Home court glory: Trailblazers secure conference win against UTGRV

Unisa Turay, a junior recreation and sports management major from Phoenix, played offense during the game against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Feb. 1. Utah Tech Men’s Basketball team won 81-64 Thursday evening and looks forward to taking another win this Saturday against the University of Texas Arlington. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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Utah Tech University’s men’s basketball team obtained a win Feb. 1 against their in-conference opponent, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. 

The game ended 81-64. The win breaks Utah Tech’s four-game losing streak that they had going into the game. All of their four straight losses occurred on the road.

Tanner Christensen, a senior accounting major from Spokane Valley, Washington, said: “Winning on the road is hard. You have to win when you can, but at home, you always have to win. We are glad to be home for this next little stretch to get a few W’s.” 

Utah Tech came out and started the game hot. They won the opening tipoff, and on the first possession of the game, No. 3 Jaylen Searles threw up an alley-oop to No. 5 Hamed Olayinka who slammed the ball home for the first basket of the game.

Halfway into the first half, Utah Tech was up 23-10. However, UTRGV was not going to give up easily and fought their way back into the game. Going into halftime, Utah Tech was only up by four with a score of 36-32. 

As the second half started, Utah Tech came out slow but never gave up the lead. They kicked it into high gear about halfway through the second half and pulled away by ten points with a three-pointer by No. 1 Aric Demings with 12:03 left in the second half.

From that point on in the game, UTRGV never came within 10 points of Utah Tech. UTRGV had plenty of chances to get back in the game but simply couldn’t. They missed nine free throws throughout the game with eight of those missed free throws occurring in the second half. 

Aric Demings, a freshman marketing major from DeSoto, Texas, said: “I would attribute a lot of those missed free throws to fans. I think when they are at the free-throw line and our fans are screaming at the top of their lungs, it distracts them. I love that we have people not in the game helping us win games.” 

Demings was the leading scorer for the Trailblazers’ on the night. He said he knew a few coaches and players from the other team, and that pushed him to play so well. 

With this win, Utah Tech jumps from 10th place in the Western Athletic Conference to tied for seventh. The top eight teams make it into the WAC conference tournament.

Head Coach Jon Judkins said: “We have to get to the WAC tournament. That is our goal… and [we] need to win our home games and get on a roll.” 

The reason Utah Tech jumped two places was not only because they won, but the two teams ahead of the Trailblazers lost as well. If SUU and Abilene Christian had won their games Feb. 1, they would all be tied in the standings, but Utah Tech would still be behind due to tiebreakers.

“We went up to SUU two weeks ago and Utah Valley and lost both those,” Judkins said. “We were in third place and went from third down to ninth. We know how important each game is.” 

The next home game for Utah Tech is Feb. 3 against the University of Texas Arlington at 3 p.m.