EDINBURG, Tex. — They may have only played a pair of games so far in 2017-18, but the UT-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros have put up their fair share of points.
In their opener on Friday night, the Vaqueros put up 106 points on the Nicholls Colonels, but still came away with the loss. The Colonels spoiled the Vaqueros’ home opener with the 111-106 win in a shootout.
On Monday, the Vaqueros were looking to get the first win out of the way when they welcomed the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats to Edinburg. The Wildcats were coming off a win in their opener, as they topped Johnson University (FL) on Friday, 108-66.
Malik Maitland opened the scoring for the Wildcats, giving the visitors an early 2-0 lead. Xavier McDaniel, Jr. answered with a jumper for the Vaqueros on the next possession, and UTRGV was off and rolling.
Bethune-Cookman wouldn’t hold another lead the rest of the way, and it was also the last time that the game would be tied on the night. The Vaqueros put up 51 points in the first frame, and took a 19-point lead into the break.
They maintained their lead all throughout the second frame, and picked up the 92-74 win for their first victory of 2017-18.
As the first half moved along, the Vaqueros slowly built their lead. They capitalized on missed opportunities from the Wildcats, who shot just 35.0% (21-for-60) from the floor on the day.
Lesley Varner, Jr. hit a jumper with 40 seconds left in the first half to give UTRGV a 22-point cushion, their biggest of the half. Isaiah Bailey responded with a three for the Wildcats to trim the deficit to 19 points at the break.
In the second half, Bethune-Cookman wasn’t able to mount a serious comeback and threaten the lead for the Vaqueros. A three pointer Greg Bowie with 13:38 to play in the game gave the home side their biggest lead of the day, at 24 points.
There was a considerably slower pace to kick off the second half in comparison to the first. It was an even second frame, and the Wildcats held a slim scoring advantage when all was said and done, at 42-41.
The Vaqueros cruised in the second half to the 18-point victory, their first of the season, over Bethune-Cookman.
Last time out, Xavier McDaniel, Jr. recorded a game-high 27 points, on 10-of-17 shooting. On Monday, he was limited to just four points in 11 minutes of court time before fouling out of the game. Nick Dixon led all UTRGV players with 18 points, while also chipping in with seven rebounds and four assists.
In total, the Vaqueros had three players score in double figures, and six players had at least eight points.
Isaiah Bailey led all scorers on the night, posting 21 points in a losing effort for the Wildcats. Brandon Tabb chipped in with 19 points of his own before picking up his fifth personal foul.
Shawntrez Davis posted 10 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
The loss kicked off a three-game road swing for Bethune-Cookman (1-1). They will square off with the North Texas Mean Green in Denton, TX on Thursday night.
With the win, UT-Rio Grande Valley (1-1) earned a split in their mini two-game homestand to open the 2017-18 season. The Vaqueros will head on the road to take on the Texas A&M-CC Islanders on Wednesday night.
– T. Bennett