Bowie continues emergence as UTRGV men’s basketball rolls past Wayland Baptist

EDINBURG — UTRGV men’s basketball freshman Greg Bowie said he wasn’t composed enough early in the year. Coach Lew Hill saw that, like many freshmen, Bowie didn’t know what to expect or how to adjust to a faster game against stronger players.

“But as he keeps playing, he starts realizing that he can play this game,” Hill said. “He’s starting to get more comfortable with what I want. He’s starting to learn to defend. He’s always been a natural scorer. Now, he’s just playing with a lot of confidence.”

On Tuesday, Bowie cracked double figures in scoring for the third time this season, dropping 13 points on a career-best three 3-pointers as UTRGV rolled NAIA opponent Wayland Baptist 86-50 at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.

In UTRGV’s last outing, Saturday against Chicago State, Bowie played a career-high 29 minutes with a career-best five steals. And in the game preceding that matchup, Bowie scored a career-high 18 points on Jan. 20 against Seattle U.

“Offensively, I used to say, ‘Just shoot 3s,’” Bowie said. “But now, I’m being more aggressive attacking the rim, getting to my midrange, which I always practice on. And defensive wise, I got a little bit better than I was before.”

Bowie called the midrange shot “the lost art of the game,” something he’s been focused on since he was a freshman in high school. What he didn’t pay as much attention to in high school was defense, but Hill has demanded that from him at UTRGV.

“Coach (Luke) Mackay and Coach Hill always tell me if I want to step my game up, I have to add more elements,” Bowie said. “Not just scoring, it has to be on the defensive end, as well. Getting rebounds, steals and being a team player.”

For the season, Bowie is averaging 7.6 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting, including 34.3 percent from beyond the arc. Bowie averaged more than two turnovers per game during his first 14 games but entered Tuesday’s contest on a run of four games without a giveaway.

Redshirt senior Moe McDonald said he expects Bowie to continue to give UTRGV a major lift going forward.

“He’s not scared anymore. He’s finally growing up a little bit,” McDonald said. “He’s always been a shot taker, but now he’s turned into a shot maker.”

Bowie had just one major blip on the radar this season, suffering a concussion when he was undercut during a rebounding drill and the back of his head crashed into the hardwood. He said he was sensitive to light for a couple days after the injury and needed a little time to recondition himself to UTRGV’s fast-paced style of play. Though he said suffering an injury in the middle of the year “sucks,” he resolved to continue improving. Looking ahead, he still holds lofty expectations for his season.

“Win Freshman of the Year for the WAC, and then win the conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament,” Bowie said.

The next step on that road is a matchup at New Mexico State, which is 19-3 and 6-0 in the WAC, at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Wayland Baptist, an NAIA school, entered Tuesday’s game at 14-5. Not included in that mark is a 79-72 loss at Rice in an exhibition on Nov. 4.

UTRGV would not face the same type of challenge, opening a 16-point lead at halftime and stretching the margin as high as 39 points during the final 20 minutes. The win moves UTRGV to 12-11 overall and 9-8 in nonconference play, securing the first winning nonconference season since 2007-08.

“We came in and didn’t overlook them and just did what we were supposed to do,” Hill said. “We’re supposed to beat them, so we came out and beat them.”