UTRGV bounces back with beatdown of Minot State

EDINBURG — After losing its season opener by 26 points at home Thursday night, UTRGV head coach Lane Lord said his team had some soul-searching to do.

The Vaqueros found what they were looking for with an 18-0 run during the second quarter of their non-conference game against Minot State on Saturday, rolling to a 75-56 victory at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.

“It was nice to have a second quarter like we did, especially struggling so bad offensively two nights ago,” Lord said. “To get off to the good second quarter, I think really gave our kids some confidence. This team is going to be really good once we get everybody healthy and once we continue to learn how to play together. You saw some pretty good signs today of things that can happen here. It’s just going to take some time to really gel, but we’ll get there.”

On Thursday, the Vaqueros (1-1, 0-0) shot 25.5% from the field, 17.6% from three, and just 44.8% from the free throw line. UTRGV upped each of those numbers Saturday by shooting 40% from the field, 33.3% from deep and 73.7% at the line.

Senior forward Megan Johnson finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“We came in after our game Thursday and talked about it, we sat down, and that’s what good teams do, I feel like good teams sit down and reflect on the things that go wrong and they work hard,” Johnson said. “We had a short time to turn it around, but we wanted to do that as a team, coaching staff and players, and I think we were all on the same page and came in and gave it our all.”

The 18-0 run was sparked by intensity on the defensive end and ball movement on offense. During the run, Johnson jumped into a passing lane for a steal and found freshman Halie Jones open for a 3 at the top of the key. As Minot State attempted to inbound the ball after the made basket, Johnson again locked down on defense and came up with the ball, dished to Amara Graham who kicked it back out to Johnson in the left corner for another UTRGV 3-pointer.

Jones and Johnson each had four steals in the game, while Jordan Agustus added four blocked shots for the UTRGV defense. Jones finished the game as UTRGV’s leading scorer with 15 points and shot 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

“It starts on defense for me, rebounding,” Jones said. “I look up to her (Johnson), all she does is rebound and hustle, you can’t teach that. Once you get the small things, defense, rebounding, offense comes with it so I just played my game and my teammates just helped create plays for me.”

UTRGV outscored Minot State 25-6 during the second quarter to take a 45-28 lead into the locker room and never looked back.

“We just wanted to pick up the intensity, especially on defense. I think we played well on both sides of the ball,” Lord said. “We got to build on that second quarter, how we played with that defensive pressure and the way we shared the ball was awesome.”

Next up for UTRGV is Texas Lutheran with tip-off set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. The Vaqueros will then prepare for two games on the road against No. 15-ranked Texas on Nov. 20 in Austin and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 23.

bramos@themonitor.com