Big Ben helps UVU edge North Dakota
There are game-winning jumpers, game winning 3-pointers and game winning free throws, but a game winning dunk, now that's a new one.
Utah Valley University freshman Ben Aird did a little bit of everything on Saturday night. He was 4-for-4 from the free throw line, he knocked down his only 3-point attempt, had seven rebounds and two steals, but what he did with 15 seconds left in the game topped them all.
A one-handed dunk that proved to be the difference in the game as UVU rallied to beat North Dakota 67-64.
North Dakota took a 64-63 lead after Troy Huff made one of two free throws with 1:48 left in the game. Neither team could convert on their next possession, but UVU got the game-winner when Geddes Robinson found some room in the paint. When he was confronted, he slipped a pass to Aird, who threw down a dunk to give UVU a 65-64 lead with 15 seconds left in the game.
UVU coach Dick Hunsaker did not allow Aird to be interviewed after the game, but Robinson described his version of the big play.
"The whole game they have been doubling down on the post so when I went to the basket my guy was there and Ben's man help over, I knew where he was going to be at so I got my eyes on the target and tried to get it to him any way I could."
After a North Dakota timeout., Josh Schuler missed two free throws with five seconds left. Aird came down with the rebound and got the ball to Isiah Williams, who was fouled with three seconds remaining.
Williams made both free throws to put the Wolverines up 67-64. North Dakota's Patrick Mitchell got off a 3-pointer from a few feet behind the 3-point line as time expired, but it was off the mark.
"It was a terrific game. A hard fought game. A physical game. A lot of runs in both directions," Hunsaker. "They really came out and put us knocked us on our cans to start the game, but we were able to play through it."
UVU led 51-43 after Aird scored with 8:30 left in the game, but the Fighting Sioux charged back to tie the game at 53 with 5:42 remaining. After a Wolverine timeout, Isiah Williams knocked down a 3-pointer, but North Dakota then got hot. The Fighting Sioux went ahead 63-58, their largest lead of the game after a Jamal Webb 3-pointer.
Robinson pulled down a crucial offensive rebound and scored and Holton Hunsaker promptly hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 63 with two minutes left.
It turned out to be a game of runs just as the first meeting of the year did when UVU beat North Dakota in four overtimes.
UVU fell behind 12-1 to start the game and needed the rest of the half to catch North Dakota. The Wolverines finally did when Aird hit a 3-pointer with a minute left in the half. UVU scored just before the half ended to give the Wolverines a 29-27 lead at the break.
Aird finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Holton Hunsker scored 15 points and made four 3-pointers. The Wolverines also got an inspired effort from Keith Thompson off the bench. He scored eight points in just nine minutes of work.
The win helped UVU improve to 9-1 in conference play and 17-10 overall. North Dakota is now 5-3, and 13-12.
The Wolverines will now have a week off before they host Houston Baptist next Saturday.