EDINBURG — UTRGV won the tip and three seconds later senior guard Idil Türk was laying in two points for the Vaqueros women’s hoop teams.
Aggression, speed and high-percentage shots allowed them to cruise to an 82-48 season-opening victory over Division III Texas Lutheran on Saturday night at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in Edinburg.
By the time the first quarter was through, Megan Johnson’s buzzer-beater to close out the frame set a program record for points in a quarter, and UTRGV led 31-11. NCAA women’s basketball switched from halves to quarters in the 2015-16 season.
The blowout win was the first victory for new head coach Lane Lord. The 44-point margin is the largest win in a coaching debut.
UTRGV had 47 points and 10 steals at the half to leave no doubt about the outcome heading into the locker room.
“People always talk about how defense wins games and I think we really understood that tonight,” junior point guard Amara Graham said. “We started off pressing and we really got after them. We got into a little bit of foul trouble but we stayed with it and overall we had a solid defense night.”
Türk had the team lead in steals with four; Graham and Megan Johnson weren’t far behind with three apiece. UTRGV finished with 29 points off turnovers.
Two minutes into the game, the Vaqueros had built a 10-3 lead. As the night progressed the trend only continued.
Türk had eight of her 11 points in the first half; Graham had 11 of her 15 in the first 20 minutes.
Nichele Hyman, whose career in Edinburg has been slowed by injuries, was able to get healthy in time for the start of the season opener. She made her impact felt all night with a career-high four three-pointers and 14 points in 15:36 minutes of action.
“I’ve had about three concussions, surgery on both legs and finally, tonight, it felt good to be on the court and actually be healthy and be able to get up and down the court with no problems,” Hyman said. “It was definitely awesome to feel that way.”
Madison Northcutt was all over the court in her Division I debut. She is the lone player to follow Lord from his previous position as head coach of Division II Pittsburg State.
She was hard to miss hustling for boards and forcing jump balls on TLU possessions. The Kansas native had a game-high 11 rebounds (six offensive) to go along with seven points and three blocks.
“I always play like that,” Northcutt said. “It doesn’t matter what game it is: first, last, 12th, I’ll always be like that.”
Edinburg native and former Edinburg High standout Jayla Santa Maria was playing her second career collegiate game for visiting TLU. Santa Maria had a fan section that was treated to six points and 2-for-2 shooting from the field.
The night still belonged to the Vaqueros who can gain steam heading into a new frontier under Lord.
Krisynthia Sampson was the fourth member of the double-digit point club.
“All 13 players that suited up got to play in the game and everyone contributed, which is exciting,” Lord said. “All-in-all I think we played unselfish basketball and I’m excited about what we can do with this group and continue to improve.”
UTRGV will have a day to recuperate but come right back to the Fieldhouse on Monday evening to host rivals Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.