Utah Valley University (20-12) at Weber State (24-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 13, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Events Center (11,500) -- Ogden, Utah. Television: None. NIT Record: Utah Valley University 0-0, Weber State 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: Making their first postseason appearance as a Division I program, the Wolverines of Utah Valley University are set to contend against the Weber State Wildcats in the first round of the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker, an alumnus of Weber State himself from 1977 and who also served as an assistant coach for the Wildcats under Neil McCarthy, was able to guide the Wolverines to a very successful 9-1 mark against the rest of the Great West Conference, but the squad lost the final game of the regular season to North Dakota by a single point, 57-56, and then was bounced from the conference tournament by NJIT in overtime on March 9 by a score of 88-78.
As for the Wildcats, the team with the best winning percentage of any school in the tournament this season, the team went right down to the wire in the Big Sky Conference, challenging for the regular-season title against Montana in the final game, but the squad was turned away in a 66-51 setback. WSU was able to rebound and capture a 69-63 victory versus Portland State in the conference tournament, but on March 7 the run came to an end as the Wildcats lost to the Grizzlies for the second time in barely a week, 85-66.
With both teams hailing from the same state it only makes sense that they've already faced off against each other previously and enter this contest locked at two games apiece in the all-time series. Weber State, which is in this tournament for the first time just like the Wolverines, won both of the games played at home during the series, the most recent of those being a 69-62 triumph in December of 2005.
The winner of this meeting will advance to the next round to face an opponent to be determined.
Utah Valley, which split a pair of games during the regular season against other members of the Big Sky, leans heavily on the starters as four of them score in double figures for a program that is putting up 69.9 ppg this season. Isiah Williams cranked out 16.1 ppg as he made good on a team-best 78 three- pointers, followed by Holton Hunsaker (10.7 ppg) who accounted for another 56 triples which means the rest of the roster combined for a mere 47 three-point baskets. The pair also combined for 181 of the team's 431 assists as well, with Hunsaker trying to make up for his mere 32.1 percent shooting from the floor by posting 53 steals at the other end of the floor. Ben Aird (10.3 ppg) and Geddes Robinson (10.3 ppg) handled the action in the paint for the Wolverines, with Robinson emerging as one of the best rebounders in the state with 10.4 rpg. Defensively, UVU limited the competition to only 29.7 percent accuracy beyond the arc over 32 games.
Most of the attention on the floor for the Wildcats falls on Damian Lillard, the nation's second-leading scorer with his 24.5 ppg which just so happens to also be the best single-season average in Weber State history. The Big Sky Conference MVP, Lillard is one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award and is also a candidate for both the John Wooden and Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Awards as well. A three-time All-Big Sky First-Team selection, Lillard not only shot 42.5 percent from three-point range and 88.3 percent at the free-throw line, he also found opportunities to pace the program in assists and steals with 121 and 45, respectively, and clear 5.1 rpg as well. Taking some of the pressure off Lillard is Scott Bamforth (14.5 ppg) who often finds himself with room to shoot from the perimeter where he is 40.1 percent accurate. In the paint it is Kyle Tresnak (10.2 ppg) and Darin Mahoney (6.3 rpg), the latter opting to focus more on rebounding than his own scoring.
Even though these teams haven't met in a number of years, there's bound to be some familiarity between them which should make for a good story. However, as great as it would be to see a squad like the Wolverines deliver a postseason win, trying to stop Lillard is something few teams have been able to figure out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Weber State 79, Utah Valley University 66
03/13 10:43:09 ET