EDINBURG — The UTRGV men’s basketball team opened 2023-24 campaign in dominating fashion, cruising past the Southwestern Adventist Knights 110-59 on Monday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in Edinburg.
The Vaqueros are now 3-0 in season openers under third-year head coach Matt Figger. The victory also marked career win No. 100 for Figger, with 24 of those wins coming during his tenure at UTRGV.
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought yet,” Figger said. “When I took the job, it was all about getting the program better. Our first season we won eight games. Then we won 15 last year. Hopefully we can keep increasing that win total. The only thing I care about is how our program gets. We have to keep getting better. That is really the only thing I care about. Wins are about the players so I can’t get into that. It is a great honor to say I’ve won 100 games in Division I basketball.”
Six Vaqueros scored in double figures during the win, led by Daylen Williams’ 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting. The senior forward also added nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Williams is one of seven returns from last year’s squad, which finished 15-17 overall. He is set to see a more prominent role this season, after averaging 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year.
“It hurts to lose some of those guys from last year, but it is just a next man up mentality,” Williams said. “I’m a senior so obviously there are a lot of expectations of me from the coaches and my teammates. I’m just trying to lead by example and show the young guys what it takes to be successful in this program.”
Junior guard Hasan Abdul-Hakim stuffed the stat sheet during his UTRGV debut, recording a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, also adding seven assists and two steals.
DeAnthony Tipler Jr., Elijah Elliott, C.J. Jackson and J.J. Howard chipped in 17, 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Freshman guard Orlando Gooden led Southwestern Adventist with 20 points. Nigil Coleman added 12 points, and junior Marcel Phifer chipped in nine points, four boards and one steal.
UTRGV set the tone during the first half, applying constant full-court pressure on the undersized Knights’ backcourt. The strategy resulted in 18 steals and 35 points off turnovers en route to a 59-25 halftime lead.
With the lead well in hand, 13 different players saw the court during the second half for UTRGV, with 11 of those players scoring at least once during the 110-59 victory.
“I thought it was a good start,” Figger said. “We were nervous to start the game. Guys played a little shaky to start. I wanted to get a lot of combinations in the game to see how we handled things. We had great ball security the way we paced the game. … I told you were going to be a different style defensively. There are some things we have to clean up, but I was pleased for the most part.”
The Vaqueros continue their non-conference slate at 7 p.m. Friday against the South Dakota Coyotes at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The contest marks the first of three on the road for UTRGV, with games against TCU (Nov. 14) and Oklahoma (Nov. 17) set to follow.
“It is a big test but also it a good opportunity to see where we’re at,” Abdul-Hakim said. “A lot of guys haven’t played in big games like that, so it gives them a chance to see what that type of basketball is like. We’re going to go out there and try to execute and do what we do. The rest should take care of itself.”