OREM, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It was about as devastating loss as you could have. The Utah Valley basketball team blew a 23-point lead to Southern Utah in the WAC Tournament semifinals, getting beat on a 4-point play in the final seconds, ending their NCAA Tournament hopes.
The pain from that game was brutal.
“It was a disappointing loss for sure,” said head coach Mark Madsen. “There wasn’t much to say in the locker room after that game. We were all crushed. The biggest thing is we didn’t dive into it that night. We didn’t dive into it the next day. We’ll dive into it in the off-season. Was there a little hangover? Absolutely. But it lasted about 36 hours. But this group is so resilient and they love basketball so much, that it is just onward and upward.”
UVU gathered itself after the WAC regular season champions earned its second NIT bid in school history. The Wolverines went on the road and beat New Mexico and Colorado, two tough places to play, to reach the NIT quarterfinals against Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“For us, when the ball moves, we are hard to beat,” Madsen said. “So when that ball is moving and we’re knocking down shots, we’re going to be hard to beat. The ball was moving really well at New Mexico, and the ball was moving well in Boulder.”
Because of renovations to Cincinnati’s arena, the mighty Bearcats will have come to Orem tomorrow night. Teams of Cincinnati’s prestige don’t come to the UCCU too often, so this will be a special type of atmosphere.
“To have a program in terms of the stature of Cincinnati, the tradition of Cincinnati coming into the UCCU, it’s going to be an unbelievable environment,” Madsen said. “I know it’s going to be a phenomenal atmosphere. People are going to be driving in here from hundreds of miles, I believe and I hope, to see this game.”
If UVU wins, they will go to the NIT Final Four, which is being played in Las Vegas for the first time rather than Madison Square Garden.
“That would be a fantastic experience and opportunity for our players,” Madsen said. “Obviously the proximity to Utah, there’s going to be fans of ours streaming down into the Orleans Arena if we’re fortunate to get there.”
Utah Valley and Cincinnati will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night.