The second-seeded University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros women’s basketball team opened up the Western Athletic Conference Tournament by rallying back from a nine-point deficit for a 60-52 quarterfinals victory over the seventh-seeded Chicago State University Cougars on Wednesday at Orleans Arena.
UTRGV will face either third-seeded CSU Bakersfield or sixth-seeded Seattle U in the semifinals on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT (2:30 p.m. PT). UTRGV split the season series with both of their potential opponents this season.
It was Vaqueros (18-12) head coach Larry Tidwell’s 51st win with the program, passing Denny Downing (50, 2009-13) for second place in program history.
The Vaqueros trailed 50-41 with 7:40 remaining, but junior Shawnte’ Goff hit a layup, junior Anushka Maldonado made a layup, Goff knocked down a pair of free throws, senior Rickell Preston hit a layup, freshman Idil Türk made a free throw, Goff nailed a three and Maldonado hit another layup to complete a 14-0 run and give the Vaqueros a 55-50 lead with 3:13 left.
Goff led three Vaqueros in double-figures scoring with 22 points. Sophomore Hildur Björg Kjartansdóttir posted her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds (12 offensive). Preston scored 12 points with a career-high and WAC Tournament record-tying seven steals. Preston’s effort is tied for the seventh-best single-game steals total in program history and the best in six years.
Konner Harris led the Cougars (4-25) with 13 points. Layne Murphy scored 12 points with 13 rebounds. Sh’Toya Sanders scored 12 points with six rebounds.
The Vaqueros trailed 5-3 in the opening minutes, but Preston, Goff and Kjartansdóttir all made baskets to put the Vaqueros up 9-5.
The Vaqueros extended their lead to 17-10 on a Preston jumper early in the second quarter, and still led 19-12 on a Goff jumper, but Jessica Cerda hit a pair of three-pointers to fuel an 8-1 run as the Cougars tied the game at 20.
The Vaqueros regained the lead at 24-22 on a Goff jumper, but a Harris three and a Kaylee Allen layup put the Cougars up 27-24 late in the second quarter.
The Vaqueros pulled within 31-30 on a Preston layup at the start of the third quarter, but Harris hit two free throws and a three to power a 7-0 run and put the Cougars up 38-30.
The Vaqueros climbed within five on Kjartansdóttir layups that made it 38-33, 40-35 and 42-37, but Murphy made back-to-back baskets to give the Cougars a 46-37 lead.