Leslie Varner (shooting) had a monster night with 35 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals in UTRGV's double overtime thriller against Sam Houston State on Tuesday night. Courtesy UTRGV Athletics.

Double Overtime Thriller, Rivalry Win Highlight Good Night for WAC Hoops

Two overtime thrillers, a rivalry win and a complete domination were exactly what the WAC needed on Tuesday night. In fact, WAC Hoops was about eight seconds away from a perfect 5-0 Tuesday night. But, 4-1 on the evening is acceptable.

Coming into the night, the WAC has struggled with consistency. No team has really taken control of its season as the WAC features only one team with a winning record in Kansas City. But, with a new month starting, perhaps that is going to change. If Tuesday night is any indication, that assumption looks pretty good.

Let’s take a look at what went down on Tuesday night.

UTRGV 90, Sam Houston State 86 – Double Overtime

It finally happened. The Vaqueros beat a Division I opponent. And a good one, too. And it was a double overtime thriller. If you weren’t watching on the WAC Digital Network, you missed a really entertaining ball game. Lesley Varner II had a monster night with 35 points and 13 rebounds. Varner II’s free throws in the second overtime sealed the win for the Vaqueros. Anthony Bratton also had a big night with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Bratton’s offensive rebound and put back at the end of regulation is what forced overtime. 

Up-tempo, fast paced and energetic is what UTRGV is known for and that is how the Vaqueros won on Tuesday night. Perhaps the well is open now and the Vaqueros can show everyone the early season hype was not a fluke. Preseason All-WAC selection Javon Levi had seven points and 13 assists in the win. Jordan Jackson finished with 15 points and five rebounds. 

Perhaps the ugliest stat from this entertaining game is that the teams combined to go 52-71 from the free throw line. 58 fouls were called and both teams combined for 25 steals. Varner II recorded four of UTRGV’s 15 steals in the win. 

Grand Canyon 75, Mt. St. Mary’s 67 – Overtime

When Damian Chong Qui hit a free throw to give Mt. St. Mary’s a 41-33 lead with 15:24 to go, it seemed like all was lost at GCU Arena. But a 15-3 run by GCU over the next six minutes completely changed the game. From that point on it was a back and forth game. A driving dunk by Nana Opoku gave Mt. St. Mary’s a 61-59 lead with 46 seconds to play. And Opoku came up with a steal with 24 seconds to play, giving people the impression the game might be over. All the Mountaineers had to do was hit free throws. Vado Morse couldn’t get the job done. And Lorenzo Jenkins made the most of the missed free throws when he hit a layup and got fouled with three seconds to play. Unfortunately for GCU, Jenkins missed the free throw and the game went into overtime.

In the overtime period, GCU outscored Mt. St. Mary’s 13-5 and Jovan Blacksher Jr. went 5-6 at the free throw line to seal the much-needed win for GCU. The overtime thriller had 19 lead changes and 14 ties. 

Carlos Johnson had a team-high 18 points, and nine rebounds. Alessandro Lever and Isiah Brown were also in double figures with 16 and 14 points, respectively, in the overtime thriller. 

New Mexico State 59, UTEP 56

The Battle of I-10 nearly turned into an overtime thriller. However, CJ Bobbit made sure that didn’t happen. Bobbit hit two very big free throws with 12 seconds remaining to help New Mexico State get some revenge in The Battle of I-10. Despite not hitting a field goal for the final 6:03, the Aggie defense got the job done and fended off the Miners. WAC Player of the Year candidate Trevelin Queen struggled, finishing with just three points on 1-5 shooting. But Bobbit finished with a team-high 14 points. Johnny McCants had another solid outing with 13 points and six rebounds. And Jabari Rice was in double figures with 10 points.

Perhaps the most telling stat is that New Mexico State was 9-12 from the free throw line on the night. Compare that with a 2-11 performance from the charity stripe in the first meeting between these two rivals. 

By the way, did we mention that it is the first loss of the season for UTEP? And that Chris Jans is a really good dancer? (See tweet at the end of the article).  

Seattle 81, Incarnate Word 60

Riley Grigsby is back! In an article earlier today, it said Seattle has won two of its last three since Grigsby returned to the lineup. And on Tuesday night, in the Pacific Northwest, there was no overtime thriller or late free throws necessary. Grigsby scored a team-high 22 points on 6-9 shooting including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line and Seattle won in dominating fashion. Grigsby also pulled down 10 rebounds to record his first double double of the season.

In fact, the game was basically over at halftime where Seattle led 47-28.

Terrell Brown had a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. And Morgan Means was in double figures as well with 13 points.

Seattle shot 41.8 percent from the field and went 28-31 from the free throw line. The Redhawks also dominated the boards, 49-19. In fact, Seattle had nearly as many offensive boards as Incarnate Word did total rebounds. The Cardinals had 19 total rebounds while Seattle had 16 offensive boards. Seattle also led for almost 38 minutes of this game. 

UC Santa Barbara 64, CSU Bakersfield 60

This was either going to become an overtime thriller or end on some crazy shot. That was the hope. When Justin McCall got a steal with 15 seconds to play, CSU Bakersfield was going to win. The Roadrunners trailed 59-58 and a bucket would win the game. But Taze Moore’s layup hit the back iron and rolled off and the big win wasn’t meant to be for CSU Bakersfield. Even after Jaquori McLaughlin hit one of two free throws to give the Gauchos a 62-60 lead with five seconds remaining, CSU Bakersfield couldn’t get up another shot.

Czar Perry committed a traveling violation and the Roadrunners had to foul. Matt Freeman sank two free throws and that was all she wrote in this preview of a possible Big West Conference rivalry in the making. 

So while it wasn’t a perfect night, it was a really good night for WAC hoops. A double overtime thriller. An overtime thriller. The dominant win in blowout fashion. And a thrilling rivalry game with dancing afterwards. Perhaps beginning a new month will be good for teams in the WAC. 

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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