UVU knocks off Seattle, earns 2-seed in WAC Tournament

(Marcela Olsen, UVU Athletics)

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OREM — It was a must-win game for the Utah Valley Wolverines on Saturday night in the UCCU Center. First off, it was Senior Night for six seniors/graduate students. Second off, a win meant securing the two-seed in the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas.

Mission accomplished.

Conner Toolson had a game-high 17 points and graduate transfer Kenneth Ogbe had 13 to lead the Wolverines to an impressive 73-47 win over Seattle on Saturday night.

"Couldn't be any more proud of our guys," UVU head coach Mark Pope said. "We knew this was going to be a really tough game. In every sense of the word, it felt like a 'tournament' game except that it was at home. It was really crucial for seeding ... and they had really beat us up at their place."

With the win, UVU goes into the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas as the two-seed where they will play either UMKC or CSU Bakersfield on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. MT in the Orleans Arena.

In a must-win game for both teams, things got off to a rocky start. Seattle and UVU combined to go 3-of-10 from the field and committed seven turnovers at the first media timeout.

However, the pace picked up and UVU used a 9-2 run to jump out to a 17-10 lead with 11:20 to play in the first half.

The Wolverines went on another 11-5 run to end the first half capped off by an alley-oop lob from Ben Nakwaasah to Akolda Manyang as UVU took a 31-20 lead into the halftime locker room.

In the second half, UVU put the clamps down and came out on fire. The Wolverines went on a quick 4-0 spurt and forced an early Redhawk timeout.

Toolson had the big play of the game for the Wolverines in the second half as he led the WAC in steals at 1.5 per game. With 12:22 to play, Toolson stripped Morgan Means and threw down the two-handed dunk to give UVU a 43-26 lead.

Former Weber State star Richaud Gittens responded with a monster, one-handed dunk for Seattle, but it was just a little bit too late.

Toolson hit another 3-pointer to make it 48-30 with just over 10 minutes to play.

From there, things went back and forth until Brandon Randolph scored five straight points that pushed the lead to 25 points with 5:39 left to play.

UVU improves to 21-9 overall and 10-4 in WAC play. The Wolverines also finished the season on a 13-game, home winning streak and finished 14-1 at the UCCU Center.

"That's the stuff you dream about when you grow up playing," Ogbe said. "You want to have your Senior Night. You want to have all your family walking out to the court with you. It was a great feeling."

Prior to the game UVU honored its six seniors/graduated graduate students. Brandon Randolph, Kenneth Ogbe, Jerrelle DeBerry, Akolda Manyang, Zach Nelson and Isaac Neilson were all honored. The even better stat is that all six seniors scored a point in their final home game.

"I enjoyed it, I had fun," Randolph said. "I'm happy we came away with a victory."

Next up for the Wolverines is a rematch of the four overtime thriller from the 2017 WAC Tournament semifinals against CSU Bakersfield. The Roadrunners beat the Wolverines 81-80.

"When you get to the tournament, all the past records you just throw out the window," Pope said. "Go figure ... that it would be Bakersfield. This Rod Barnes is so good and he terrifies me and their team is really, really tough and they play really, really hard ... and it's going to be a bloodbath." Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias

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