Defense, Justin Harmon Carry Utah Valley To NIT Upset Over New Mexico

Mar 15, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2023, 10:22 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Justin Harmon scored a career-high 32 points as Utah Valley set a program record for wins, topping New Mexico 83-69 in the NIT.

Utah Valley (26-8, 15-3) traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to face the second-seed New Mexico Lobos (22-12, 8-10) in the first round of the 2023 National Invitational Tournament.

The Wolverines advanced to the Western Athletic Conference semifinals before falling to in-state rival Southern Utah, 89-88. UVU finished as the WAC regular-season champions for the second time in three seasons.

New Mexico earned NIT first-round home-court advantage thanks to a 22-11 regular season finish. The Lobos lost 91-76 to Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Championships.

RELATED: Utah Valley Earns Automatic Bid To Play In NIT

Tim Fuller finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Trey Woodbury scored ten points while adding eight rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

Morris Udeze led New Mexico with 18 points and 19 rebounds in the loss.

First Half

Trey Woodbury connected with Aziz Bandaogo on Utah Valley’s first possession for an alley-oop dunk to set an early tone.

Both teams got off to a slow start from the field as UVU held a 9-8 lead at the first media timeout.

An 8-0 run allowed New Mexico to take their first lead of the night thanks to points from four different players. UVU answered with five straight points of their own to take a 14-12 lead with 11:58 left in the half.

The Wolverines built the largest lead of the night when Justin Harmon finished an old-fashioned three-point play to take a 22-16 lead.

UVU made six straight shots at one point as the lead jumped to double digits.

Utah Valley took a 38-25 lead into the final media timeout of the half. Harmon had a game-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting to lead the Wolverines.

Playing without Tim Ceasar, UVU’s Tim Fuller played well down low. The redshirt senior made four shots in a row on his way to nine points and a team-high six first-half rebounds. Harmon scored a game-high 20 points on 12 shots as Utah Valley built a 46-33 halftime lead.

Morris Udeze led New Mexico with 14 points and nine rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.

Second Half

An alley-oop dunk by Bandaogo opened the second half with UVU retaining their first-half momentum.

Harmon equaled his career-high of 24 points early in the second half. His layup gave UVU a 22-point lead with less than 16 minutes to play.

RELATED: Aziz Bandaogo Takes Over Late, Utah Valley Advances To WAC Semifinals

Jamal Mashburn Jr. made the Lobos first three of the night, capping a 7-0 run that brought them within 15 points. Tahj Small answered with back-to-back baskets to stem the run.

Similar to their last game, Utah Valley led 66-48 with 10:46 left to play. Unlike their WAC semifinal loss, the Wolverines had more than enough to hold on for an 83-69 win.

Up Next

Utah Valley advances to face Colorado (18-16, 8-12) from the Pac-12 Conference. The second round of the NIT will be played March 18-19. Dates and times for games are to be determined.

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Defense, Justin Harmon Carry Utah Valley To NIT Upset Over New Mexico