EDINBURG — After losing their season opener Nov. 7, UTRGV women’s basketball head coach Lane Lord felt once the Vaqueros grew to full strength, they would be a force to be reckoned with on the hardwood.

Now, UTRGV is riding a three-game winning streak and has flashed the potential Lord saw in his team. They’ve picked up their play on the defensive end and taken better shots offensively, which has translated into victories for UTRGV, including a 75-64 win at home over UTSA on Nov. 30.

Another reason UTRGV has started stringing together wins has been the play of junior guard Trelynn Tyler, who is in her first year with the Vaqueros after playing two seasons at Tyler Junior College. She missed the first three games of the season, but splashed onto the scene in her Division I debut on the road against the Texas Longhorns.

Tyler dropped 29 points in that game, dishing out six assists, hauling in five rebounds and picking three steals. While the Vaqueros ended up losing 85-69, Tyler made her presence felt.

“Before, I was kind of nervous because it was my first game back,” Tyler admitted. “I was nervous because I didn’t know how I was going to do, but before the game I was in my head thinking to myself, ‘I can’t be nervous. I got to play because they’re players just like I am, and they probably have downfalls like I have.’ So I just had to play through everything and play hard.”

“She had one heck of a debut,” Lord said. “Her athleticism is top notch. She’s by far our best athlete, our best defender, and she’s shown the ability to shoot the open 3, but be a really good driver as well.”

In her five games with UTRGV, Tyler, who hails from Omaha, NE, is averaging 16 points with two 20-point performances. Lord believes her off-court contributions are just as valuable.

“What makes her so special is she’s really the team clown too. She keeps everybody’s energy going, she’s funnier than all get-out, and the kids kind of just feed off her,” Lord said. “When you’re with each other everyday, you have those characters that come out, and she’s one of those characters that’s great to be around.”

“Honestly, you can’t always be stiff. Yes, you got to be serious, but you gotta have fun with it, too,” Tyler said. “If you don’t have fun, it’s always going to be boring, and I just like to be happy and jumpy all the time.”

While keeping the locker room loose and scoring may be Tyler’s thing, she’s also flashed as a force on the defensive end of the floor as she’s amassed 14 steals in her five starts this season.

That was on display in UTRGV’s last outing as the Vaqueros forced Texas A&M International into committing 31 turnovers in a 72-56 victory Saturday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.

Tyler and UTRGV will look to keep up their recent play at 7 tonight when they take on rival Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as part of the South Texas Showdown.

On Nov. 23, the Islanders got the best of UTRGV in a 61-50 win. Now, the Islanders will pay a visit to the UTRGV Fieldhouse, where the Vaqueros are 5-1 this season.

“We didn’t really play to our full potential (in the first game). I think we came in too comfortable, and I don’t think that’s going to be the case tomorrow. We played them once so I know exactly what they want from us and I know exactly what they’re trying to force us to do, so our goal is to do the opposite. I’m ready to play,” Tyler said.

bramos@themonitor.com