MALIBU, CA — Utah Valley forward Fardaws Aimaq is the reigning WAC Player of the Year. Aimaq was the WAC coaches pick for preseason Player of the Year. And on Monday night in Malibu, Aimaq showed why the coaches thought so highly of him.
The 6’11 redshirt junior had 34 points and pulled down 14 boards to help Utah Valley to an 86-74 overtime win at Pepperdine. 31 one of those points came in regulation when Utah Valley was trailing the majority of the contest.
“Fardaws, his game speaks for itself,” UVU head coach Mark Madsen said. “I told Fardaws he’s a tremendous leader. He leads by example. His level of professionalism is so high that it’s an embarrassment if one or two guys on the team don’t have that same level of commitment and professionalism.
Connor Harding was the only other Wolverine in double figures in regulation. And the way Harding got to double digits is what sent the game to overtime.
Out of a timeout, with one second remaining and a hand in his face, Harding hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game at 71.
“Connor Harding did not miss from 3 tonight,” Madsen said. “And so we knew we were gonna call his number when we needed a 3-point shot. And we ran the play for him and he knocked it down. He was tremendous.”
Harding followed that up by starting overtime with a 3-pointer and the Wolverines were off and running. Justin Harmon chipped in five of his 14 points and Harding had seven points in the extra frame. Utah Valley out-scored the Waves 15-3 in overtime.
“I was very proud of Justin Harmon,” Madsen said. “Coming in there, going 5-6 from the free throw line, getting to the rim the way he did. He was fantastic.”
Utah Valley finished the night 9-15 from 3-point land. And in the second half, Justin Harmon’s defense on Houston Mallette was a key turning point, as well. Mallette had 18 first-half points. But Harmon and the Utah Valley defense held Mallette to just three points in the second half and overtime combined.
“Justin is a true two-way player,” Madsen said. “He has a huge heart. He takes the game seriously. And he’s just a competitor in every sense of the word.”
But, the night really belonged to Aimaq. The team leader they call ‘Big Maple’ had 21 points in the first half on 10-16 shooting. Aimaq even hit a 3-pointer in his big first half. And despite being the focus of the Waves defense in the second half, still managed to chip in 10 points and five boards. The Mercer transfer who averaged 15.0 rebounds per game in 2020-21 capped the night off with a two-handed flush that gave the Wolverines an 82-74 lead with 1:34 to play.
It is the second straight 20-plus points, 10-plus rebound game Aimaq has had. On Friday night, against a lesser-opponent in Antelope Valley, Aimaq had 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Next up for Utah Valley
Monday night’s win at Pepperdine was the first game of the SoCal Challenge. Utah Valley will now travel to Long Beach State on Wednesday. The Wolverines finish up the trip on Monday and Wednesday of next week with Idaho on Monday and either Cal Poly or Nicholls State on Wednesday.