LAS VEGAS (March 14) – (press conference) (photo album) The No. 7 seed UMKC men’s basketball team (11-21) fell short against No. 2 seed Utah Valley (24-8), 71-64, in a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) quarterfinal game tonight from Orleans Arena. In a game that saw six lead changes and nine ties, Utah Valley took control in the final minutes out-scoring UMKC by a 12-2 count to wrap up the victory.
“I thought our guys fought and competed. I just asked these guys to dig deep and not play the game softly. I thought our guys put themselves in a position to win this game,” said UMKC head coach Kareem Richardson. “Got to give Utah Valley credit. There is a reason those guys have won now eight-straight games. They are poised and have composure, all of those things.
“Just a really hard-fought game. I’m just really proud of our guys.”
In a game that came down to the wire, the Roo defense and long-range shooting in the second half almost pulled off the UMKC upset. Bishop’s lone three-pointer of the night at the 3:02 mark remaining in the game handed the Roos a 62-59 lead. However, the UMKC offense struggled to score in the final minutes as Utah Valley grabbed momentum from the free throw line.
A flagrant foul was assessed against the Roos at the 2:10 mark and Richard Harward handed the Wolverines a 63-62 lead with a pair of freebies. Utah Valley connected on four more free throws and ended the contest on the 12-2 scoring edge.
UMKC survived an early push by Utah Valley to begin the game. The Wolverines held a nine-point lead on four different occasions, the last at 35-26 at the 4:53 mark in the first half. That is when Bishop ignited his teammates with a three-point play. He scored seven in those moments that propelled the Roos to a 37-35 halftime lead out-scoring the No. 2-seeded Wolverines 11-0 to end the first half.
With the shots falling and the defense forcing turnovers, UMKC looked to be in the driver’s seat for the first part of the second half. After Jake Toolson made a free throw to start the second-half scoring, Marvin Nesbitt Jr., slashed to the bucket, scored, was fouled and made his free throw. That play was the beginning of a 12-4 UMKC run.
At that point, the Roos led 49-40 with 12:19 remaining. During that scoring spurt, the UMKC defense forced Utah Valley into three of their 13 total turnovers.
But from there, the Wolverines used their size to extend their overall win streak to eight games. Utah Valley held a 36-27 rebounding edge, with eight coming from Harward, seven from Jake Toolson and six from Isaiah White.
Allen and Giles each led the Roos with five rebounds each. Junior Rob Whitfield rang in three treys on the night to post nine points.
For Utah Valley, Conner Toolson netted a game-high 21 points on 8 of 17 shooting. Harward added 15 points off the bench. WAC Player of the Year Jake Toolson was limited to seven points on just 2 of 9 shooting.
The Roos finish their season with an 11-21 overall record. UMKC congratulates lone senior Aleer Leek, who participated in his final Roo contest. He ends his career with 118 games played, which is tied for No. 2 on the all-time UMKC chart and 54 career blocks, good for No. 9 on the school list.
#WACvegas tournament quick-hitters
- The Roos fall to 3-6 all-time in the WAC Tournament.
- Tonight was the first game UMKC held the No. 7 seed in the WAC postseason.
- The loss evens up the postseason match-up with Utah Valley to 1-1.
- Entering tonight, the average margin of victory in the previous eight WAC tournament games was 7.4 points. Tonight, the difference was seven.
- The eight team three-pointer’s ties a school record in a WAC tournament game.
- With five fewer turnovers tonight (8-13), UMKC went 25-of-32 games this season having less turnovers than the opponent.
- Xavier Bishop
- With his 17 points tonight, he now has topped out at 10 points in 26 of his 31 games played this year. In his career, the junior has 50 games of 10-plus points.
- His 118 season assists places him No. 6 on the UMKC season chart. He had at least four assists in 17 of his games played this year.
- He will head into his senior campaign with 1,047 points, which stands No. 12 on the UMKC career list.
- Jamel Allen
- Finished with his 10th double-digit scoring output of the year with 12 points tonight.
- Jordan Giles
- With 11 points off the bench, notched his 29th career and 14th season effort of 10-plus points.
- Xavier Bishop