Career night for Levi, balanced attack buoys UTRGV in blowout of Chicago State

EDINBURG — UTRGV point guard Javon Levi entered Thursday as the WAC leader in steals per game, but he was without a theft until late in the first half.

Levi ripped a pass away and took off down the court to convert his first basket of the game. On Chicago State’s next possession, Levi intercepted another pass. This time, he had a teammate with him on his trip up the floor.

Levi connected with Jordan Jackson on an alley-oop dunk that brought the UTRGV bench to its feet and forced Chicago State to burn a 30-second timeout.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Tyson Smith (23) attempts a three point shot against Chicago State during a WAC conference game at UTRGV Fieldhouse on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The good times continued to roll for UTRGV as the Vaqueros defeated Chicago State 77-46 at the UTRGV Fieldhouse on Thursday night.

“Our guys came out ready to play,” UTRGV coach Lew Hill said. “They played very unselfish. We had 22 assists. Defensively, we’ve been great all year. We’ve been getting better offensively as the year has gone on. We shared the ball and played hard. In games like this, you can get selfish, but our guys didn’t. They grew up.”

“It was a good win for us,” Levi said. “We didn’t come into the game worried about those other losses (at home vs. CSU Bakersfield, Grand Canyon and New Mexico State). We’re just trying to get better every game. We came in and followed our game plan. It felt good to win by 30 instead of being in a close game.”

The 5-foot-11 Levi ended the night with a career-high 12 assists to go along with nine points, eight rebounds and four steals.

“I’m used to playing bigger than I am,” Levi said. “I had to find ways to adjust and use my quickness to my advantage.”

“He’s playing his behind off,” Hill said. “Javon and I had a meeting. I thought he got away from running the team and was looking to score more. I brought him in and we watched some film together. I told him he could dominate a game without scoring. That’s what great point guards do. He means much more to us than points. He’s the only kid in this league than can dominate a game without scoring. That’s what I wanted him to do: lead this team, facilitate for this team and defend for this team. He got back to the basics tonight and played one heck of a game.”

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Terry Winn III (3) look to pass the ball against Chicago State during a WAC conference game at UTRGV Fieldhouse on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Terry Winn III led UTRGV (11-12, 3-4) in scoring with 14 points. Three other Vaqueros registered in double figures: Greg Bowie II (13 points), Jordan Jackson (13 points) and Tyson Smith (11 points).

Jackson, who came into the night shooting 22.7 percent from the 3-point line this season, made a career-high three 3-pointers. UTRGV made 11 3-pointers as a team.

“It’s all repetition,” Jackson said. “Staying in the gym and getting up a lot of shots has really helped me. It also helps to have a great point guard like the one sitting to the left of me (Levi) finding me and the rest of my teammates.”

Thursday night was a reunion of sorts for Hill and first-year Chicago State (3-17, 0-5) coach Lance Irvin. Hill and Irvin were on the same coaching staff at Texas A&M during the 2003-04 season. Hill was the associate head coach for then-Aggie coach Melvin Watkins.

“I remember I used to beat him at H-O-R-S-E in New York or Chicago,” Hill said. “But he’s one of my best friends. We stay in communication all the time. He always had a lot of energy and liveliness around the players (at A&M). We worked hard and we had fun. It’s beautiful to see him on the sideline.”