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Opening night
Cam Tyson had himself a night in Seattle U's season opening win at UC San Diego on Monday night. Courtesy Sarah Finney/Seattle U Athletics.

A Look at the Good and Bad from Opening Night of WAC Hoops

There were some good things as well as some not-so-good things on opening night of the 2022-23 season.

From comeback wins to lack of offense, there were some surprises and some expected results.

A pair of key in-state games among WAC teams didn’t go as well as hoped. The preseason favorites had to mount a massive second half comeback to avoid disaster. Another team had to withstand a second half onslaught to hold on for a win. And one of the reigning regular season co-champs was impressive in its season debut.

Let’s get to the thoughts from Monday night’s season openers.

Good Things

Redhawks Get Impressive Road Win

I made a bold prediction about the Seattle U season opener. Cam Tyson and Riley Grigsby were going to hit at least 10 3-pointers combined in the season opener. Well, the dynamic duo hit 11 3-pointers combined. Seattle U hit 14 altogether as a team. And the Redhawks got an impressive 85-71 road win over UC San Diego to open the 2022-23 season.

In fact, the Redhawks led wire-to-wire…for 39:27 to be exact. Tyson had 35 points in the win. Grigsby had 14. And Emeka Udenyi had 10 points.

Tarleton Does What Tarleton Does

“Always take the under with Tarleton” – some sports bettors say. “Take the points with Tarleton” – other sports bettors say. There seems to be something that Tarleton does well and many can’t put their finger on it.

Let me give you the details – Tarleton defends, plays smaller than normal, and the guards get after opponents. It’s what Tarleton does. Plain and simple. It is the staple of head coach Billy Gillispie. And the Arizona State Sun Devils nearly found out about that on Monday night. Arizona State escaped with a 62-59 win over the Texans. And the Sun Devils should thank the Texans for handing them the win. Tarleton couldn’t hit a free throw to seal the win. The Texans were 2-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch…in a 3-point loss. And no Freddy Hicks.

Tarleton does what Tarleton does. But they have to win these games instead of coming oh-so-close. It would make them great.

Shak Daniel and Tarleton nearly pulled up an upset in Phoenix on Monday night. Courtesy Tarleton Athletics.

Sam Houston Gets Power 6 Win on Opening Night

Last season, it took a WAC school nearly a month and a half to get a win over a Power 6 school. Yes, New Mexico State got the first Power 6 win for the WAC in its 11th game of the 2021-22 season. Well, Lamar Wilkerson, Qua Grant and the Bearkats didn’t make the WAC wait that long. Wilkerson’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining, off a beautiful pass by Grant, gave the Bearkats the 52-51 win at Oklahoma.

Utah Valley Big Man is Crazy Athletic

It’s a shame that Utah State wouldn’t give Utah Valley the codes to the broadcast. There would have been some really good clips of Utah Valley’s newest big man Aziz Bandaogo. The 7-footer had some monster dunks, a few monster blocks, and even knocked down a pair of 3-pointers en route to a team-high 17 points.

The one that stands out came with 3:54 left in the first half. Point guard Blaze Nield threw an alley-oop pass to Bandaogo off the pick-and-roll and I thought there was NO WAY he would get to it. Not only did Bandaogo get to it, he threw it down with two hands. I wish I had the video of it but The Mountain West Network on-demand page is not user friendly. It looked like Bandaogo could have touched the top of the backboard as high as he got.

Mark Madsen has found a diamond in the rough, once again.

Tevian Jones is For Real

When Southern Utah joined the WAC on July 1, 2022, I knew Tevian Jones was going to be special. In fact, I listed him as one of my Player of the Year candidates. In the season opener at New Mexico on Monday night, Jones was 10-19 from the field, 6-12 from 3-point range and had a game-high 28 points. Sure, SUU came out of The Pit on the wrong end of an 89-81 outcome. But, were it not for Jones and his effort, SUU wouldn’t have been close. Maizen Fausett was the only other T-Bird in double figures with 13.

Keep an eye on Jones, though. Athleticism, size, and ability to shoot the ball make him a threat no matter where he is at on the flood.

GCU Escaped

Losing at home is not good, especially with the new seeding system in place for WAC Vegas. It puts a lot of pressure on a team like GCU who has a TON of home games. And opening up against the reigning Big Sky champs adds even more pressure. Well, for one half of play, the pressure may have gotten to the Lopes. Montana State shot the lights out and took a 17-point lead into the break.

I am not sure what Bryce Drew said at halftime. But, it was an entirely different GCU team in the second half. Jovan Blacksher Jr. had 12 points in the second half including hitting the dagger with 23 seconds to play. Gabe McGlothan threw down a big time one-handed dunk, and GCU outscored Montana State 41-18 in the second half to walk away with a 60-54 win.

Gabe McGlothan and GCU used a big second half to earn a comeback win over Montana State on Monday night. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

Utah Tech/UTA Hold Their Own in Road Losses

Utah Tech went on the High Sierras and nearly came away with a win over a Mountain West Conference opponent. Cam Gooden has 16 points, Noa Gonsalves had 13 points and Isaiah Pope had 10 points in an 84-71 loss to Nevada. But, you can’t win a lot of road games when you shoot 38 percent from the field. Kudos to Jon Judkins and the Trailblazers who should get a win at home on Saturday against CSU Northridge.

Shemar Wilson had 11 points and Taj Anderson had 14 points off the bench for the Mavericks. Another WAC team that struggled in the first half, then battled back to its opening night matchup against a Power 6 school a game late. UTA shot 28 percent in the first half. The good news is Oklahoma State didn’t shoot much better at 30 percent. You look at the stat sheet and you would think the game would have been closer than the 11-point margin. Greg Young and UTA will be just fine going forward.

Bad/Disappointing Things

Foul Trouble, Shooting Woes Hurt Utah Valley

3-18…from 3-point land. In an in-state game. Against a team that you have never beat in 13 tries. On opening night.

Not a recipe for success. But, that is what happened at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Monday night. Utah Valley could not buy a 3-pointer. In fact, two of the three made 3-pointers came from 7-footer Aziz Bandaogo. What’s more troubling is that some of the looks were good looks and in rhythm. If you want to win on the road, you have to knock down shots. Utah Valley wasn’t able to do that.

Let’s look a little further at it. It’s hard to get into rhythm when you’re dealing with foul trouble. Trey Woodbury picked up his second foul with over 15 minutes remaining in the first half. And then picked up his third foul around the 8-minute mark of the first half so he was on the bench the majority of the half. In the second half, Woodbury picked up his fourth foul early on and never really got going offensively. Justin Harmon dealt with some foul trouble including picking up two flop technicals. Bandaogo was in foul trouble. Tim Ceaser was in foul trouble. Tim Fuller. It goes on and on.

And it hurt in a 75-58 loss to Utah State. For some reason, Utah Valley cannot beat the Aggies. Utah State now holds a 14-0 record in the series.

CBU Struggles in Second Half

Opening night at home against the reigning Big West regular season champion. A game that Lancer nation was looking forward to because this was the year. And the game never really evolved for CBU. Riley Battin had a big night with 16 points and 13 boards. Taran Armstrong had a team-high 19 points and Reed Nottage had 11 points. But, a second half disaster was too much to overcome in a 79-64 home loss to Long Beach State.

It is the first since Nov. 2005 that CBU has lost a home season opener. And the first time in over 700 days that CBU lost a home non-conference game. The Lancers shot 29 percent in the second half, were just 2-16 from 3-point land and could never get into an offensive rhythm. LMU transfer Joe Quintana did not play as he is dealing with a personal family matter. But, outside of the three mentioned above, CBU really didn’t get any other significant contributions anywhere. That has to change in order for the Lancers to find success.

ACU Second Half Struggles

Getting the first win in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum is a good thing especially on opening night. Let’s be clear about that. And the first half for ACU was electric. The Wildcats jumped out to a 45-25 lead behind 10 points from Tobias Cameron and forcing 10 turnovers while holding Jackson State to just 33 percent shooting.

The second half was an entirely different story. Jackson State opened the half on an 8-0 run. In fact, it took ACU almost seven minutes to score its first points of the second half. The run was actually 13-2 before ACU finally found some consistent offense. Jackson State cut the deficit to five with 6:28 to play. And then again to four with 4:36 to play.

But ACU was able to hold on for the 65-56 win. ACU forced 21 turnovers in the win. But, the Wildcats have to keep the foot on the peddle. Tobias Cameron had a team-high 18 points while Airion Simmons had 13 points for the Wildcats. ACU was missing Joe Pleasant who was out due to a concussion. And the rebounding battle shows the Wildcats missed Pleasant. Jackson State won the rebounding battle, 41-34 and had an advantage in points in the paint, 32-28.

Opening night
ACU opened up the newly renovated Moody Coliseum with a win on Monday night. Courtesy ACU Athletics.

UTRGV Struggles in Loss at Kansas State

There were quite a few people that thought UTRGV was going to cover the 18-point spread or, on some Sportsbook, 22-point spread at Kansas State on opening night. And why not? Justin Johnson was back. UTRGV has more size than it has hd. And there is talent there.

But, it just never evolved in the season opener. Johnson got his 20 points, freshman point guard Adonte’ Holiman had 13 points in his UTRGV debut, but that was about the highlight of the night. Well, a better second half shooting the basketball could be thrown in there. But, shooting 29 percent in the first half and only hitting four 3-pointers on the road will put you in a hole early. Committing 26 turnovers doesn’t help. Especially when those turnovers lead to 31 points.

UTRGV will be better.

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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