Basketball teams halfway to championship

Nahum Pilli | Mercury Staff

UTD’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are currently mid-way through their seasons. The UTD women’s basketball team is ranked at fourth place in the American Southwest Conference; they have won 11 and lost four games. The men’s basketball team is in third place and has lost six and won nine games. So far, the men’s team has a streak of four losses in a row but there is still ability to improve as there are 10 matches left in the 2023-2024 basketball season.

Beginning with the women’s team, the first game began on Nov. 11 against University of Nebraska Wesleyan, where UTD won with a score of 63-34. The team has scored a combined total of 996 points with an average of 66.4 points. This season’s highest number of points was 89 and made in a match with Southwestern University.

For the men’s team, the first game began on Nov. 7 against the University of Dallas, where UTD won with a score of 75-66. The team has scored a combined total of 1102 points with an average of 78.7 points per game. This season’s highest number of points was 93 and made in a match with Howard Payne University. Going forward, Cierra Trigg, a guard on the women’s team, hopes that this success will continue.

“I want us to be together during the wins and losses. It’s in our DNA to have the best defense in the conference, and if we’re us we will be able to take on any opponent as a team and I want us to stay true to us,” Trigg said.

This year, the men’s team has 13 new players. One of them — Matthew Soto — is a freshman, and while it’s his first year playing basketball at UTD, he has been playing basketball since he was 4 years old. His dad introduced him to it, and he says he just fell in love with the sport.

“The competitive side of it…there’s nothing like it…seeing all your supporters around you, for example, my family is always supporting me…it’s a feeling I don’t get nowhere else,” Soto said.

Additionally, UTD is transitioning from a Division-III sports to Division-II. This transition coincides with the departure of some players. This will be Luke Kiser’s last season since he will be graduating in the spring.

“It’s my last chance to win something meaningful, especially because all of our sports teams at UTD are moving to [Division II] … so we definitely have a sense of urgency about us, as a team, as we are trying to go into the conference championship this year,” Kiser said.

The ASC championship tournament is still a month away. It is set to take place from Feb. 22-24. UTD’s men’s basketball team has appeared in every ASC Tournament in the past 20 years while the women’s team has attended each tournament in the past 17 years.

“I really like the group we’re working with this year…I think we’re poised to make a good run…this year,” women’s team coach Joe Shotland said.

Shotland commented further on the women’s team performance saying that when the team played against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, which is ranked in the top 25 teams nationally, UTD’s team was not able to surpass UMHB in the match.

“There are moments along the way where you get little doses of humility and it’s always about how you respond to those moments…if you’re a competitor, like I know most of the team is, those moments don’t break you, those moments can refocus you,” Shotland said.

Shotland said that UTD’s women’s team is the best defensively in the entire conference. Shotland says that the team will train by watching the films of games so that key issues can be analyzed in addition to their regular routine.

The next stretch of games will be hosted at UTD, a stark contrast to the months long road trip the team has been on where games were played off-campus from Nov. 25 till Jan. 6.

“Getting through that segment was tough,” Shotland said. “It’s hard to be on the road and we haven’t played a home game since November. So, that was successful in its own regard. I think we’ve done a nice job so far of gelling as a group, but we’ve got a lot of basketball left ahead of us.”

Basketball games for both teams will be hosted at UTD from Jan. 18 – 20 and Jan. 27 to Feb. 10.

“I’m glad to start playing back at home,” Trigg said. “We finally get to play where we practice, and it just feels better not having to get on a bus to go hours away then play. It’s also nice because my family doesn’t live far, so they can come to the games.”

For the next few weeks, there will be at least two games a week happening at UTD, and Kiser said he would love for students to attend. Shotland said students should take advantage of free admission and also encouraged them to come to home games.

“We’ve got a really fun product,” Shotland said. “I know that our team plays in a way that fans can be proud of and that goes for both the men and the women’s team.”

Nahum Pilli | Mercury Staff

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