EDINBURG — UTPA brought back tons of Broncs greats this weekend for alumni and Hall of Fame celebrations.
However, on Saturday night at the Field House, this year’s version of the UTPA men’s basketball team forgot to bring its offense to the party.
The Broncs shot 29 percent from the field in the second half — and 37 percent for the game — as they fell to Houston Baptist 53-48 in Great West Conference action.
UTPA (13-14, 3-3) had just seven field goals in the second half and had just one 3 in the game (from Jesus Delgado, which came with 4.2 seconds left). They turned the ball over 16 times. They couldn’t execute on their offensive sets. When they could, shots wouldn’t fall.
It was that kind of night.
“Those games where you just can never get any momentum are difficult on both teams,” Broncs coach Ryan Marks said. “At the end of the day, HBU, they just stuck together a little better. They didn’t get as frustrated as we did.”
Despite the lack of offensive production, the Broncs were still in the game, mainly due to their defense and equally inept shooting from HBU (17 percent in the second half and 34 percent for the game).
The Broncs did everything they could defensively to generate offense. They forced 14 turnovers, they limited second-chance points (six), they out-rebounded HBU (36-29). But no matter what they did, it didn’t result in points the other way.
Guard Aaron Urbanus, who scored six points on 3 of 8 shooting, attributed that to the Broncs’ poor assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Just too many turnovers. Had 16 turnovers and three assists. Not sharing the ball,” he said. “It’s always frustrating when you lose and when you lose close games at home.”
The game, even in its ugly nature, was fairly close throughout. The score was tied 10 times, the lead changed nine times. HBU led by as many as six, UTPA by just two. The Huskies (10-14, 2-4) last field goal actually came with 7:05 left.
From that point on, all 13 of their points came from the foul line. That didn’t end up mattering to the Broncs, who couldn’t score from anywhere on the court.
“We just didn’t hang together quite with the same passion or intensity that we needed,” Marks said.
The way the game was called — very tightly in the second half — didn’t help either team find a rhythm. The Huskies were in the penalty with 8:41 left and the bonus at the 4:26 mark.
But that went both ways (HBU had nine team fouls with 4:14 left), and UTPA wasn’t using it as an excuse.
“Sometimes a tight whistle can also kind of contribute to a game when both teams are struggling to get some flow,” Marks said.
Delgado was the lone Bronc in double figures, as he had 16 points. Brandon Provost had just four points on 2 of 8 shooting. Justin Leathers was 3 of 11 for six.
With NJIT winning Saturday over Utah Valley 63-55, it puts the Broncs two games back of the Highlanders in GWC play. Meaning, the regular season title is pretty much out the window.
At halftime, the Broncs honored perhaps the greatest player in their history — Luke Jackson — by officially retiring his No. 54 jersey.
A bunch of Jackson’s teammates from the 1962-63 NAIA championship team were on hand for the 50th anniversary celebration, including Marty Urand, Walter Yates, Mitchell Edwards and Paul Friddle. Video from the title game was shown, as was video from Jackson’s NBA days with the Philadelphia 76ers.
It all commenced when Jackson’s banner was unveiled, 49 years after the university retired his number.
“That was great, that was really great,” Jackson said of the ceremony. “This weekend has been totally unbelievable. It’s just a great feeling to be back here.”
Todd Orodenker covers UTPA Athletics for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4431 or via email at email@example.com.