Kansas City used a big second-half run to pull away from Utah Valley University on Thursday night. The defeat came despite Whitney Jenkins' career-high 20 points and 19 more from true freshman Rhaiah Spooner-Knight.
Trailing by eight entering the second half, UVU (3-15, 0-5 WAC) fell behind by 11 in the early stages of the period as UMKC (7-12, 3-3 WAC) tallied five of the first seven points. But an 11-4 Wolverine run followed, capped by Jenkins' baseline jumper that got UVU as close as four at 54-50 with 13 minutes still to go.
Jenkins actually scored seven of Utah Valley's 11 points during the run, getting things started with a midrange jumper before knocking down one of her two 3-pointers on the night.
But just as momentum looked to be swinging the way of the Wolverines, the Kangaroos answered with a big run of their own. Powered by back-to-back threes midway through the spurt, UMKC reeled off a 16-5 rally to take its largest lead of the game at 70-55. Those sequential triples, scored around the nine-minute mark to make the score 66-54, doubled the `Roos first-half output where they went just 1-of-5 from distance.
A Sam Loggins layup finally snapped the run, but UMKC true freshman Calli White promptly knocked down her second trey of the half to push the advantage to 73-57. Even after another Jenkins bucket on the UVU end kept the Wolverines in the hunt, White hit yet another triple - with just under three minutes to play - to give the home team the cushion it needed.
"I thought we did a great job of getting it down to a manageable deficit," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "We just didn't hit enough shots or get enough stops down the stretch. But again, I was pleased with the energy we played with tonight and the effort we showed out on the court. We've just got a few things we need to piece together in order to pull out the result we're looking for."
Even without White's timely 3-pointers, Utah Valley's greatest challenge came in stopping the senior duo of Eilise O'Connor and Kim Nezianya. Entering the game as the WAC's leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, O'Connor scored 24 points and was two rebounds and two assists shy of a triple-double, finishing with eight in each category. Meanwhile, Nezianya recorded her third consecutive double-double with a career-high 28 points and 15 rebounds on the night.
Behind Jenkins' career scoring night, Spooner-Knight finished in double digits for the seventh straight contest. She tallied 11 of her 19 points in the second half, hauling in nine rebounds along the way.
"Rhaiah was terrific for us again tonight," Nixon said. "She really helped us get going in the second half. And Whitney has been playing so well over the last few games and hit a lot of key shots for us throughout this one."
Loggins - who went toe-to-toe with Nezianya for much of the night - scored 13 points, including a 4-of-5 mark from the field in the opening period. Guard Georgia Agnew finished with seven assists, just one shy of her season-best, to go along with five points.
The Wolverines' quick swing through the WAC Midwest continues Saturday when Utah Valley visits former Great West Conference rival Chicago State. The Cougars are 0-6 in conference play thus far and fell to Bakersfield on Thursday night. UVU swept the season series last year.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.