EDINBURG — After facing an 18-point hill to climb Thursday night, UTRGV mounted a late charge in the final four minutes of the game to pull within five before losing to CSU Bakersfield.
Similar to Thursday, the Vaqueros controlled the second half against Grand Canyon. UTRGV flipped an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead with 6:14 to play but the last few minutes proved to be its downfall. Grand Canyon prevailed 69-65 Saturday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
“We didn’t execute well at the end of the first half or the second half,” UTRGV coach Lew Hill said. “We had opportunities. We missed some free throws, missed layups and blew some defensive assignments. I think our guys got a little too high. I always try to keep them even-keeled, but they played their butts off. I told them not to blame themselves, individually. It’s a team thing.”
UTRGV (9-10, 1-2) appeared to have a firm grip on a 65-59 advantage with under three minutes to go, but it struggled to run GCU off of the 3-point line. The Lopes, who had nine made 3-pointers at that point, received three more clutch treys to wrangle the game away.
Oscar Frayer’s 3 brought the Lopes within three points. Frayer’s long-range shot was followed by Damari Milstead’s triple that tied the game at 65.
Carlos Johnson, a Washington transfer who serves as Grand Canyon’s super sub, completed the comeback when he nailed a corner 3-pointer in front of the GCU bench. The shot put the Lopes (10-7, 3-1) up three with 1:02 remaining.
Frayer and Johnson each finished with 11 points. Milstead was the game’s top scorer with 25.
“It’s really about putting a whole game together, period,” UTRGV senior forward Terry Winn III said. “Sometimes we come out slow and sometimes we come out fast. We’ve been a second-half team in the last two to three games.”
With WAC preseason Player of the Year Alessandro Lever on the opposing side, Winn had his best offensive game as a Vaquero. He scored a career-high 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting. Jordan Jackson scored 11 while point guard Javon Levi continues to affect the game in different ways. The sophomore scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out eight assists and racked up three steals.
Winn’s previous career-high was a 21-point outing against Marshall while he was at UTEP.
“It was his best scoring game, but it wasn’t his best game,” Hill said. “He had a game last year that I thought was his best because he played great and we won. He played great tonight, but it was his second-best game. We won on the night he had last year. Winning: that’s what it’s about. He did his job, but we didn’t win. I don’t want a player to play his best game in a loss. Only in a win.”
St. Bonaventure transfer Ndene Gueye made the most of his nine minutes of game action. The forward showed off a soft touch on two jump hooks that led to his season-high of six points. Gueye also hauled in five rebounds.
“He was very focused tonight and he delivered,” Hill said of Gueye. “That’s what we need from him. Now his minutes could go back up, but we need that in a bigger role. I’m proud of him for stepping up tonight.”