When the Utah Valley Wolverines took the floor at Wisdom Gym on Thursday night, they found themselves in an eerily similar situation to a ball game from the 2021-22 season.
Perhaps fans will remember what happened on Feb. 26, 2022 at the Jones Convocation Center in the Windy City.
New Mexico State needed just two wins to clinch the regular season title. One win would clinch at least a share of the title. However, Brandon Betson and the Chicago State Cougars had different ideas. Betson hit a running layup as time expired to give the Cougars a 61-59 win and put a wrench in the regular season race.
On Thursday night at Wisdom Gym, the Tarleton Texans put Utah Valley in the same situation.
Freddy Hicks had 15 second half points as Tarleton played spoiler on Thursday night with a 77-58 win over Utah Valley.
The loss brings the Wolverines back to Earth, putting them in a situation where they have to win out in order to win the regular season crown.
Tarleton used an 8-0 run early in the first half to take a 13-4 lead with 12:46 left in the half.
Utah Valley got within six points a couple of times in the half. However, Tarleton always had a response.
Aziz Bandaogo’s free throw with 2:47 left in the half cut the deficit to 24-18.
However, Jakorie Smith responded with a 3-pointer to spark an 11-2 run to end the half. Tarleton went into the locker room, leading 35-20.
Utah Valley started the second half with a quick 4-0 spurt. However, Shamir Bogues and Freddy Hicks hit 3-pointers on back-to-back Tarleton possessions to make it 41-26 with 17:34 to play.
— Tarleton Men's Basketball (@TarletonMBB) February 24, 2023
Shamir Bogues knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to 20 with 12:27 as Tarleton controlled the second half.
Trey Woodbury knocked down 3-pointers on back-to-back Utah Valley possessions. A pair of Aziz Bandaogo free throws cut the deficit to 11 with 6:27 to play.
However, that was as close as Utah Valley would get.
Things got crazy with 4:45 to play. Trey Woodbury thought he had tie-up in the corner. However, Woodbury was called for his fifth foul and in frustration, Woodbury picked up two technical fouls along the way.
Freddy Hicks made five of six free throws and that was all she wrote from Wisdom Gym.
Hicks and Lue Williams each had 17 points to lead all scorers. Shamir Bogues finished with 16 points.
Le’Tre Darthard and Aziz Bandaogo each had 11 points to lead Utah Valley. Trey Woodbury and Justin Harmon finished with 10 points. Tahj Small had six points in his return to Wisdom Gym.
The teams combined to commit 50 fouls, shoot 69 free throws and neither team shot over 32 percent from the field.
Tarleton led for over 39 minutes and forced 19 turnovers.
Playing the role of spoiler, the Texans created a major situation in terms of the regular season title.
Here is the situation. Utah Valley’s loss is Sam Houston and Southern Utah’s gain. The Bearkats and T-Birds are now just one game behind the Wolverines in the regular season title race. Sam Houston hosts Southern Utah on Saturday in Huntsville.
Will the same situation occur in 2022-23 as it did in 2021-22? Could the regular season title race come down to the final day of WAC play? Will there be another 3-way tie for the regular season title?
Tarleton plays a chaotic style of basketball. On Thursday night, that chaotic style created a chaotic situation in the WAC standings.