LONG BEACH — Utah Valley point guard Blaze Nield has been a game manager since transferring from BYU prior to the 2020-21 season. The assist-to-turnover ratio has been key at nearly 3-1. And Nield doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. And on Wednesday night in Southern California, Nield also showed he can put the ball in the basket, especially when it counts.
Nield hit a game-tying jumper with four seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. And in the overtime period, Nield hit a pair of 3-pointers, one of which gave UVU the lead for good, to help UVU knock off Long Beach State, 84-78.
“I was looking at Blaze Nield,” UVU head coach Mark Madsen said. “He had double hip surgery over the offseason. And it was a big decision for him and his wife and his family. He came back a month early because he works. He’s diligent. He studies the game. He cares about basketball. And all of that work Blaze has been doing day after day showed forth itself tonight.”
Nield finished with a career-high 19 points on 8-11 from the field including 3-4 from deep. Teammate and reigning WAC Player of the Year Fardaws Aimaq had another monster game. ‘Big Maple’, as he is known, had 25 points and 16 rebounds in the win.
Connor Harding had another solid game for the Wolverines. Harding had 16 points and was 3-6 from beyond the arc. And Le’Tre Darthard had 10 points.
With the game all tied up at 74 after a pair of Aimaq free throws, Joe Hampton hit a jumper in the lane to give The Beach a 76-74 lead with 1:43 to play. Enter Blaze Nield. The junior guard hit a 3-pointer from the right win that gave UVU a 77-76 lead. Long Beach State came right back with another bucket. But, once again, Nield came up big with another 3-pointer that gave the Wolverines the lead for good.
“It came down to the wire,” Nield said. “But, I think the toughest team won. And we proved that. We fought hard and got stops down the stretch. And we gutted another win out. So, we’re excited.”
Aimaq and Justin Harmon went 4-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch of overtime to seal the win. It is the second straight game UVU has had to come from behind to win in overtime. The Wolverines beat Pepperdine on Monday night, 86-74, in overtime.
The Wolverines improve to 3-1 overall. Next up is a trip back to California to finish up the SoCal Challenge. The Wolverines will take on Idaho on Monday afternoon and follow that up against either Cal Poly or Nicholls State on Wednesday.