The Utah Valley Wolverines held a 23-point lead in the WAC semifinals with 15:42 to play. It was part of an impressive run over the final two weeks of the 2022-23 season. The Wolverines were well on their way to the WAC Tournament Championship Game. Utah Valley was going to be winners of four straight games, all by double figures, and none of them ever really close.
Then, the epic collapse or epic comeback, whatever you want to call it, took place. Tevian Jones capped off the miraculous comeback with a 4-point play. And the dream of possibly playing in the NCAA Tournament was over for Utah Valley.
It still burns in the hearts of Wolverine fans and perhaps other fans around the country.
And for some, there was concern how the Wolverines would respond in their second trip to the NIT in program history. Would there be an emotional layover? How would the heartbreak of a season-long goal impact more postseason basketball? Could the Wolverines recover?
All of that was going on when Utah Valley learned it would have to travel to Albuquerque to take on New Mexico in The Pit to open the NIT. The Lobos were 22-11, 54th in the NET, and coming off a loss in the MWC quarterfinals.
So, it was no easy task.
However, Justin Harmon and the Wolverines told everyone that there was not going to be any layover. Harmon went for a career-high 32 points and the Wolverines blew out the Lobos, 83-69, to advance to the second round. It was the first win in a National postseason tournament in program history.
Four nights later, after heading into the locker room tied at 38, Utah Valley took out some more frustration in Boulder. Trey Woodbury scored 15 of his 25 points in the second half as the Wolverines picked up another double digit win, 81-69, over the Colorado Buffaloes.
Utah Valley has five wins in their last six games, all by double figures. Take away the 15:42-stretch in the WAC semifinals, and the Wolverines have looked every bit the part of a championship team.
Now, the Wolverines get a chance on National television at home to show the country what they can do. Utah Valley hosts Cincinnati on Wednesday night at the UCCU Center in an NIT Quarterfinal matchup. The winner goes to Las Vegas next Tuesday for the NIT Final Four.
Biggest game in program history. On National Television.
27 wins vs. 23 wins.
74 NET vs. 70 NET.
The Bearcats beat Virginia Tech in the first round of the NIT. Three nights later, the Bearcats beat Hofstra, 79-65, to advance to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Cincinnati is 23-12 overall and finished 11-7 in the American Athletic Conference.
It is going to be strength on strength on Wednesday night in Orem.
Utah Valley showcases a trio of guards and the WAC Defensive Player of the Year. Cincinnati counters with a pair of guards and a 6-11 forward averaging just under 12 points per game.
In two NIT games, Justin Harmon is averaging 20.0 points and Trey Woodbury is averaging 17.5 points. For the Bearcats, Landers Nolley II is averaging 17.5 points and David DeJulius is averaging 18.0 points in a pair of NIT wins.
This is what it's all about.
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) March 5, 2023
Both teams are shooting at a high level in the NIT. Utah Valley shot 47% and nearly 56% from the field in its two games. Cincinnati shot 46% and nearly 53% in its two wins.
Cincinnati averages 77.4 points per game. Utah Valley averages 77.2 points per game. The Bearcats are 5-6 in true road games. Utah Valley is 13-1 at the UCCU Center.
Something has to give in the biggest game in Orem since then-12th-ranked BYU came to town on Dec. 1, 2021.
This is the second all-time meeting between Utah Valley and Cincinnati. The Bearcats beat up on the Wolverines on Dec. 11, 2010 in a 92-72 win Firth Third Arena.
Survive and advance. Winner moves on to NIT Semifinals while loser sees its season come to a close.
Tip is set for 7 p.m. MT on ESPN 2.