Utah Valley guard Tahj Small loves playing the Sam Houston Bearkats.
As the starting point guard for Tarleton in 2021-22, Small put up 28 points in a 75-64 win over the Bearkats on Jan. 6, 2022 in Stephenville.
On Thursday night, Small, now playing for Utah Valley, went off on the Bearkats again.
Small knocked down three first-half 3-pointers, had a game-high 19 points and helped lead Utah Valley to an 80-64 win over Sam Houston on Thursday night at the UCCU Center.
In another slow start for the Wolverines, it was Small, off the bench, that awoke a sleeping giant.
Small knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to push Utah Valley’s lead to seven with 12:14 left in the first half.
But Sam Houston had responses through the first 13-plus minutes. After Small hit his third 3-pointer to make it 22-17, Cam Huefner responded with a 3-pointer for the Bearkats to make it a 2-point game.
However, that was as close as Sam Houston would get the rest of the night.
Le’Tre Darthard’s 3-point play sparked a 9-0 run to push the lead to 11 with 3:27 left in the first half. And following Jaden Ray’s 3-pointer that cut the deficit to eight, Utah Valley scored the final five points of the half to lead 38-25 at the break.
And in the second half, back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers really buried the Bearkats. Le’Tre Darthard knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and Trey Woodbury added one of his own for good measure to push the lead to to 19 with 16:10 to play. Darthard’s 3-pointer with 15:10 to play made it a 20-point lead for the Wolverines.
Justin Harmon’s driving layup on the following possession gave the Wolverines a 22-point lead.
Utah Valley pushed the lead to 23 on an Aziz Bandaogo dunk with 8:58 to play that made it 63-40.
This alley-pop from Blaze Nield to Aziz Bandaogo gave @UVUmbb its largest lead of the game. pic.twitter.com/tnDno9wjG7
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) December 30, 2022
The lead ballooned to 27 a few minutes later when Justin Harmon hit his lone 3-pointer of the second half to make it 75-48.
Trey Woodbury’s alley-oop pass to Tim Fuller for the two-handed dunk put the icing on the cake for Utah Valley.
Along with Small, four other Wolverines finished in double figures. Le’Tre Darthard finished with 15 points. Justin Harmon had 13 points. And both Tim Fuller and Trey Woodbury had 10 points. Fuller also had a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Qua Grant led the Bearkats with 16 points. Jaden Ray and Donte Powers were also in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Wolverines improve to 10-4 overall and 1-0 in WAC play. Utah Valley has now won seven straight games since losing at Boise State on Nov. 26. The Wolverines will look to make it eight straight wins on Saturday when they host in-state rival Utah Tech in an afternoon matinee.
Sam Houston drops to 10-3 overall and 0-1 in WAC play. The Bearkats head to Las Cruces to take on New Mexico State on Saturday.