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Ryan Greene

Four-OT game includes multiple buzzer-beaters, unlikely comeback

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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What did Utah Valley get as a reward for winning its four-overtime, 107-96 marathon at North Dakota on Wednesday night?

A nice, long bus ride to Vermillion, S.D., the following morning.

"It's six-and-a-half hours, and with a team full of college kids, it means stopping twice to eat," Wolverines coach Dick Hunsaker said. "You're still kind of floating a little bit, and you're just hoping that your kids can get some rest."

WATCH UTAH VALLEY-NORTH DAKOTA HIGHLIGHTS

UVU — a Division-I independent — needed a miraculous rally at the end of the third overtime and three career performances to improve to 2-0 in the Great West Conference and 10-8 overall. The trek south gave the players an opportunity to reboot some for a match-up with defending league champ South Dakota on Saturday night.

The Wolverines started early on with the dramatics, when Justin Baker flipped in a 30-foot heave off of a deflection to end the first half down 30-23. They trailed the entire second half, and would need another clutch bucket to end regulation, with coach's son Holton Hunsaker scoring in the final 10 seconds to tie the game at 56-56.

Then it was North Dakota's turn, with Patrick Mitchell scoring on a put-back off of a missed free throw as time expired in the first overtime to extend the affair another five minutes.

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All was ho-hum until late in the third OT, when UND thought it had finally buried its visitors, leading 87-80 with 30 seconds left.

Instead, two key UND free throw misses left the door open, then Jordan Swarbrick and Isiah Williams each hit big threes for UVU. Swarbrick, though, missed a chance to end it there. He was off on the back-end of a trip to the free throw line after getting fouled with UVU trailing 91-90 and only three seconds remaining.

OK, one more deep breath. It's almost over.

"We had four players foul out (by the end of the third OT), so we had a collection of guys on the court who had never practiced together as a unit," Hunsaker said. "There was a lot of positive enthusiasm and emotion from my kids.

"We had seven (players), but few that could dribble. No more ballhandlers on the bench."

Luckily for UVU, ballhandling didn't play a major role in the final five minutes.

North Dakota gassed offensively as the game passed the 55-minute mark, and Utah Valley was 10-of-10 at the line in the final frame, bringing the game ultimately to a finish that was short of climactic.

In the end for UVU, Williams had 30 points and Ben Aird 23 — both career bests — Swarbrick's 24 points were a season high and Geddes Robinson hauled in a career-high 17 rebounds.

North Dakota had no one score more than 19 (Aaron Anderson), but had six players in double figures. The killer for the Fighting Sioux? A 32-of-54 showing from the charity stripe.

Oddly enough, Hunsaker had previous experience in coaching four-overtime games.

Well, once.

The ninth-year coach led his team to a 123-121 victory in similar fashion at Chicago State on Jan. 29, 2009, when Ryan Toolson scored a school-record 63 points for the Wolverines.

"This just had so many more ebbs and flows to it," Hunsaker said in comparing the two. "The wonderful thing about college basketball is you just don't know how it's going to script out and play out.

"I feel so fortunate and humbled to have been on the right side of, in three years, two road, four-overtime victories."

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Follow him on Twitter.

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