EDINBURG — After falling in five straight games to close out non-conference play, UTRGV chose a good time to bounce back in a big way.
The Vaqueros (6-8, 1-0) stormed past California Baptist (8-8, 0-2) on Saturday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse to win their Western Athletic Conference opener, 87-68.
UTRGV’s offensive output set a program record for most points scored in a WAC game, breaking the previous record of 84 set in 2016 against Chicago State.
Defensively, the Vaqueros’ focus was to limit the Lancers’ 3-point makes as they routinely reach double digits. UTRGV locked in and accomplished its goal by holding CBU to just three buckets from deep in each half.
“This is one of the best teams in the league,” UTRGV head coach Lane Lord said about CBU. “Our goal was to keep them under three 3s a half. That’s exactly what we did. They usually make 11 or 12. I thought our defense really sparked our offense. … For us to be able to score that many (points) and then really hold them in check, it gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Vaqueros played to a 16-14 lead after the first quarter, but they hit their stride during the second.
UTRGV’s run began with back-to-back 3-pointers from post Desirea Buerge, which ignited the Vaqueros offense.
Buerge, a graduate student from Webb City, Missouri, matched her season total in 3-pointers made with the pair, which allowed other teammates to get it going from behind the arc.
Forward Zhane Templeton followed with consecutive 3-pointers of her own, while Amara Graham and Trelynn Tyler also converted once for six total 3s during the second quarter, allowing UTRGV to take a 45-27 lead into the locker room.
“I think Desirea is a big spark plug for us. Her hitting those threes back-to-back, then we found Zhane and we found her again. That’s something we really try to preach: when somebody’s hot, let’s keep getting them the ball. And Zhane was hot all game,” Lord said.
Buerge finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Templeton, a Dallas native, finished with her highest total at UTRGV with 17 points, converting on five long-range shots to get there.
“I think it was a really good team effort, and I just made sure whenever my teammates got it to me to knock it down,” she said.
A CBU run during the third quarter nearly cut UTRGV’s lead down to single digits, but Jordan Agustus came up huge for the Vaqueros down the stretch as she posted 10 points and 15 rebounds and added three momentum-shifting blocks on the defensive end. It was Agustus’ second game back after sitting out five straight.
“It was kind of tough coming back after a couple of games being missed, but I rely on my teammates to help me get through it, and my coaching staff helped me get through it,” she said. “Having such a great environment and people around me, it helps me to come back even better than I was before.”
Next up for UTRGV is a two-game road swing with WAC games against Kansas City-Missouri at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Chicago State at 1 p.m. Saturday.