The Utah Valley University women's basketball team never trailed in regulation but couldn't keep pace with visiting New Mexico State in the overtime period, falling 83-78 at the PE Building on Saturday afternoon.
The loss came despite 24 points from guard Katie Kuklok and a couple of double-doubles from sophomore Sam Loggins and freshman Rhaiah Spooner-Knight as the Wolverines eclipsed the 75-point mark for just the third time this season.
"This one hurts just because I think we controlled the game throughout regulation," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "But you've got to credit New Mexico State. They kept battling back and didn't give up. It's hard on our kids to battle that hard and come up short, but we showed a lot of character and we're getting better each and every game."
After taking a three-point lead into halftime, Utah Valley (4-17, 1-7 WAC) looked to be in control after leading by as many as 10 on three occasions early in the second period. The Wolverines were hot after the intermission, opening up an 11-4 run to begin the half as Kuklok and Loggins each tallied four during the spurt and Rebecca MaWhinney buried a 3-pointer.
The 10-point advantage held until the 12:30 mark when NM State (7-14, 4-4 WAC) started to chip away. Over the next seven minutes, the Aggies outscored the Wolverines 15-5 — a run that featured two big buckets from Sasha Weber — to level things at 61-61. Weber, a sophomore guard, finished with 22 points to lead NM State on the day.
The scoreline saw three more ties over the final five minutes, the final coming when Brianna Freeman dropped in a layup with 33 seconds left to tie the score at 67-67. Milking the clock on its final possession, Kuklok got to the hole, but her leaner went begging off the front rim as the up-tempo contest bled into overtime.
NM State scored a quick four points in the overtime period to grab its first lead of the game at 71-67. From that point, the closest the Wolverines came was when Kuklok buried a wing three to cut the deficit to one at 75-74. But any chance at a momentum swing toward the home team was cut out when NM State's Elena Holguin answered with a three of her own to restore a four-point advantage.
UVU got back to within two on a pair of Loggins free throws, but that was as close as it came as NM State was able to ice the game at the stripe down the stretch.
Kuklok's 24 led all scorers in the game and marked her first 20-point output since scoring a season-best 34 at Utah on Dec. 11. With 12 points and 13 rebounds, Loggins tallied her first career double-double, while Spooner-Knight's 15 points and 12 boards marked her second double-dip. Spooner-Knight came three assists shy of a triple-double, finishing with seven for the game, all the while playing a season-high 44 minutes.
Whitney Jenkins also tallied double digits Saturday, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
In the first half, the Wolverines posted their best scoring output in any half in WAC action behind 48 percent shooting from the field and a 36 percent clip from beyond the arc. Both Jenkins and Kuklok knocked down a pair of treys in the first half, while Loggins accounted for almost half of UVU's rebounding in the period with nine.
With half the WAC season now gone, Utah Valley wraps up its three-game home stand when Grand Canyon visits Orem on Thursday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the UCCU Center. GCU topped Kansas City on Saturday to improve to 4-4 in WAC play.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.