The Old Hammer Rivalry highlights a busy Saturday of men’s basketball around the WAC.
Utah Tech heads up I-15 to take on Utah Valley in the Old Hammer Rivalry. Both the Trailblazers and Wolverines won their WAC openers. Utah Tech put on the defensive clamps against UTRGV. But, it may have come at a cost as there are questions regarding the availability of Cam Gooden. As you know, Gooden is the leading scorer for the Trailblazers and the floor general. So, keep an eye on that in the Old Hammer Rivalry.
How will Utah Valley respond after its impressive win over Sam Houston on Thursday? Tahj Small had his best game as a Wolverine and Le’Tre Darthard shot the ball well from 3-point land. Keep an eye on the battle in the paint between Aziz Bandaogo and Tanner Christensen.
Tip for the Old Hammer Rivalry is at 2 p.m. MT at the UCCU Center and can be seen on ESPN+.
Stephen F. Austin at UT Arlington 1 p.m. CT ESPN+
Do you want to know the last time the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball team lost a regular season conference game? Jan. 26, 2022 at the Redhawk Center in a 70-62 loss to Seattle U. Since then, SFA has won 11 straight regular season conference games. This includes a 75-68 win over ACU Thursday to open WAC play. The Jacks are getting guys back after an injury-depleted non-conference slate. But, even with all the injuries, SFA has hung in there. The Jacks are 9-5 overall. And have had a different leading scorer in most games thus far. On Thursday, it was Day Day Hall with an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double.
Highlights | @SFA_MBB Vs. ACU
📍 | 75-68 win over ACU, start 1-0 in WAC play
🔑 | Sadaidriene Hall finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, recording his second double-double on the year.
🔑 | Nana Antwi-Boasiako with 14 points and 5 rebounds.#AxeEm x #RaiseTheAxe x #PressU pic.twitter.com/tW7SvRPtoG
— SFA Athletics (@SFA_Athletics) December 30, 2022
And the Jacks get to face a UT Arlington squad that is reeling a bit. The Mavericks have lost five of their last six. Everyone thought the win over San Francisco would get the Mavs on track. But, a loss at winless Cal two days later followed by the debacle at Tarleton to open WAC play is troubling. What’s even more worrisome is that Shemar Wilson was basically a non-factor in the loss at Tarleton with seven points and one rebound. Where is the offense going to come from? Someone has to step up and be the guy for the Mavs.
UTRGV at Southern Utah 1 p.m. MT ESPN+
If you are a sports bettor, it would be safe to say to take the over in this contest. You have the Southern Utah Thunderbirds who average close to 90 points per game. And you have the UTRGV Vaqueros who average close to 80 points per game.
SUU is coming off a big win at New Mexico State to open its WAC tenure. Tevian Jones had 15 first half points and the veteran savvy of the T-Birds led to an impressive road win on Wednesday. UTRGV is coming off a loss at Utah Tech where guard Justin Johnson struggled to score the basketball. Will Johnston had a big performance in his first conference game.
So, something has to give. And it may be a ‘first one to 85’ wins the ball game on Saturday at the America First Events Center in Cedar City.
Tarleton at Abilene Christian – 3 p.m. CT ESPN+
The Battle of East Texas takes place on Saturday at the Moody Coliseum. Actually, it might be better to say it is the ‘Battle of the Purple and White.’ Both the Texans and Wildcats have similar colors so that will be interesting. It’s almost like the Orange Bowl featuring a ton of orange with the two teams who played on Friday night.
ACU’s comeback bid at SFA on Thursday fell just short. But, the emergence of Chicago State transfer Ali Dibba was a huge positive. Dibba had 19 points and nine rebounds in the loss. If Dibba can be consistent, ACU will create some chaos in WAC play.
Lue Williams and Tarleton got off to a good start in WAC play. Williams had a team-high 21 points in a 70-63 win over UT Arlington on Thursday. And Tiger Booker had his best game of the season as well with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists.
This game may have a frenetic pace. Both teams like to put a lot of pressure on the ball and both like to get out in transition. Similar styles, similar roster builds, and similar coaching mentalities. Someone is walking out of Moody Coliseum with a win on New Year’s Eve.
Sam Houston at New Mexico State – 4 p.m. MT ESPN+
Here we go…who will end 2022 with their first conference win? New Mexico State is coming off a home loss to Southern Utah on Wednesday. It is just the fourth WAC home loss since Jan. 1, 2012 for the Aggies. And Aggie Nation wasn’t too pleased, either. So, how do the Aggies respond on Saturday afternoon? Wednesday night was the first time New Mexico State was in double figures in assist and lost a ball game. Keep an eye on the body language of the Aggies. When it’s good, the Aggies are good. But, when it’s not good, the focus usually dwindles and frustration starts to set in.
And Sam Houston is a team that can cause that frustration. As you saw on Thursday, Sam Houston did not play well in the WAC opener at Utah Valley. Missing open shots, allowing the Wolverines do whatever they wanted to do, and having no energy. Those were all things head coach Jason Hooten mentioned in his post game comments. So, how will the Bearkats respond? Fortunately, there weren’t any travel issues getting to Las Cruces on Friday. But, someone other than Donte Powers and Qua Grant has to step up offensively. Keep an eye on Cam Huefner who didn’t have a big game on Thursday night. If Huefner shoots it well, the Bearkats can get a big road win.
Here are two reasons this game is big for both teams. First, neither want to start WAC play with two straight losses. Second, it is the only time the two teams play each other in the regular season.
California Baptist at Seattle U – 3 p.m. PT ESPN+
California Baptist is reeling a little bit. Lack of offensive efficiency is leading to a breakdown defensively. The Lancers have lost two straight to Portland State and Grand Canyon. And in the GCU game, the Lancers struggled over the final eight minutes of so as GCU ran off an 11-0 run in the 14-point win over the Lancers. Taran Armstrong and Joe Quintana need some help offensively. Actually, Armstrong and Quintana have to be more efficient offensively. Sure, they lead the Lancers in scoring but it is coming at a cost. Too much dribbling, shooting at a lower percentage, and forcing shots won’t get it done. Let Hunter Goodrick help. Get open looks for Riley Battin and Reed Nottage. And, make better decisions. It seems so simple, yet, it has been tough sledding so far for CBU.
And then there is Seattle U. Fortunately, the Redhawks salvaged the trip to the Diamond Head Classic with a win over George Washington on Christmas Day. So, what will the Redhawks and Cam Tyson do in the WAC opener at the Redhawk Center? Seattle U had five players in double figures in the win over George Washington. And that is what they need if they are to replicate the 2021-22 regular season championship run.
If the 2021-22 series between these two West Coast schools is any indication, Saturday afternoon may bring about some thrilling moments. Seattle U swept both games in 2021-22 but did so once in overtime and then another by holding off the Lancers late in a 3-point win.