It was a good old fashioned shootout at the UCCU Center on Saturday between Utah Valley and the University of Wyoming. A game with an over/under of 146 lived up to its billing and hit the over with 5:59 still left in the contest. And in a shootout, records are bound to fall. Just ask Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq who became Utah Valley’s first member of a very elite club.
Both teams shot better than 45 percent from the field and combined for 55 free throw attempts. But in the end it was Hunter Maldonaldo and the Cowboys who came out victorious.
With 45 seconds left, Drake Jeffries put the dagger into Utah Valley’s back. Jeffries hit his sixth 3-pointer to give Wyoming a five-point lead and sealed Utah Valley’s fate.
This was a close contest throughout the whole game as neither team led by more than nine points. Despite how close it was, there were only 11 lead changes. Of those 11 lead changes, nine of them came in the final five minutes. Ultimately though, led by Maldonaldo, Wyoming made the key plays down the stretch to earn a 93-88 win.
Leading the effort for Utah Valley was center Fardaws Aimaq, who became the first 20-20 player at Utah Valley. Aimaq had a monster day with a team-high 27 points and program record 20 rebounds.
Teammates Trey Woodbury knocked in 23 points, and Jordan Brinson set a new career-high with 19 points.
For Wyoming, Maldonado did the majority of the damage for the Cowboys with 33 points. Eight of those points came in the final three minutes to help seal the Cowboys win. Jeffries shot the lights out coming off the bench, knocking down six 3-pointers en route to a 21-point outing.
With the win, Wyoming improves to 5-1 on the season. Utah Valley drops to 2-3, and is yet to pick up a win against a Division I opponent this season. Here are a few headlines that stood out from today’s game.
Record-Setting Game for Fardaws Aimaq
Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq led the nation in rebounds per game heading into Saturday afternoon. Aimaq more than showed us why today with his record setting performance. The Mercer transfer became the first player in program history to record a 20-point / 20-rebound game. In addition to that, Aimaq set the all-time rebound record with 20 rebounds, breaking the previous record of 19 formerly held by Baylee Steele.
“It’s an accomplishment,” Aimaq said. “But, to me, right now, the win is the most important thing for me. I don’t play for stats. I don’t play for accolades, I play to win. And I mean, if we win and I didn’t achieve any of that, I’d be much more happy right now.”
This type of mentality is the right one to have, and shows that the leaders of this team don’t care about individual awards and accomplishments. They just want to win.
Inconsistent Perimeter Play Hurts UVU……Again
Earlier in the week against in-state foe Southern Utah, Utah Valley shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc. In all fairness, Southern Utah didn’t shoot it great either, only shooting it at 33 percent.
And the shooting woes from deep continued on Saturday for Utah Valley.
Against Wyoming, Utah Valley shot it slightly better at 31.3 percent. In addition to the shooting woes, Utah Valley struggled to guard the perimeter; Wyoming knocked down 13 threes on only 25 attempts. And the 3-point shot was the difference on Saturday. Nearly every other stat outside of the 3-point shooting was identical.
Perimeter play on both sides of the court downed the Wolverines this afternoon, and this is something that needs to improve going forward. Getting Le’Tre Darthard and Colby Leifson more looks is a good place to start.
Not at Full Strength
Utah Valley is yet to play a game this season where everyone is fully healthy and able to play. This week, it was starting guard Jamison Overton who was out. His leadership and floor general qualities were missed. But, it was his ability to guard multiple positions that the Wolverines missed the most, especially down the wire of both the Southern Utah and Wyoming games.
Despite his absence, Mark Madsen said that with this team it’s a “next man up” mentality. Madsen was pleased with how others stepped up in Overton’s place, but it’s never easy to replicate the impact of a player like Overton. Madsen is optimistic that Overton will return to the team next week, so with a fully healthy squad, can Utah Valley truly begin to piece things together?
“We’re a no excuse team,” Madsen said. “Obviously, we always want our full roster. But, we’re also a next-man-up team … we miss JJ. We miss him on the court. We miss his leadership and miss his defensive ability. With that being said, I thought that even man that that stepped up tonight took on the mantle.”
Next up for the Wolverines is a quick trip to Salt Lake City to take on instate foe the University of Utah. Wyoming will look to extend their current four game winning streak to five as the Cowboys host Omaha.