Thursday night was a fun night for four teams. This is partly because those four teams won. But, also on Thursday night, all four teams won in blowout fashion. One team shot lights out in its best start of the Division I era. Another team finally got in the win column in WAC play. And on Thursday night, three teams hit the 4-win mark in conference play.
This league is fun, right? Well, it was another busy Thursday night of WAC Hoops so let’s break it down.
Sam Houston 73, Lamar 56
Lamar is still dealing with injuries and illness. The Cardinals once again faced Sam Houston with just eight players on Thursday night at the Montagne Center. And having not played since the opening Thursday of WAC play showed for Lamar. Sam Houston ran out to a 35-25 lead at halftime. And then, to open the second half, Sam Houston took control by attacking the rim. Savion Flagg’s layup with 13:13 to play made it a 20-point game. And from there, Sam Houston cruised to their fourth conference win of the season.
The Bearkats are now 4-1 in WAC play and host rival Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Savion Flagg had 19 points to lead the Bearkats. C.J. Roberts finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-18 shooting for Lamar.
UTRGV 85, Chicago State 63
In a game of depleted rosters, UTRGV managed to come out on top on Thursday night in Edinburg. Mike Adewunmi had a game-high 19 points as the Vaqueros shot 55 percent from the field in their first conference win of the season.
Chicago State was coming off its first conference win in nearly four years. But, the Cougars were missing a ton of key pieces. Jahsean Corbett and Ali Abdou Dibba were both missing tonight. Those are two of the leading scorers for the Cougars.
And UTRGV took advantage. Xavier Johnson had 16 points and Marek Nelson had 13 points. Out of the halftime locker room, Adewunmi’s layup and Johnson’s 3-pointer made it an 11-point lead. And from there, Chicago State never got closer than 14.
UTRGV improves to 1-4 in WAC pay. Chicago State falls to 1-4. The Vaqueros are off for a week before heading to Orem to take on Utah Valley. Chicago State heads to Beaumont on Saturday to take on Lamar.
Grand Canyon 95, Abilene Christian 68
Best start of the Division I era – check. Winning by 27 points – check. Scoring the most points against Abilene Christian this year – check. Shooting 63 percent from the floor – check.
Do you get the gist of this section, yet? Jovan Blacksher Jr. had 19 points in just 27 minutes and the Lopes showed why they are the defending WAC champions. In a battle between 2021 NCAA Tournament teams, GCU came out firing and for all intents and purposes, simply didn’t miss.
The 13-2 start is the best of the Division I era. And if there were any question marks about GCU’s play at the top of the WAC, they were answered on Thursday night. Along with Blacksher, Taeshon Cherry had 16 points, Jayden Stone had 14 points and Holland Woods had 12 points. The Lopes were 12-24 from the 3-point line in the win. And despite turning the ball over 16 times, led for nearly 35 minutes. ACU’s last lead came at the 15:29 mark of the first half when the Wildcats led 13-11. GCU won the rebounding battle, 39-22. Points in the paint, bench points – all in GCU’s favor.
The Lopes are 13-2 overall and 4-0 in WAC play. GCU hosts Tarleton on Saturday. ACU’s road doesn’t get any easier as the Wildcats head to Las Cruces to take on New Mexico State on Saturday. One note – ACU was without big man Airion Simmons tonight who was out due to COVID protocols. Not sure if he will be able to play on Saturday.
New Mexico State 73, Tarleton 57
Throughout the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half, everyone felt like New Mexico State was a bucket or two away from blowing things open. The Aggies had kept the lead around 6-8 points throughout most of that time. And despite getting stops, just couldn’t manage to get over the hump. Then, the 3’s started falling. Teddy Allen and Mike Peake hit back-to-back 3-pointers around the 12-minute mark and the blowout was on. Mario McKinney Jr. then scored five straight points to make it a 55-40 lead with 10:43 to play.
Freddy Hicks stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws. But, Clayton Henry answered right back with a 3-pointer. Mike Peake’s 3-pointer with 8:23 to play made it a 20-point lead for the Aggies. And from there, New Mexico State cruised to the 73-57 win over Tarleton.
Montre Gipson finished with 23 points to lead all scorers. And for the first time in WAC play, didn’t play a full game. Gipson played 38 minutes on Thursday night. Clayton Henry and Teddy Allen each finished with 15 points to lead the Aggies who hit eight 3-pointers in the second half.
New Mexico State improves to 14-2 overall and 4-0 in WAC play. The Aggies host ACU on Saturday. Tarleton falls to 8-10 overall and 3-2 in WAC play and heads to Phoenix to take on GCU on Saturday.