Utah Valley loses in WAC Tournament semifinals to Grand Canyon


LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Valley University men’s basketball team fell behind by 18 early then stormed back to make it a four-point game, but eventually fell to Grand Canyon, 75-60, in the semifinals of the WAC tournament on Friday night at Orleans Arena.
As is stands, UVU’s record is 22-10 on the sesaon. Despite the loss, the Wolverines outscored GCU in the paint 36-26. Utah Valley also grabbed eight steals to Grand Canyon’s four and scored 12 second-chance points while holding GCU to nine.
“I was really proud of my guys tonight. They really battled, fought and stayed together through the whole game. We just couldn’t get over the hump,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “We have big time young men that have been through a lot in their lives. They’re incredibly resilient and have bounced back from more things than most of us could even experience. They showed it tonight and they showed it all season long. I love these young men so much.”
The game began with a fast pace as Grand Canyon jumped out to an early 9-4 lead with Utah Valley struggling to find its stroke from the field to open things up. Jerrelle DeBerry then came off the bench after the first media timeout and put together a three-point play for the Wolverines. The Antelopes answered with four-consecutive 3-pointers.
By the time a DeBerry layup ended GCU’s run, the Lopes had built an 18-point lead. DeBerry would then knock down a three on the next possession. UVU continued trying to chip away, and an alley-oop from Brandon Randolph to Akolda Manyang gave it some energy.
A late 9-4 burst from the Wolverines trimmed the deficit down to 12, but Grand Canyon carried a 41-27 lead into halftime. DeBerry’s eight points led Utah Valley in the first half while Manyang and Kenneth Ogbe added six apiece. Zach Nelson also came off the bench to pull down six rebounds in the half. The Lopes knocked down 54.8 percent of their shots for the half, including a 62.5 percent clip from distance.
Manyang opened the second half for UVU by throwing down a dunk and laying in another basket, but GCU continued to hit shots and hold its lead. At the 15-minute mark the Wolverines were finally able to string together a run and dropped in 10-straight points to make it a seven-point game. The Lopes put in a couple of baskets, but Utah Valley continued to grind away and a Manyang layup narrowed to margin to four.
Grand Canyon was able to claim some breathing room with three makes from the charity stripe as its lead grew back to seven. The Lopes then turned their momentum into a 9-3 spurt and extended the margin to nine points heading into the final media timeout of the game. Utah Valley got the deficit down to eight multiple times but was unable to draw any closer as time expired.
Manyang led the way for the Wolverines on an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double, his seventh of the season. Ogbe added 12 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and two steals. Randolph was the final Wolverine in double figures with 10 points, a rebound and two assists. DeBerry added eight points and three rebounds off the bench.
Utah Valley will now await word on possible postseason tournament invitations. Last season, UVU was invited to the College Basketball Invitational where it won two games and advanced to the final four.

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