Two seconds remaining. It is every player’s dream to have the ball in their hands in that moment. And UTRGV forward Ahren Freeman had the ball in his hands at that moment Monday evening at Bert Ogden Arena.
With slight fake to his right, Freeman found himself with a lane to the bucket.
Freeman’s layup with no time left on the clock gave UTRGV a 78-77 win over Western Illinois at Bert Ogden Arena.
Freeman’s heroics came after a trio of missed free throws. UTRGV guard Justin Johnson missed a pair of free throws with 20 seconds to play. Those free throws would have given UTRGV a 3-point lead. Instead, Western Illinois was able to take the lead on a Jesiah West dunk. However, West could not complete the and-1 opportunity, leading to Freeman’s opportunity.
Out of the timeout, Will Johnston found Freeman on the inbounds play. And Freeman made things happen, giving UTRGV its first Division I win of the 2022-23 season.
UTRGV had chances to put the game away earlier in the second half. A pair of Justin Johnson free throws pushed the Vaquero lead to seven with 3:15 to play. But Western Illinois always had a response. Trenton Massner’s and-1 conversion with 1:04 to play cut the deficit to one.
And following a pair of Will Johnston free throws, the Leathernecks scored five straight points to cut the deficit to one with 22 seconds to play.
Despite scoring a game-high 34 points, Justin Johnson was unable to knock down a pair of free throws with 20 seconds to play, setting the stage for a wild ending.
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) November 22, 2022
Freeman finished with six points in the win, none bigger than the final two. Dima Zdor had 18 points for the Vaqueros and Will Johnston had a 10-point, 11-assist double-double.
Alec Rosner led the Leathernecks with 23 points. Quinlan Bennett had 15 points and seven rebounds. Jesiah West and Trenton Massner were also in double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
UTRGV shot 48 percent in the win while Western Illinois shot 49 percent.
The difference was at the free throw line. UTRGV was 23-35 from the charity stripe while Western Illinois was 16-23.
The Vaqueros and Leathernecks will meet again on Dec. 3 in Macomb. UTRGV improves to 3-2 overall and will take on Northern Arizona on Tuesday at Bert Ogden Arena.