A change to UTRGV’s starting lineup appeared to do a lot of good in its WAC opener.
The Vaqueros began the game a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, allowing them to jump out to a 13-5 lead against California Baptist. While CBU came back to build a double-digit halftime lead, the Vaqueros’ second-half charge allowed them to down the Lancers 81-74 at the CBU Events Center in Riverside, Calif. on Saturday night.
Redshirt senior forward Terry Winn III and graduate transfer guard Tyson Smith became the go-to guys for UTRGV in the second half. A Winn layup capped off a 10-0 second half run that gave the Vaqueros a 69-67 lead, their first of the second half. Winn’s layup was followed up by a Smith 3-pointer that put UTRGV (9-8, 1-0) out in front to stay with 1:52 left.
Winn scored 20 points on 7-for-13 from the floor while Smith piled on 17 points and Javon Levi posted 12. Greg Bowie II scored 10 in 20 minutes off the bench.
UTRGV coach Lew Hill went with the starting lineup of Winn, Lesley Varner II, Jordan Jackson, Smith and Javon Levi on Saturday. Hill began using this starting five before UTRGV’s second win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earlier in the year.
The Vaqueros went 3-1 with the quintet between Nov. 26 and Dec. 5. The only loss during that stretch was a 58-53 road loss at Houston, who is one of three remaining undefeated Division I teams in the country.
Hill subbed out Smith and inserted St. Bonaventure transfer Ndene Gueye into the lineup as soon as he became eligible on Dec. 15 up until UTRGV’s road game at UC Irvine on Thursday. The Vaqueros were 1-4 during their recent stretch of games.
UTRGV also took advantage of California Baptist (9-6, 1-1) guard Milan Acquaah getting into foul trouble early in the second half. Acquaah, who entered Saturday averaging a WAC-best 23.1 points per game, committed his fourth foul 49 seconds into the second half. Acquaah ended the game with 20 points.
The Lancers won their WAC opener when they defeated defending conference champion New Mexico State on Thursday.
UTRGV will open its WAC home schedule this Thursday when it hosts CSU Bakersfield.