Women’s basketball preps for postseason, North Texas

Texas-Rio Grande Valley guard Quynne Huggins (11) lays up the ball past New Mexico State guard Monique Mills (21) during a NCAA college basketball Western Athletic Conference Women's Tournament championship game Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

EDINBURG — The UTRGV Women’s basketball team had a jam-packed 12 days. After their final WAC regular-season game in Riverside, Calif., they stayed in the west for the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

The Vaqueros played their way to Saturday’s conference championship game, where they pushed New Mexico State to double overtime, in the closest any UTRGV basketball team —men or women — has come to the NCAA tournament.

On their first full day away from the court, away from an airport and in the comfort of the RGV, the team found out they will compete against North Texas today in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

UTRGV faces UNT at 7 tonight in Denton. The first-round game from inside the Super Pit will be broadcast online at ConferenceUSA.TV/watch.

“As soon as we got the news that we had the postseason, it wasn’t that surprising but I think some of the seniors probably got really excited to keep going a little bit longer than what’s originally planned in the schedule,” UTRGV senior Quynne Huggins said. “We’re all pretty excited, but tired at the same time — I’m sure that will overpower the tiredness.”

Huggins said Monday was a big day to catch up on something her team was lacking due to so much travel and excitement.

“Sleep. I know a lot of us missed out on sleep, especially spending all of our time in airports, in and out of hotels,” Huggins said. “We didn’t get the news until late last night, so I think as soon as we got the news, we all did our own little scouting. Kind of went on their roster and did our own little scout session within ourselves in our rooms.”

The North Texas Mean Green, who finished 15-15 overall and 7-9 in Conference USA, will have a lot to prepare for against the Vaqueros.

In three conference tournament games, five different UTRGV players had double-digit scoring games.

“Our depth really helps us because teams can’t just go and scout one player,” sophomore point guard Amara Graham said. “Any night, anybody can come out and have their best game of the season. I really like that there’s not only one person I’m looking for on the floor — anybody that’s open, I trust in my teammates that they can knock it down.”

Forward Krisynthia Sampson had a combined 27 points in three games (10, 13, 4) against Seattle U, UMKC and New Mexico State, respectively, matching her season-high in minutes played with 35 in the semifinals.

“We made it further than we did last year and as a senior. Any more games after that last championship game is, honestly, a blessing, because you never know when that last one’s going to be,” Sampson said. “I think we’re all threats, at the end of the day. And our defense travels. We take pride in our defense.”

North Texas is led by senior guard Terriell Bradley, who averages 16.5 points. Anisha George, a 6-foot-2-inch junior post, averages 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest. The Mean Green was knocked out in the CUSA quarterfinals by eventual champions No. 25 Rice.

First-year coach Lane Lord was not on the court due to sickness but expressed his excitement about his team continuing to play.

“We played so well in the WAC Tournament — just one play away from the NCAA tourney. Our players left it all on the court,” Lord said via text message. “We are so proud of their effort and the way they represented the university and our community. Playing North Texas gives use one more chance to put the UTRGV uniform on and play for our university. We can’t wait to get back on the court.”

The winner of today’s game will face the winner of Utah State and UC Riverside with the location of the quarterfinals yet to be determined. UTRGV has competed in postseason play in four of the last five season and twice (2015, 2017) in the WBI.

nmata@themontior.com