Three years. Three trips to Orem, Utah. Three double-digit losses.
That would be the UTPA men’s basketball team’s history of playing at Utah Valley.
The trek to this college town 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City is never kind. The hospitality shown by the hosts is generally worse. That’s where the Broncs will be tonight for a Great West Conference game, set to tip at 8 p.m.
“They have a really good moxie and confidence about defending their home floor,” UTPA coach Ryan Marks said. “It’s going to be a really challenging game.”
UTPA (12-12), fresh off a controversial overtime loss at New Orleans on Wednesday, flew into Denver on Thursday night, then hit a connecting flight to Salt Lake City. From there, they drove to Orem, where Friday it was in the low-30s and snowing.
So, as it is normally, playing at UVU can be challenging. But, the Broncs did beat them this season — 62-60 back in January at the Field House. That win has helped them into a 3-1 tie (with NJIT) for first place in conference. UVU (10-13) is at the bottom of the pack at 1-3, tied for last with Houston Baptist.
The Wolverines, though, are 5-3 at home. With that, the players Marks knows they have and the school’s previous success in the GWC, the Broncs aren’t remotely taking this lightly.
“They’ve been the premier program in the league the last two years,” Marks said. “They’ve had some injury issues so far this year. They’re getting close to being back at full strength. They’re incredibly difficult to prepare for a variety of things offensively they do well.”
That starts with guard, and coach Dick Hunsaker’s son, Holton Hunsaker, and big man Ben Aird. Hunsaker caused all kinds of problems for the Broncs in their first meeting, but foul trouble limited him to just 21 minutes. Aird, who is 6-9, had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
UTPA was able to overcome that — barely, mostly due to Ruben Cabrera’s 19-point effort. Marks knows his team needs to adjust in order to come away with another win.
“Probably more than anything, I think one thing that will be a commonality for both teams will be accommodating for post scoring,” Marks said. “Both teams are going to be cognizant of post defense and trying to make it more difficult to get the ball inside.”
As for the women’s basketball team, things aren’t looking good.
The Broncs (8-14, 1-3) have lost two in a row, including a debilitating 81-75 overtime setback last week at home to NJIT. There, the Broncs led by nine with 3:42 left in regulation before falling apart. They are now essentially three games back of NJIT, which is tied for first with UVU at 3-1.
With a regular season title out the door, the Broncs head to Chicago State to take on the Cougars at 7:30 p.m.
CSU (4-19, 2-1) is in third place in GWC play, one-and-a-half games up on last place UTPA and HBU.