The University of Texas-Pan American Lady Broncs have their fans excited about a 3-1 start in the Great West Conference. After the team dropped 13 of its first 15 games of the season one can see why the recent success has been noticeable.
After easily dispatching NJIT and Chicago State to open up conference, UTPA (7-13, 3-1 conference) went into home games Thursday and Saturday against North and South Dakota averaging double-digit wins in their last four games.
Down throughout most of Saturday’s game against South Dakota, the Lady Broncs showed resiliency and aggressiveness in the second half as they rallied on a 12-3 run in the last nine minutes of the game to pick up the 60-57 win.
UTPA’s ferocity in the paint earned 34 trips to the free throw line compared to only five for the Lady Coyotes. Although shooting 53 percent from the line in the first half dug the Lady Broncs an unnecessary hole, head coach Denny Downing says Shaquille O’Neal’s theory on free throws sums up his team’s answer in the second half.
“Shooting better from the line would have had us in the ball game earlier but like Shaq says, ‘I make them when they count,’ and that’s what we did in the second,” Downing said. “We hit them when they counted.”
South Dakota (8-10, 2-3) had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation with a three but was unable to make it after an apparent no call which drove Lady Coyotes head coach Ryun Williams into a frenzy. He ended up walking toward the official, putting his hands near and around his neck, but was restrained by his assistants.
After the game Williams expressed disappointment in his team’s lack of aggressiveness and impatience with the ball in the second half. He admitted he had no problem with the referee and denied choking him.
Attack, attack, attack is the style of play Downing wants his Lady Bronc team to play with and in Saturday’s game his All-Valley backcourt tandem gave him just, that leaving him impressed.
Senior Edinburg native Marah Guzman scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Harlingen South alumna Bianca Torre chipped in with 11 and five assists.
“We kept our composure when we needed to,” Torre said. “We just want to win and hang up that championship banner up here.”
Number 1 rebounder in conference Aleeya Grigsby attained a double-double of 16 and 10 while Lady Sioux Abby Hinder led all scorers with 19 in the losing effort.
The Lady Broncs had come into Thursday’s game against North Dakota on 12 days rest and according to Downing it seemed like they’d been on a 30-day vacation the way they played in a 63-47 loss.
Quick passing from the Lady Sioux had UTPA on its heels throughout the game as defenders were late rotating, resulting in a barrage of open three-pointers for UND.
Down six at the half, the Lady Broncs looked to make a push in the second and would do it as they took the lead at the 12-minute mark. But the Lady Sioux responsed with three straight 3’s and regained momentum, finishing the game on an 18-4 run.
The Lady Sioux (12 for 38) shot 18 more 3’s than the Lady Broncs. UND’s Mallory Youngblut led in three categories with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Downing expressed disappointment for losing the home conference game and believes the 12-day lay-off made them rusty.
“We just weren’t hitting on all cylinders,” he said.
Grigsby led UTPA with 13 points and nine boards while senior Rose Esther Jean chipped in with six points, six rebounds and five steals. Torre played one of her worst games in conference play with four turnovers and five points in 2-of-11 shooting.
“We didn’t run that well as we usually do, plus they made some very good shots,” the freshman said.
UTPA returns to the hardwood for conference play in Orem, Utah, today as it takes on GWC cellar-dweller Utah Valley University (0-5, 4-18).