Two weeks ago, Utah Valley had some heartbreak in Las Vegas.
Justin Harmon and Trey Woodbury played their hearts out in a dramatic one-point loss to in-state rival Southern Utah in the WAC semifinals.
However, Harmon, Woodbury and the Wolverines will get another shot at a title in Sin City.
“Obviously, SUU, we felt like so down and like the season was over,” Trey Woodbury said. “But, next day came, and we were like ‘let’s get over this and just have fun and make the best of it’. And here we are. It’s just kind of crazy.”
The guard duo combined for 34 points to lead Utah Valley to a 74-68 win over Cincinnati to advance to the NIT Semifinals at Orleans Arena on Tuesday.
Harmon and Woodbury have been lights out for the Wolverines following that heartbreaking loss at WAC Vegas.
Coming into Wednesday night, Harmon was averaging 20.0 points. Trey Woodbury was averaging 17.5.
And both guards did their thing in arguably the biggest game in program history.
Harmon got things started in the first possession of the game with a 3-pointer.
Trey Woodbury followed it up with a 3-pointer of his own and we were off and running.
Two minutes after his first 3-pointer of the night, Woodbury threw down a hammer dunk off a Le’Tre Darthard steal.
“Great environment, great team,” Cincinnati guard David DeJulius said. “As good as any guards I’ve played all year.”
Woodbury’s 3-point play with 8:41 left in the half pushed the lead to 12.
The play of the game may have happened with 58 seconds left in the first half.
Justin Harmon threw a dart from half court that found the hands of Tim Fuller. The two-handed alley-oop flush gave Utah Valley a 39-31 lead.
Justin Harmon with the pass from down town to Tim Fuller for the DUNK pic.twitter.com/kVYpAr5gTA
— UVU Men’s Basketball (@UVUmbb) March 23, 2023
Landers Nolley II capped off an impressive first half with a turnaround jumper to cut the deficit to six at the break.
“They’re a really good basketball team,” Cincinnati head coach Wes Miller said. “This is a really good basketball team with really good players who are really well coached.”
Cincinnati came out and threw the first punch of the second half. After a Justin Harmon steal and dunk, the Bearcats went on an 8-0 run over the next 2:19 to tie the game at 41.
Justin Harmon’s breakaway dunk ended the run and Tim Fuller hit a second-chance layup to push the lead back to four.
David DeJulius cut the the deficit to one with 16:05 to play, converting a three-point play.
However, down the stretch, any time the Bearcats had a little spurt, Utah Valley had a response.
Follow a Justin Harmon free throw, Tahj Small hit a second-chance layup and Le’Tre Darthard knocked down his only 3-pointer of the night.
The lead was back to seven just like that.
Landers Nolley II knocked down a 3-pointer with 10:59 to play to cut the deficit to four.
But, that was as close as the Bearcats would get the rest of the way.
Trey Woodbury and Tim Fuller combined to go on an 8-2 run to push the lead back to 10 with 7:24 to play. Woodbury capped the run with his second and final 3-pointer of the night.
Sometimes you need a little luck, as well. Perhaps it was the home crowd that willed the Wolverines to a win. Something was needed. Utah Valley hit one field goal over the final seven minutes of the ball game.
Sure, Le’Tre Darthard, Justin Harmon, and Aziz Bandaogo hit free throws. But, things got a little sketchy with 10 seconds to play. Le’Tre Darthard picked up his second class A technical foul and was disqualified with 19 seconds to play.
David DeJulius then hit both free throws to cut the deficit to five. Fortunately for Utah Valley, the Bearcats could not hit a shot in the final 40 seconds.
Justin Harmon and Trey Woodbury each had 17 points to lead the Wolverines. Aziz Bandaogo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Tim Fuller was also in double figures with 12 points.
“I think we’ve just gotten a lot closer,” Woodbury said regarding he and Justin Harmon playing so well in the NIT. “I think after the SUU game, we just realized ‘man, this could be over’. That’s my brother and I love playing with him. I love being with him and so, after that, I just think we created a deeper connection. So, I think that’s helped a lot on the court. Just believing in each other and boosting each other up.”
Landers Nolley II led all scorers with 23 points. David DeJulius finished with 19 points. Viktor Lahkin finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Bearcats.
“Make the environment like that every night because that was a difficult environment to play in,” Miller said. “This was special tonight. It was loud. It should be like that every night with the job that Mark has done. Should have had that like that for Senior Night. People appreciate what you have and keep supporting that.”