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Venom from the Valley: Vipers start season 2-0

The Vipers topped Reno and Maine at State Farm Arena.

Matt Brase has his Vipers’ offense clicking in their 2-0 start.
Onydia Garza

RGV Vipers: 112

Reno Bighorns: 103

The final score of opening night shows a solid, nine-point win for Rio Grande Valley in their season opener. However, if you stopped watching at the half, you would be shocked by that scoreline.

That’s because RGV was blowing out the Reno Bighorns the entire first half, by leads upwards of 20, even reaching 30. The first half shellacking was partially due to great hustle and execution from the Vipers and a staggering 26% shooting from the Bighorns in the first two quarters. Reno battled back in the second half, outscoring RGV 33-17 in the third. The Vipers were able to stave off the attack and avoid an enormous letdown had they given up that large of a lead to lose a game.

Throughout the season opener in south Texas, the Vipers were the first to loose balls, continuously working on the glass for second and even third opportunities. They also hustled on defense, rotated well and got a couple huge chase-down blocks. RGV finished with eight rejections in total.

The Vipers attack was led by Isaiah Taylor and Le’Bryan Nash. The former Big-12 stars scored at the rim or pulling up for jump shots, finishing with 24 and 21 points, respectively. Houston Rockets assignee Kyle Wiltjer led the team in shots with 20, putting in 22 points, and adding 7 rebounds. Gary Payton II was as advertised, recording two steals, a block, and a few highlight reel slams in his professional debut.

RGV Vipers: 152

Maine Red Claws: 128

In the opposite fashion of their season opening win over Reno, it was a dominant second half that propelled the Vipers to win No. 2. Maine led 73-70 at the break after controlling both of the first two quarters. In the third however, the Vipers outscored the Red Claws 40-20, and took the lead, never to relinquish it.

A big boost came from Jarvis Threatt, who scored 16 points off the bench, all in the second half. P.J. Hairston also did damage in that decisive third stanza. After a hotly contested first half, the second never was, once RGV got hot. Despite both sides being top teams over the years, Rio Grande hasn’t lost to Maine since 2010.

The Vipers got double doubles from both Rockets assignees. Wiltjer had a game high 33 points, and 11 boards, Chinanu Onuaku got 21 and 14. RGV got to the free throw line 30 times, compared to only 17 for Maine. They attacked all night, and despite also getting whistled for a few charges, it was a successful approach, also getting the defense off the shooters.

Carson’s Commentary Trifecta:

  • The athleticism of JP Tokoto and Gary Payton II is a massive asset on both sides of the court. They create turnovers, whether it’s in the passing lanes or taking it off someone’s dribble. They both also finish above the rim, providing highlight reel dunks in both matchups thus far.
  • Isaiah Taylor will be able to be even more productive if he takes better care of the ball. His explosive speed and great finishing around the basket make him tough to stop, especially when he’s hitting jump shots, but he needs to be a little more careful with his passes as he attacks.
  • Kyle Wiltjer is showing he can score from the inside, and beyond the arc. He’s a great shooter, and is showing some crafty moves around the basket.

Rental Rockets Rundown:

Kyle Wiltjer:

22 pts, 9/20 from the floor, seven rebounds vs. Reno

33 pts, 6-12 3PT, and 11 rebounds vs. Maine

Chinanu Onuaku:

5 pts, 10 rebs, two blocks vs. Reno

21 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks vs. Maine

Up Next:

Tonight @ LA D-Fenders

Top D-League prospect Vander Blue leads the undefeated Los Angeles Lakers developmental squad.

Tomorrow @ Santa Cruz Warriors

Former Celtics guard Phil Pressey runs the show for Golden State’s D-League Warriors.

11/20 vs. Erie Bayhawks

#1 pick in the 2016 NBADL Draft, Anthony Brown poured in 38 in his debut for the Orlando Magic affiliate Bayhawks.