EDINBURG — UTRGV coach Lew Hill pointed to two main factors that led to his team’s lopsided loss on Thursday: energy and effort.
A UTRGV program that prides itself on attacking and playing tenaciously brought neither of those traits in an 83-59 loss to UMKC at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
“I don’t know what team this was,” Hill said. “First of all, I want to apologize to the people who came out to see this. It was an embarrassing effort. They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They outdid everything.”
UTRGV posted its lowest-scoring half of the season, mustering just 19 points during the first 20 minutes.
The Vaqueros shot 20.8 percent, turned the ball over 12 times and grabbed only three offensive rebounds during the opening half.
“I don’t know if it was execution, or focus, but I really don’t know why we came out so lackadaisical,” senior Nick Dixon said. “I don’t even know. I just want to say shots just weren’t falling, but it was really shocking to me and to the team.”
Redshirt junior forward Terry Winn said he made an effort to fire up his teammates with yells of, “Let’s go, guys,” and, “Keep playing.”
UTRGV fell behind 19-5 through the first nine minutes and later endured a stretch of 6 minutes and 48 seconds without scoring. UMKC went on a 15-0 run during the drought to build its largest lead of the first half, at 39-11. The period ended with UMKC ahead 42-19.
Winn was UTRGV’s lone bright spot during the first 20 minutes, scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. The rest of the Vaqueros combined to hit 2 of 19 shots.
“I tried to come out there and set the tone and play hard,” Winn said. “I don’t know. Sometimes, it just doesn’t trickle down.”
Dixon said Hill didn’t yell at the Vaqueros at halftime, simply instructing them to chip away at the deficit and stay positive.
UTRGV pulled as close as 17 about six minutes into the period, but UMKC eventually retook control and led by as many as 30 points down the stretch.
“It’s hard just to turn the switch on,” Dixon said. “It doesn’t happen automatically. We have to make sure we come out of the gate and play two good halves.”
Dixon finished as UTRGV’s leading scorer with 20 points while also notching seven rebounds. Winn scored 11 points with seven rebounds. No other UTRGV player netted more than six points.
For the game, the Vaqueros shot a season-low 30.8 percent, surrendered 18 turnovers and grabbed only six of 39 chances at offensive rebounds.
The loss drops UTRGV to 14-15 overall and 5-7 in WAC play. The Vaqueros have dropped three straight conference games by an average margin of 17.7 points after jumping out to a 5-4 start to the conference season.
“It’s all about energy and effort,” Hill said. “If you don’t come out with energy and effort, it doesn’t matter what you do, what you draw up. You’re not going to win. You have to come out with a lot better energy and a lot of effort.”
Hill said his message to his players after the game was to learn from their mistakes but not get down on themselves ahead of a matchup against Chicago State on Saturday.
UTRGV closes the regular season with a game against New Mexico State on March 3 before beginning play in the WAC Tournament on March 8.
After going to the locker room for postgame, Winn returned to the UTRGV Fieldhouse court and ran through individual offensive drills until more than an hour had passed since the final buzzer. He said the losing streak hasn’t given him any concern about the bigger picture for UTRGV.
“Not at all,” Winn said. “If we would’ve won these three, I would feel the same way. We still have to go to the conference tournament. Everybody is going to be 0-0.”