EDINBURG — After losing to New Mexico State by one point on a buzzer-beater on the Aggies home court earlier this year, the UTRGV women’s basketball team felt like it had “Unfinished Business.”
The Vaqueros (11-15, 6-7 WAC) took care of those matters Saturday by beating New Mexico State 74-63 at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. The win was the Vaqueros’ first over the Aggies (9-17, 6-7 WAC) since 2016, ending a nine-game head-to-head losing streak.
“It’s not hard to prepare after a buzzer-beater layup while we were up one and we end up losing by one. That put a sour taste in our mouth, and, I mean, that was fuel to our fire for this game,” junior guard Amara Graham said after a 14-point performance. “That loss really hurt us. We thought we had that one and I think we came out and we answered this time.”
The Vaqueros early play showed just how much the game meant to them as Trelynn Tyler hit the Aggies with instant offense, knocking down three 3-pointers and 11 first-quarter points. Tyler went on to finish with a game-high 19 points with five made 3s.
With the Western Athletic Conference Tournament approaching, Tyler said Saturday’s win was all about building momentum.
“I just wanted a ‘W’ to be honest. I feel like we needed to win this game to prove ourselves going into the tournament,” she said.
UTRGV head coach Lane Lord’s team was aggressive on both ends of the floor, leading the Vaqueros to a 36-26 halftime lead.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Desirea Buerge (21) attempts a basket against New Mexico State’s Nana Sule (14) during a Western Athletic Conference game at the UTRGV Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | firstname.lastname@example.org)
“I thought we were attacking, we were pushing the basketball. We had some deflections on the defensive end that led to some fast-break opportunities and we were gaining confidence,” Lord said. “Trelynn Tyler really had some big 3s at the end of the shot clock in the first half, I think she had four, so she really stepped up for us. It was good to see us get going early.”
While Tyler got it done early, UTRGV’s Graham and Desirea Buerge got it done late.
Buerge, UTRGV’s center, battled all night in the post, but she also flashed her touch from the outside. She converted a couple and-1 plays, then flared out to the 3-point line to drain a shot from deep during her big third quarter. After scoring seven in the first half, Buerge came out and scored eight in the third giving her 15 points for the game.
“At halftime, we were told just keep it up, don’t let them come back, just keep a foot on them and be aggressive and really stay on top. We had to keep that mentality from the first half,” Buerge said.
Graham closed things out for UTRGV with a strong fourth quarter, going into attack mode. She hit a couple tough layups, drilled one from 3, and was nearly perfect from the free-throw line for 14 points in the win.
“We got multiple threats all over the floor, so I mean, the first half was hers (Tyler’s), the third quarter was hers (Buerge’s), the fourth quarter was mine,” Graham said. “At any point, anybody on our team can get hot and put up points, so it just comes down to executing and I think it switched throughout the game. It was different people and it was a total team win tonight.”
UTRGV has its final two home games of the season this week as the Vaqueros are set to host California State-Bakersfield at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Grand Canyon at noon Saturday for Senior Day. UTRGV will close out conference play March 7 at California Baptist before heading to the WAC Tournament from March 11 through March 14 in Las Vegas.