EDINBURG — When California Baptist and WAC leading scorer Milan Acquaah was ejected for appearing to throw a forearm at UTRGV point guard Javon Levi, Acquaah’s disqualification looked like it was just what the doctor ordered for the Vaqueros two minutes into the game.
Second-leading scorer Jordan Heading poured in a game-high 26 points. CBU’s reserves were also deadly. Ty Rowell scored 13 while Marquise Mosley chipped in seven of his 13 points in the overtime period to lift California Baptist to an 82-79 road win on Senior Night at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
“We weren’t prepared,” UTRGV coach Lew Hill said. “I didn’t do a great job of preparing these guys. I’ll take the blame for this loss because I have to have them mentally prepared each and every game. We have to shake this one off. Basketball is forgiving.”
Acquaah entered Thursday’s game averaging 20.0 points per game and missed his only field goal attempt of the evening, but his Lancer teammates picked up the slack in his absence.
“I thought it took a little zest, a little energy out of us,” Hill said regarding his team’s play after Acquaah’s ejection. “Our energy came down a little bit, thinking that their best player’s out and the game wouldn’t be as hard. When things happen like that, teams pick up the slack because they feel slighted and they played harder. That’s what they did tonight.”
Heading, who scored only nine in UTRGV’s WAC opener earlier this season, began to torch the Vaqueros from behind the arc. All five of Heading’s first-half field goals were 3-pointers, ending the first half with 17.
Normally stalwarts defending the perimeter, UTRGV (18-15, 9-7) allowed 11 3-pointers Thursday one game after UMKC nailed 11 more threes in its win over the Roos last Saturday.
“We’ve defended the three all year. The last two games, we haven’t been doing that,” Hill said. “The last few games we haven’t guarded like we’ve been guarding. We did enough in the second half against UMKC to come back, but we haven’t been guarding like we’re supposed to.”
The UTRGV seniors shined in their final regular season home game at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. Johnny Crnogorac hit all three of his shot attempts in the first half to finish with seven points, Solomon Hainna was one of four Vaqueros to grab seven rebounds and Terry Winn III came up huge when his team needed him the most.
After Heading gave CBU (16-13, 7-8) a two-point lead with six seconds left in regulation, Winn was fouled and made both free throws with less than a second to go, sending the game to overtime. He ended the game with a team-high 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“We could have done a lot of things differently,” Winn said. “There’s a lot of stuff that we messed up on out there tonight. We’re going to go watch film and get it right.”
Junior forward Lesley Varner II scored 18 and grabbed seven boards while Jordan Jackson checked in with 10. Sophomore point guard Javon Levi had 17 points to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds.
UTRGV’s focus now shifts to next week’s WAC Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Vaqueros will head to Sin City as the No. 4 seed and face CSU Bakersfield next Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
“This needs to sting to us a little bit, but we can’t linger with it,” Hill said. “Bakersfield’s a tough team. We’ll be back.”