The Hustle were set to tip off against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in a critical home matchup before heading off on a 4 game road trip from hell. Coming off a disappointing loss in Long Island to the Nets, the Hustle held only a .5 game lead over the Salt Lake City Stars on the 6th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Vipers are currently battling the Warriors for the top seed in the west, so both teams had a lot riding on last night’s match-up. The Vipers will be without two-way player Vincent Edwards but would be getting some help from Chris Chiozza and Isaiah Hartenstein who are both on assignment from the Rockets.
With Tyler Harvey still out due to injury, the Hustle would benefit from having Jevon Carter sent down on assignment from the Grizzlies. The Hustle were without Dusty Hannahs (back soreness) and Kyle Casey (returning from Team USA Qualifiers) as well as Harvey for tonight’s matchup.
The first quarter started out slowly, with neither team getting much to fall in a back and forth 6 minutes. Midway through the quarter the Vipers picked up the tempo and jumped out to a an early 4 point lead, but the Hustle were able to respond to the tempo and tie the game back up. Both teams traded buckets throughout the quarter, while the Vipers shot a ton of 3’s. In the end the Vipers finished the quarter with a slight lead over the Hustle, leading 34-32 after one. Yuta Watanabe, Jevon Carter and Tarik Phillip led the Hustle after the first, as all 3 scored 7 points in the quarter. Dakarai Tucker and Diamond Stone led the Vipers with 7 points to their names.
The 2nd quarter followed along with the flow of the first quarter, with the Vipers leading most of the way but not being able to pull away from the Hustle. A late Hustle run in the last minute led by Jevon Carter’s wizard abilities on defense helped them pull out to the lead heading into halftime, 68-63. Doral Moore led the way for the Hustle with 12 points, with a handful of powerful dunks. Yuta Watanabe, Tarik Phillip and Jevon Carter join Devon with double digit points in the first half. Dakarai Tucker led the Vipers with 17 first half points. Hustle will need to continue attack the Vipers at the 3-point line on defense as the Vipers shot 10-32 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Hustle came out of the halftime break on a big offensive run, jumping out to an 18 point lead early in the quarter. The Vipers were able to respond to the Hustle run to and eventually cut the deficit to single digits late in the quarter. A late run by Tarik Phillip and Julian Washburn helped the Hustle jump back out to a double-digit lead late in the quarter, ultimately wrapping it up with a 100-89 lead.
The Hustle were able to start the 4th quarter on a little run to extend their lead back up to 16 points. The Hustle maintained their double digit lead for most of the fourth quarter, fighting off a couple of small Viper runs in the process. Ultimately, the Hustle held on for the 122-113 win over the RVG Vipers to help them maintain their place in the playoffs. The Hustle were led by Tarik Phillip, Jevon Carter and Yuta Watanabe who all scored 20 plus points in the game. Dakarai Tucker and Isaiah Hartenstein led the Vipers efforts with 27 points a piece.
The win was huge for the Hustle as they prepare for a season-defining 4 game road trip later this week.