Best Win
Tevian Jones and SUU got their best win of the season in Hawaii over Feast Week. Courtesy SUU Athletics.

MBB: Best Win for Each Team Thus Far in 2022-23

The 2022-23 college basketball season has had some highs and lows already. And we are not even two months into it. Perhaps it is time to look at the best win for each school.

Quad 1 wins and Quad 4 losses. Buzzer-beaters, overtime thrillers, crosstown wins, gutsy performances. The 2022-23 season has lived up to the hype around the WAC.

With the first NET rankings came a top-10 spot for Sam Houston. Currently, three teams sit inside the top-80 in the NET rankings. No school is sub-300 in the NET, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. Teams have won games they should have and teams have also lost games they shouldn’t have. Injuries have played a big time role for some teams, especially for Stephen F. Austin.

But, this 2022-23 season has still been quite entertaining. And there are more big time opportunities to come as league play fast approaches in two weeks.

Here are the best wins thus far in 2022-23 for each school.

Abilene Christian 92, Northern Arizona 82 – Nov. 27 in Flagstaff

Road wins will always take precedence. But, this true road win over a talented Northern Arizona squad was a big one for Brette Tanner and the Wildcats. ACU had just gone 0-3 at the Vegas 4 with each loss by double figures. Including a really bad loss to Weber State, who is sub-300 in the NET. The Wildcats failed to score 70 points in any of their three games at Dollar Loan Center in losses of 16, 10, and 11 points, respectively.

But, on the final leg of their trip to the desert, ACU’s offense came alive. The Wildcats shot nearly 57 percent from the field, hit 10 3-pointers and had six players in double figures. Manny Allen had a team-high 16 points, Tobias Cameron had 13 points and four others had 11 points. ACU was 10-18 from distance in this high-scoring affair. And when you look at ACU’s standing in the WAC resume seeding system, this win had the highest value due to it being a true road win.

California Baptist 73, Washington 64 – Nov. 17 in Seattle

Of course the biggest win of the Division I era is going to make this list. CBU played perhaps its most complete game of the season at Alaska Airlines Arena. Taran Armstrong was dynamite down the stretch. Tim Ighoefe was really good at protecting the rim. Joe Quintana knocked down shots. And the Lancers got an ever elusive Power 5 win over the Huskies.

Armstrong and Quintana combined for 35 points in the win. Ighoefe had 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the contest. CBU erased a 6-point deficit with a 15-2 run midway thru the first half. And the Lancers never relinquished the lead in an impressive road win. Taran Armstrong’s corner 3-pointer with 2:39 to play was the icing on the cake in CBU’s best win over 2022-23.

Grand Canyon 66, Wyoming 58 – Dec. 3 in Laramie

There are a variety of reasons the GCU trip to Laramie is the best win of the 2022-23 season for the Lopes. First, the Lopes were without WAC Preseason Player of the Year Jovan Blacksher Jr. Second, it was a true road game at Arena-Auditorium. Third, Wyoming was an NCAA Tournament team in 2021-22. And fourth, the Lopes needed a quality win in a big way.

Head coach Bryce Drew put together arguably the most challenge schedule GCU has had in the past 5-6 years. And it hasn’t gone quite as planned. The Lopes offense has struggled at times. GCU has had to come back in big time second half performances. Or, the Lopes have had to hang on for dear life after getting out to a big lead.

The trip to Laramie was different. Ray Harrison and company hung around all afternoon at the AA. And after Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonaldo scored six early second half points, the GCU defense put the clamps down and went to work offensively in the 66-58 win. It was a good way to start December. Especially with the team leader sidelined with an ankle injury.

New Mexico State 93, San Diego 77 – Nov. 25 in Las Vegas

People will wonder why this game makes the list considering who New Mexico State just beat on Sunday. But, if you have been paying attention, this game was big for a multitude of reasons. New Mexico State not played a game in two weeks coming into this Black Friday matchup. The Aggies were dealing with the aftermath of the Mike Peake incident with questions galore surrounding the team and coaching staff. And outside of a 67-64 loss at UTEP, nobody really knew much about the Aggies.

Xavier Pinson, Deshawndre Washington, Quayè Gordon and the Aggies put on an offensive clinic at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Aggies knocked down 12 3-pointers, shot nearly 55 percent from the field and had 25 assists on 36 made baskets. Five Aggies were in double figures led by Pinson’s 25 points. It was exactly what the Aggies needed at that time and gave a glimpse of what New Mexico State will look like in 2022-23.

Sam Houston 65, Utah 55 – Nov. 17 in Salt Lake City

Why not the Oklahoma game? That will probably be a question that comes from readers. Well, first, Utah is higher in the NET. Second, the Bearkats led nearly wire-to-wire. In fact, Utah’s only lead in the game came at the 18:37 mark of the first half on Gabe Madsen’s 3-pointer to make it 3-2. Third, Qua Grant put on a clinic down the stretch that never allowed Utah to make a comeback.

“How good is Sam Houston?”

That was the question posed by a Utah fan sitting right in front of the media section at the Huntsman Center.

“They are good defensively. If they can shoot the ball well, it might be a long night for the Utes,” was my reply to the fan. And while shooting nearly 39 percent isn’t necessarily impressive, it still got the job done. It was more so that the Bearkats, especially Qua Grant, hit shots down the stretch. Whether it was at the rim, from the perimeter or even from the free throw line, the Bearkats finished strong. There was no need for a buzzer-beater at the Huntsman Center in Sam Houston’s second Power 5 win of the season.

Grant finished with 22 points and was the lone Bearkat in double figures.

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Seattle U 80, Portland 68 – Nov. 19 in Portland

This true road win is looking better and better for Seattle U as the 2022-23 non-conference schedule unfolds. Cam Tyson had 18 points, Alex Schumacher had 14 points and Emeka Udenyi had his best game offensively with 12 points and six rebounds in the double digit win.

Portland is 8-5 and boasts of near-upsets over No. 1 North Carolina and No. 12 Michigan State at the Phil Knight Invitational. The Pilots beat Villanova by double digits in that same MTE. So, the Redhawks double digit win over the Pilots at the Chiles Center looks even better as time goes on. In the Redhawks win, senior guard Riley Grigsby did not play. So, add that information to the reason this win is even more impressive.

Seattle U has more opportunities for a big win in December. The Redhawks play at Oregon State and play Utah State and either SMU or Iona in the Diamond Head Classic next week in Hawaii.

Southern Utah 91, Sacramento State 87 – Nov. 26 in Hawaii

I sent a text message to SUU head coach Todd Simon as soon as this game at the North Shore Classic went final.

“Gutsy win tonight.”

Double overtime thrillers are always fun. Playing in a game like that against a former conference foe makes it even more so. And then coming out with a win in that thriller makes the plane ride back to Cedar City even better. Tevian Jones went for 24 points and Jason Spurgin had 20 points in the win. Harrison Butler had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. And the T-Birds left the North Shore with their first Division I win of the season.

Drake Allen finished with 14 points. Allen scored the final six points of the second half, with his biggest contribution coming at the free throw line. Allen hit four straight free throws to send the game into overtime. Fortunately, in the first overtime, SUU got a bit lucky as Zach Chappell made just one of two free throws with 12 seconds remaining, which tied the game at 74.

In the second overtime, Harrison Butler took over. Butler scored six straight points to give SUU an 86-82 lead and the T-Birds finished off the Hornets.

Stephen F. Austin 93, South Dakota State 82 – Nov. 19 in Brookings

Revenge tour complete! Okay, perhaps revenge wasn’t on the minds of the SFA men’s basketball team when it headed to Brookings in mid-November. Perhaps there was a long prayer on the flight to South Dakota, asking for everyone to stay injury-free and just simply compete at a high level.

Whatever it was, the Jacks got it done on the road against the Jackrabbits. Nigel Hawkins had a career-high 25 points and three other Jacks were in double figures in the offensive explosion.

Known for its defensive mindset, SFA actually put on an offensive clinic at Frost Arena. The Jacks shot 56 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line. 26 of SFA’s 93 points came at the charity stripe. The Jacks were 26-32 at the free throw line in the win. SFA also had 14 steals in the contest and dominated the glass. Coming off an ugly home loss to Alcorn State, SFA needed a win in a big way. And in getting that win, exacted some revenge for South Dakota State’s 83-71 win at the Sawmill last season.

Tarleton 89, Belmont 81 – Nov. 18 – Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Take your pick when it comes to best win for the Tarleton Texans. It can either be the opener of the Paradise Jam against Belmont or the second round win over Boston College. Both are good wins for the Texans. Freddy Hicks went off for 26 points against Belmont in his first action of the season. Lue Williams had 16 points as the Texans shot 52 percent from the field.

What is even more impressive of both wins at the Paradise Jam is that Tarleton led nearly wire-to-wire in both wins. Against Belmont, Mareng Gatkuoth’s jumper gave Tarleton a 4-3 lead with 18:18 to play in the first half. And Tarleton never trailed.

A Shamir Bogues layup with 7:53 to play in the first half pushed the lead to 17 and Tarleton was off and rolling in the Virgin Islands. Bogues was also in double figures with 14 points and Jakorie Smith had 12 points for the Texans.

UT Arlington 60, Northern Kentucky 56 – Nov. 22- Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida

The WAC newcomers have had some close calls. Most recently, the Mavericks went toe-to-toe at LSU and against North Texas. But, close calls have not resulted in many Division I wins. So, the lone Division I win of the Mavericks 2022-23 slate is the best win.

And it came over Horizon League opponent Northern Kentucky on a neutral floor. Brandyn Talbot had his best game of the season, knocking down five 3-pointers. and Aaron Cash had 14 points in the win. The Mavericks shot nearly 46 percent from the field in the win. That is the second best shooting performance of the season against Division I competition.

UTA shot 49 percent in a loss to Texas State on Saturday. In the win over Northern Kentucky, UTA also shot 50 percent from distance, which includes Talbot’s big day. Fortunately for head coach Greg Young, the Mavericks were on the right side of a close game.

Best win
Kyron Gibson and UTA beat Northern Kentucky at the Gulf Coast Showcase in November. Courtesy UTA Athletics.

UTRGV 89, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 82 – Nov. 30 in Edinburg

This game will be the lone home game on this list of best wins of the 2022-23 season. And, for good reason. Coming into the final game of November for both schools, A&M-CC had won three straight in the South Texas Showdown. This includes a 97-75 win over the Vaqueros in the first meeting on Nov. 17.

Well, two weeks later, the Vaqueros took care of business at UTRGV Fieldhouse. Will Johnston went off for 29 points, Justin Johnson had 17 points and seven rebounds, and UTRGV snapped a 3-game losing streak to the Islanders.

Dima Zdor, Ahren Freeman and Adante’ Holiman were all in double figure with 11, 11, and 10 points apiece.

Johnston’s jumper with 1:26 to play pushed the lead to nine. And from there, the Vaqueros just had to hit free throws to seal the win. It was also second-year head coach Matt Figger’s first win in the South Texas Showdown.

Utah Tech 77, Weber State 65 – Dec. 3 in Ogden

Winning on the road is always a good thing. Beating an in-state foe on the road is even better. Utah Tech made a trek north on I-15 to take on Utah State and Weber State in a three-day span. And while the trip to Logan came close to being a major upset, the Trailblazers couldn’t quite get over the hump at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

But, the 90-minute ride to Ogden surely made up for the disappointing loss two nights earlier. Tanner Christensen and Isaiah Pope combined for 39 points as Utah Tech beat Weber State, 77-65, at the Dee Events Center.

Utah Tech was coming off a night in Logan where it scored 81 points in a 5-point loss to undefeated Utah State. And the offense did not miss beat early on against the Wildcats. Three straight free throws from Dancell Leter pushed the Utah Tech lead to 13 with 18:44 to play in the first half. And Isaiah Pope’s jumper made it 28-15 a little over a minute later. Frank Staine’s 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in the half gave Utah Tech a 40-28 lead at the break.

And in the second half, the Trailblazers put things on cruise control to split their Northern Utah road trip. Utah Tech shot 52 percent from the field and 86 percent from the free throw line in the win.

Utah Valley 75, BYU 60 – Dec. 7 at the Marriott Center

For the second straight year, I attended the BYU/UVU game as a fan. And, for the second straight year, Utah Valley has beat the Cougars. This time, in front of over 14,000 fans, the Wolverines didn’t need overtime or any late-game heroics. Utah Valley simply needed to hit shots, something BYU couldn’t do. And the Wolverines did, especially in the second half.

The Wolverines outscored BYU 41-22 in the second half, en route to their largest margin of victory over the Cougars. Justin Harmon had a team-high 19 points. Aziz Bandaogo had 14 points and Blaze Nield had 10 points off the bench. Nield was part of UVU pulling away in the second half. A pair of Nield 3-pointers sparked a big Utah Valley run midway through the second half to put the game out of reach.

Tahj Small had the play of the game 6:49 to play. You can view it in the tweet below.

Head coach Mark Madsen now has two wins over BYU. And that might be all that he gets as the series has yet to be renewed.

 

 

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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