EDINBURG — When the RGV Vipers convert 18 3-pointers in a game, like they did Tuesday morning, that’s usually a good sign.
Unless the opponent knocks down 20 of them, and turns the ball over just eight times compared to 22 times for the Vipers, also like they did Tuesday.
In a rare morning game, played before approximately 4,000 or more elementary school students, the Vipers scored 60 first-half points, only to be down by 10 and ultimately lose 132-109 to the Memphis Hustle at Bert Ogden Arena. RGV fell to 4-12 on the season and snapped its modest two-game home winning streak. Meanwhile, Memphis improved to 14-1, losing only to South Bay after starting the season off 10-0.
Despite the loss, Brandon Sampson has been finding his groove on the court as of late and Tuesday may have been his best game of the season offensively. Sampson finished with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting overall and a 3-of-5 performance from 3-point land. He did, however, have a team high six turnovers in nearly 30 minutes of play.
“I’m just trying to play both ends of the court and handle defense first, that has helped turn over a lot of things for me on the offensive end,” he said. “We’ve just got to get back to correcting some small things and make the simple plays. When we make things complicated, we tend to make more mistakes. Those simple things will turn into big consequences.”
That’s exactly what happened Tuesday as the 22 turnovers led to 32 Memphis points. RGV scored just nine points off the Hustle’s eight turnovers.
It was the second straight home game with Houston Rockets’ two-way players Chris Clemons and Michael Frazier on the team, as well as Rockets assignee Isaiah Hartenstein playing. Clemons and Hartenstein each scored 16 points and dished out five assists. Frazier scored 25 points to lead the Vipers.
Memphis shot nearly 43% (20-of-47) from 3-point land and 50.5% overall, launching 97 shots and playing at a pace the Vipers are known for playing as well.
“We want to push the pace,” Sampson said. “They are a great team, look at their record. They made some more passes and obviously some more shots. But that’s the pace we want to be at.”
Dusty Hannahs came off the bench to score 31 points for Memphis, converting 6-of-10 3-pointers. Yuta Watanabe scored 24 and Jarrod Uthoff added 21. The Hustle’s starting five and Hannahs were a combined 19 for 37 (51.3%) from 3-point land.
RGV stayed with the Hustle throughout most of the first half and trailed 85-80 midway through the third after going on an 11-0 run while trailing 85-69. Sampson, Jacobi Boykins and Frazier all hit from beyond the arc, and Frazier also scored on a strong drive to the basket.
Hannahs went on a tear to open the fourth period with Memphis leading 99-86. He scored 14 of the Hustle’s next 25 points in the fourth and Memphis pulled consistently away. While the Vipers were 12-of-27 (44.4%) in the first half from 3-point land, they could only muster a 6 of 24 performance (25%) from deep in the second half.
“We had guys in the second half taking dribble pull up threes and shots off the bouncer,” Vipers first-year head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said. “In the first half, we were shooting off the catch, sharing the ball and making the extra pass. In the second we were forcing a few and not getting the extra touches. We need to keep sharing the ball.
“When we don’t share the ball we tend to ‘look for ours’ instead of looking for that extra pass and making it easier on ourselves. We get stagnant on the offensive end, which affects the defensive performance and it shouldn’t.”
The Vipers had 17 assists in the first half and just 10 in the second half.
Tuesday’s game was the final home game for the Vipers until a 7:30 p.m. contest Jan. 3 against Northern Arizona.