LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Valley’s hopes of its first bid to the NCAA Tournament ever came crashing down in the WAC Tournament semifinals, as Southern Utah erased a 23-point deficit to shock the Wolverines, 89-88.
Down 23 points with 15:42 in the second half, the T-Birds mounted a furious comeback, capped by a four-point play with five seconds left by Tevian Jones.
Jones drilled a 3-pointer while drawing a foul, then added the game-winning free throw.
Justin Harmon had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but his off-balance lay-up rimmed out.
The win sends the Thunderbirds, the tournaments’ No. 3 seed, into the championship game to face fifth-seeded Grand Canyon Saturday night. The winner earns the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Southern Utah has made the Big Dance only once in school history back in 2001.
Jones led Southern Utah with 20 points, shooting 6 for 15 (3 for 8 from 3-point range) and 5 of 5 from the free throw line for the Thunderbirds (20-11). Harrison Butler added 19 points while going 5 of 11 from the floor, including 1 for 4 from distance, and 8 for 14 from the line, and he also had six rebounds.
Jason Spurgin shot 5 of 9 from the field and 5 for 7 from the line to finish with 15 points, while adding seven rebounds.
Trey Woodbury led the way for the Wolverines (24-7) with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Tim Fuller added 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals for Utah Valley. In addition, Justin Harmon had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Spurgin scored 10 points in the first half and Southern Utah went into the break trailing 41-33. Butler scored a team-high 15 points for Southern Utah in the second half. Southern Utah outscored Utah Valley by nine points over the final half.
Southern Utah, in its inaugural season in the conference, record improved to 22-11 while Utah Valley fell to 25-8 as SUU wins the season series against the Wolverines.
As the WAC regular season champions, UVU is assured of a chance to play in the National Invitational Tournament.