UVU junior guard Maria Carvalho made it clear in Wednesday’s post-game teleconference that she is a fiery competitor, one who pushes herself and her team to get the job done.
“I personally always have so much energy and I just wanted to beat whoever we were going to play,” Carvalho said. “I didn’t care who it was. I was going for the win.”
While anyone can say those words, Carvalho backed them up with action, particularly in the early going of UVU’s WAC tournament first round game against Chicago State.
She scored 10 of the first 14 points for the Wolverines as UVU built a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back, rolling past the Cougars, 61-43.
“We’re here to win, not just to play,” Carvalho said. “We’re trying to get as many wins as we can and trying to get a ring. I think that today wasn’t our best game but we got the win and that’s the most important thing.”
Wolverine head coach Dan Nielson lauded Carvalho’s early contribution as it helped his team seize control of the contest.
“I thought she really set the tone today,” Nielson said. “I thought she was aggressive. I thought she was really good defensively. Building that lead early I think was huge. I thought she made up for a couple of other things that weren’t going our way and that’s what a team’s about.”
He pointed to what junior guard Madison Grange was able to do off the bench as she came in and tallied 13 points including three 3-pointers. She was second on the team in scoring, only behind Carvalho’s 15 points.
“I thought Madison Grange had a huge game today with 13 points in 23 minutes,” Nielson said. “I thought Megan Jensen played some big minutes for us. That’s when you know you have a solid team and why I love coaching these guys. It’s not the same people every week. Every night different people can step up and help you to get a win. That’s what it’s all about.”
There were some questions about how UVU got sloppy with the ball (21 turnovers) and gave up too many offensive rebounds to Chicago State (16).
While Nielson knows those need to be addressed, part of the reason for those failures was because the Wolverines led by double digits for the final three quarters and also because Nielson substituted liberally to try to keep his players fresh.
“Maybe we haven’t played as many games this year but we’re getting deeper into the season and we have been practicing as much as we can since June,” Nielson said. “That starts to wear on you. We have a couple of kids with bumps and bruises and some injuries. There’s no question that we were trying to get some more people some minutes to maybe cut down on other people’s minutes. There’s no question we did that tonight and I thought some people stepped up and did well. When you want to play three games in four days, you have to have more than just five or six people.”
He looks forward to seeing his squad continue to succeed as the tournament progresses.
I think the thing for us is just our expectations,” Nielson said. “That’s why I’m so proud of our team this year. We’ve got to 13-5, so in just 18 games this year we have more wins than all of last year. We finished second in the league for the second time ever and the other time was last year. We’re playing pretty well. There’s always things to work on but the name of the game is winning basketball games and I’m really proud of our group for how far we’ve come since last year.”
With the win the Wolverines advance to the WAC tournament semifinals, which will be held 3 p.m. MT Friday.
UVU will face either No. 3-seed Grand Canyon or No. 6 seed UT-Rio Grande Valley, depending on who wins late Wednesday night.