Everyone knew it was going to be a season of transition, but quite frankly, itís been tougher than expected.
The men and women at The University of Texas-Pan American limped into the holidays with a combined record of 3-21, as new coaches at the helm have struggled with difficult schedules and a depleted talent pool.
The men under Ryan Marks are 1-11 after their most recent outing, a 24-point home loss to UTSA Dec. 18. Outside of a 61-50 win against Chattanooga Nov. 27, itís been all ziggies for the Broncs, who have little height and have not shot the ball well at all yet.
UTPA has been outscored by an average of 22 points a night, with a .362 field-goal percentage and a minus-10 count in the rebound department.
To illustrate how hard itís been, the Broncs do not have a double-figures scorer, as 6-foot-7 senior Luis Valera (8.7) and 6-3 soph Jared Maree (9.1) are the leaders.
The team got back to work Tuesday at Louisiana Tech and then will have a six-day break until a home game at the Field House against Northern Arizona.
The Broncs have played a murderous schedule in 2009, facing off with Missouri, Mississippi State and Nebraska; the capper of that crunching run was a 104-42 loss in Austin to No. 2 UT Dec. 15.
Meanwhile the women have shown signs of life lately under first-year coach Denny Downing, with a 2-2 record since a 0-8 start. Their last outing was a heartbreaking 61-60 loss at home to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, dropping them to 2-10 overall.
Five-five freshman Bianca Torre of Harlingen South continues to impress at point guard with a team-best 11.6 points per game and four assists a night. Four others are at 7.0 or better for the team, including hard-working seniors Aleeya Grigsby and Rose Esther Jean, who also pace the club in rebounding at 6.7 and 6.6, respectively.
Torre has netted 20 points three times so far as sheís shown that translating her record-setting high school exploits to the college level is a success.
The Lady Broncs shoot just .362 from the floor, like the men, and are behind their foes in most major stat categories. They are next in action Dec. 30 at Baylor and Jan.2 at Oklahoma State, returning to the House Jan. 4 for a winnable home tilt against LeTourneau. Conference play in the Great West starts after that.
NOTES: On the positive side, the university announced its latest Hall of Fame class, to be inducted Feb. 13. Local pitching legend Lupe Salinas is on the list, along with fellow baseball stars Felipe Leal and Jim Hickey, 1960s hoops standout Fred Taylor, and 1980s distance runner Nancy Mireles.
Also set to be honored is long-time team physician Dr. Ben Garza, who received a lifetime achievement award from the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame last year. He will be added to the universityís Hall of Honor, separate from the Hall of Fame, in February.