Itís been a tough season for the Bronc basketball team, as it had compiled a 5-26 record heading into the Great West Conference tourney March 10-12 in Orem, Utah. But as difficult as it has been, this yearís contingent is not the worst in Bronc history. That distinction goes to the 1954-55 unit that won just two games, and the 1992-93 group that was 2-20.
Though the year has been a challenge for first-year coach Ryan Marks, his club has been competitive intermittently. The Broncs have lost 10 by fewer than seven points, and have only been blown out by 20 or more six times. They closed out the regular season Saturday in Grand Forks, N.D. with a gutty 71-68 win over North Dakota State and will go into the tourney seeded seventh, with a first-round match against No. 2 seed Houston Baptist Wednesday.
Their other wins came against Chattanooga Nov. 27, versus New Jersey Tech and Chicago State back to back Jan. 14-16 and then over Utah Valley State Feb. 13.
The program is no stranger to down times, actually. After the Broncs began basketball in 1952-53 they went through a four-season stretch from 1954-1958 with a 15-73 record, and six of those wins came against Monterrey Tech.
After Coach Sam Williams arrived in 1959, the Broncs started a steady pattern of wins that culminated in the NAIA national title run of 1963. They won just eight games in back-to-back years starting in 1968 and then in 1972-73 managed just four wins in 26 outings, second worst behind the 2-22 1954-55 season.
PAU was solid in the 1970s under Abe Lemon and then Bill White, even making the NIT in 1981. They did have two down years in the 1980s, with a 5-20 mark in 1981-82 and 7-21 the next season.
The 1990s was perhaps the nadir, as the team put together two three-year streaks of ineptitude. The first came from 1990 to 1993 when the Broncs were 12-67 combined. The second was 1996-1999 when the program was 11-71 in the midst of the Delray Brooks scandal.
The last time Pan Am won 20 games was 2001-02 when the team was 21-9.
As for the women, the quest to tie the program record for wins (14, done twice) took a hit Saturday as the Lady Broncs were pounded by the league leader, North Dakota State, 101-61. The women are 12-16 but with a solid 7-4 mark in conference play, and will play as a second seed in the tournament, starting Thursday in Orem.
After a fine start to the season, the Broncs hit the wall against Louisiana Tech, losing three straight against the Bulldogs at home, by a combined score of 24-15. They then rebounded for a blowout win Sunday, amassing an 18-3 lead after five innings and cruising to the win.
At 5-3, the Broncs have hit well (.353 as a team, 11 runs per game) with Garrett Bivone leading the way at .444 with 10 RBI. Freshman Valley product Angel Ibanez of Sharyland is at .383 with a team-high 12 RBI and one of the teamís three home runs; he went 4 for 5 with 3 RBI Sunday in a 23-7 win. Hayden Daugherty and Kyle Kotchie have provided good starts on the mound in the early stages.
UTPA welcomes Notre Dame to town Tuesday and Wednesday at Edinburg Baseball Stadium, with Stephen F. Austin and Iowa to follow on a 12-game homestand that wraps up March 20 with a doubleheader against the Big 10 Hawkeyes. Big crowds are expected for the Iowa series, considering the plentiful numbers of Winter Texans still in the area on their annual wintering trip down from the Midwest.