVU got 10 straight points from sophomore forward Nehaa Sohail to go back in front.
The Wolverines used a big second quarter to take a 32-25 lead at the beginning of the third period but the Lopes rallied with a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of “and-1” 3-point plays.
That set the stage for what looked like an exciting final 10 minutes of basketball until Grand Canyon seized control.
“Credit to them,” Nielson said. “They got hot for a minute and hit some shots, once they got that big lead, we were kind of scrambling. We kind of let the game happen to us for awhile. I was proud of the way they fought at the end but by then it was probably too little, too late.”
UVU had a balanced scoring effort with senior Jordan Holland scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds, while sophomore guard Maria Carvalho had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Sohail finished with 13 points as well.
The Lopes were paced by 16 points from freshman forward Mae Bryant.
Nielson said it was tough to have another game slip away after Thursday’s 55-53 home loss to CSU Bakersfield.
“I think we are at a crossroads right now,” Nielson said. “We won seven games in a row by doing small things. It’s easy to do the small things when you are frustrated with losing. When you start winning, then the question is are you able to continue doing those. We’ve started to cut corners. The good news is that we are still 5-2 in conference and with the way the conference is we are still going to have a chance to win it.”
He said the key for his team to get rolling again is to lock in on the little things.
“We need to get a win,” Nielson said. “We have to get back to the basics. In the first half they wouldn’t have had 25 points if not for offensive rebounds and live-ball turnovers. It’s about staying committed to that and not trying to do things just as individuals.”
The Wolverines next play at Cal Baptist at noon Wednesday.