LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The mantra of the UVU men's basketball team has been to "Shock the World" in the 2016-17 season. It started the season doing that by defeating crosstown foe BYU in the program's biggest win to date.
On Thursday night in the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where a Western Athletic Conference team has never won, the Wolverines shocked the world again.
Ivory Young and Kenneth Ogbe scored 16 points each, Brandon Randolph chipped in 15 points and Jordan Poydras finished with 14 points to lead UVU to an 84-72 win over the Aggies. It ended New Mexico State's 40-game conference home winning streak that dates back to Jan. 26, 2012.
"This is literally a historic win for us," said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope. "I'm really proud of our guys. We have been grinding for a long time and we've had all kinds of different holes in our books. Sometimes we really struggle to make a shot, but the whole time my guys have come to practice every day ready to compete and battle. They are still really receptive to everything we are trying to teach to them.
"This game is a really special thing and when you stick with it with ... determination and stick with it with your team, the game rewards you, and it did to us tonight. I'm really happy for these guys."
In a season that not many in the UVU locker room anticipated, the Wolverines have really struggled to close out games. If you look at their conference games, they have been in every game or had a lead in the second half, but have struggled to close out the win.
This same struggle happened on Jan. 28 in Orem. UVU led by four over New Mexico State with just over two minutes to play but didn't execute down the stretch and the Aggies won their 18th-straight game.
On Thursday night, in the Pan Am Center, it was an entirely different story. Trailing 52-50 with 13:02 to play, UVU went on a 19-0 run over the next 6:17 to take a 69-52 lead with 6:45 to play in the game. UVU junior guard Randolph scored eight of his 15 points during the run, including a pair of 3-pointers. Young and Ogbe each hit a 3-pointer during the run, and UVU never looked back.
Ogbe and Randolph made sure there was no comeback and no let-down in the final five minutes as they combined to score the final 15 points of the game to seal what might be considered the biggest conference win under second-year head coach Pope.
"We were just not very good," New Mexico State head coach Paul Weir said. "We lost to a better team tonight."
Currently, UVU sits in sixth place in the WAC standings at 4-8 and has two games left. On Saturday, the Wolverines will be at UTRGV and then they finish the regular season on March 4 at home in Orem when they host Seattle University.
As it stands now, UVU is on pace to play UMKC in the first round of the WAC tournament in Las Vegas that begins March 9.
One thing is certain for UVU men's basketball: When they finish out a game strong and decide they want to play to win rather than play not to lose, they can play with anyone in the WAC. Thursday night in Las Cruces was evidence of that.
Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. He is a communication major at UVU and will graduate in the spring of 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias