The Game:The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (10-16) host the Colorado 14ers (15-7) tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Dodge Arena. The Vipers are 1-11 all-time against the 14ers, including 0-4 this season. The Vipers couldn’t climb the 14ers last night in Hidalgo, a 135-113 loss.
Get Tickets: Tickets are still available and can be purchased in advance through TicketMaster or by phone at 1-888-RGV-NBAD (748-6223)/(956) 972-1144. Tickets can also be purchased at the Dodge Arena box office. The first 1,000 fans will receive hats. Duo Design will perform at halftime.
Free Tickets: The Vipers are giving away free tickets to upcoming home games in exchange for four cans of food as part of the "Hoops Against Hunger" Food Drive. Who ever brings the most non-perishable food items will receive a basketball autographed by all of the Vipers players and coaches, as well as Hall-of-Famer George Gervin.
Follow the Action: If you can’t make it to the game, you can watch it for free, live or archived, using NBA Futurecast. Watching live games between now and February 14th automatically enters you to win a trip to the NBA D-League city of your choice. You can also listen live locally on ESPN Radio 1240 AM. Alex Del Barrio will provide the play-by-play while Jonah Goldberg gives the color commentary. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:53 p.m.
The Vipers: The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are led offensively by guard Alpha Bangura, who scored 19 or more points in six consecutive games from December 7th – 18th, 20 or more points in five consecutive games from January 9th – 20th and is averaging 18.8 points per game. Bangura scored 30 points on December 26th, tied for the highest output by any Viper this season. Bangura has scored at least 14 points in 22-straight games. Trent Strickland is at 17.3 points per game, including a career-high 28 on January 20th against Anaheim. Strickland is second on the team with 5.7 rebounds per game. He scored in double-figures in each of the first 12 games of the season and has done so in 23 of the Vipers’ 26 games. The big man is second on the team in three-point shooting at 35.3%. Ernest Scott leads the way at 42.7%. Kurt Looby leads the league in field goal percentage at 60.8% and he’s fourth in blocked shots per game at 1.9.
Scouting the 14ers: The Colorado 14ers are led by Eddie Gill, who is second in the league in assists at 8.6 per game, second on the team in scoring at 15.9 points and second in steals at 1.6 per game. Josh Davis leads the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game to go with 6.8 rebounds per game. Dominique Coleman leads the team in rebounding at 7.9 per game while also averaging 14.2 points per game, fourth on the team. Joe Dabbert is sixth in the league at 1.6 blocks per game.
The Season Series: The active leading scorer in the series is Alpha Bangura, who is averaging 22 points per game. Trent Strickland is scoring 18.5 points and Marcus Hubbard is at 14 points per game against the Vipers. On the flip side, Josh Davis leads the 14ers with 21.8 points per game against the Vipers. Eddie Gill is averaging 17.3 points, 10.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
The 14ers are shooting 54.3% from the field during the series, including 47.1% (41-87) from behind the arc. The Vipers are shooting 46% from the field, including 27.3% (12-44) from behind the arc. The 14ers average 47.5 rebounds while the Vipers are at 41.5 per game in the series.
Blocking Party: The Vipers set a franchise record for blocked shots with 12 last night. Kurt Looby had seven of those blocks, tied for the highest single-game total by any Viper ever. He tied Cedric Simmons’ record of seven. Looby has also had six blocks twice, including on January 14th against Colorado, giving Looby there of the top four individual blocking games in Vipers history.
Double-Double Toil and Trouble: Alpha Bangura and Quin Humphrety each picked up their first double-doubles of the season last night. Bangura has 20 points and a season-high ten rebounds while Humphrey had 12 points and a season-high ten rebounds..
Dartez Returns: Kendall Dartez returned from the Chinese Basketball Association on January 27th and will be made his first appearance for the Vipers since December 21st last night. A 6-11, 235 pound power forward out of Louisville, Dartez started the first 11 games of the season for the Vipers, averaging 13.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Dartez recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds (seven offensive) for his lone double-double on December 3rd against the Erie BayHawks. He scored a season-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocks on December 19th against the Iowa Energy.
Back-to-Back: The Vipers have played games on back-to-back days six times this season. They opened the season with back-to-back wins over Tulsa and Utah over November 28th and 29th, but lost back-to-back games to Erie and Dakota on December 3rd and 4th. The Vipers split their first road back-to-back after beating Tulsa on December 18th and losing to Iowa on December 19th. The Vipers split a home back-to-back against Albuquerque on January 2nd and 3rd before getting swept in Albuquerque on January 9th and 10th. The Vipers split back-to-back games on January 20th and 21st, beating Anaheim in the former before losing to Tulsa in the latter.
Practice Makes Perfect:Maurice Carter practiced with the Vipers for two months with no guarantee of ever getting a chance to play, but on December 15th, his hard work paid off as he was added to the active roster. The Robert Morris graduate is expected to provide not only depth at the point guard position, but a shooting spark off the bench. The 6-0 Richmond, Virginia, native has also played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and overseas.
Craig Unwound:Craig Winder exploded on December 10th in Albuquerque with a career-high 10 assists and three blocks to go with eight points, four rebounds and two steals. Winder was splitting the point guard duties with Jared Jordan.
BANGARANG!:Alpha Bangura scored a game-high 29 points on January 9th at Albuquerque. It was one point shy of tying his best output of the season. It was the sixth time he had scored 20 or more points this season. It raised his points average by 0.7, the highest bump since his 30-point game on December 26th raised his average by 1.2.
Hubbard Joins Vipers:The Vipers acquired power forward Marcus Hubbard on January 7th, just in time to have him in uniform for their game against Reno. Hubbard had eight of his ten points in the third quarter while also totaling four rebounds, one block and one assist in almost 20 minutes of action.
Hubbard was the first round pick (11th overall) of the Dakota Wizards in this year’s D-League draft and attended training camp with the Atlanta Hawks. In 14 games (two starts) with the Wizards, Hubbard averaged 6.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game while hitting 47.3% of his shots.
The Palm Beach, Florida, native played at Angelo State University, averaging 15.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game as a senior last year, all of which were team-highs. As a junior, Hubbard led the team by averaging 21.7 points, 8.9 rebounds 0.8 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. He also led the team in three-point shooting (38.1%) and free throw shooting (79.1%). An All-LSC South Division and Daktronics All-Region second team choice, Hubbard collected a team-high 12 double-doubles and set single-game records for Stephens Arena by scoring 36 points and making 14 field goals against West Texas A&M on January 17th, 2007. Hubbard started his collegiate career at Kilgore Junior College, where he averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while hitting 45 three-pointers as a sophomore. At Palm Beach Lakes High School, Hubbard was voted as the Small School Player of the Year when he led the Rams to the state final four as a junior.
Eat at Looby’s:Center Kurt Looby had one of his better games of the season on January 2nd, pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds to go with eight points. Looby played a career-high 27 minutes. It was the second time Looby reached double-figures in rebounds and the second most points he has scored in a game (he had nine at Colorado on December 16th).
Talk About Acrodunk: Team Acrodunk performed at halftime of Friday’s game, but that didn’t stop Alpha Bangura from putting on his own dunking clinic in the second quarter, throwing down three fast break jams to help the Vipers outscore the D-Fenders 30-12. Bangura had ten of his 30 points in that quarter.
Trent Leads in Third: The Vipers outscored their opponent in the third quarter for the first time all season on December 16th in Colorado. The Vipers opened the quarter on an 18-6 run. Trent Strickland had 12 of those points.
Missed It By That Much:During the Vipers’ two games on December 14th and 16th, the team scoring exactly 99 points lost. The same team also outscored the opponent in the third quarter both times.
Spread it Out: All ten Vipers scored in December 16th’s loss at Colorado and December 14th’s 122-99 victory over Albuquerque. It had not happened in any of the previous seven games. During the span, Trent Strickland had 46 points, Alpha Bangura had 39, Stanley Asumnu had 36. Smush Parker had 21 assists during the streak.
Super Stanley: Stanley Asumnu elevated his level of play dramatically during the three-game stretch from December 9th through December 14th, averaging 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 steal, 2.7 assists and one block per game over that span. Asumnu has come off of the bench in all but one game this season, picking up a double-double (17 points-10 rebounds) while starting in place of an injured Kendall Dartez on the 11th. On the 14th, he only got better, scoring a game-high 27 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Asumnu started the stretch with an 18 point performance against division-leading Colorado.
Alpha Male: The Vipers acquired shooting guard Alpha Bangura on December 3rd. He replaced injured forward Delonte Holland on the roster. At 6-6, 215 lbs, Bangura has the ability to act as a swingman. The 28-year old’s points per game total went up every year from the 2001-02 season through the 05-06 season as he went from St. John’s University, to the D-League to the Continental Basketball Association. Bangura played for the D-League’s North Charleston Lowgators for two seasons from 2002 through 2004, averaging 13 points per game. He then attended training camp with the Washington Wizards before moving onto the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the CBA. He averaged 27.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 17 games during the 05-06 season before leaving for Portugal, where he averaged 13.2 points in 14 games. Bangura spent last season with San German (Puerto Rico), averaging 20.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 17 games.
Next Up: The Vipers complete the three-game home stand on Sunday, February 8th against the Austin Toros at 7:00 p.m. at Dodge Arena.
Tickets are still available and can be purchased in advance through TicketMaster or by phone at 1-888-RGV-NBAD (748-6223)/(956) 972-1144. Tickets can also be purchased at the Dodge Arena box office. It’s military night, meaning the Vipers will be wearing special uniforms that will be auctioned off after the game. The first 1,000 fans through the doors will receive Ron Artest Bobblehead Dolls. The first 75 children under the age of 12 will receive t-shirts courtesy of Pena Eye Institute.
The Vipers are giving away free tickets to upcoming home games in exchange for four cans of food as part of the "Hoops Against Hunger" Food Drive. Who ever brings the most non-perishable food items will receive a basketball autographed by all of the Vipers players and coaches, as well as Hall-of-Famer George Gervin.
If you can’t make it to the game, you can watch it for free, live or archived, using NBA Futurecast. Watching live games between now and February 14th automatically enters you to win a trip to the NBA D-League city of your choice. You can also listen live locally on ESPN Radio 1240 AM. Alex Del Barrio will provide the play-by-play and Jonah Goldberg will offer the color commentary. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:53 p.m.