San Antonio – An end to an historic rivalry might be coming Tuesday night.
The contention between St. Mary’s University and the University of the Incarnate Word in men’s basketball has gone on for years – 26 years, in fact – but Tuesday’s non-conference battle might be the last.
The St. Mary’s Rattlers, who are 4-1 going into the showdown, claimed the first-ever game against the Cardinals (4-3) on Dec. 18, 1986 by 20 points (83-63). Since then, opposition between the Rattlers and Cardinals has grown to become the Rattlers’ most popular matchup.
St. Mary’s owns the series edge, 39-26, claiming its latest victory in this year’s season opener on the Cardinals’ own home court, where a flurry of Rattler fans named the Rowdy Rattlers overtook the stands in the 94-87 win.
But with Incarnate Word changing divisions, the StMU-UIW rivalry could see its last stand Tuesday inside Bill Greehey Arena at 7:30 p.m.
The St. Mary’s community is gaining momentum for the affair, bringing spirit in a Student Government Association-sponsored tailgate starting at 6 p.m. and running until tipoff, along with the Third Annual Operation: Drive to the Basket, an initiative co-hosted by the men’s basketball team and the St. Mary’s Army ROTC, supporting St. Mary’s alums deployed overseas.
The Rattlers, who made a regional run last season and claimed the Heartland Conference championship, come fully stacked for the faceoff. In his fourth and final year, senior Kevin Kotzur (La Vernia, Texas) will go for his sixth straight double-double on the season as he has achieved one in each of the games this year, averaging 18.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per contest. In addition, senior Daryell Taylor (Houston) figures to be lights-out as he averages 15.8 points per game, having hit a career-high 27 points against Incarnate Word earlier this season.
St. Mary’s sole loss on the season came in a near upset of the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, Washburn University. As the four-point loss to Washburn has been the Rattlers’ only hiccup this year, St. Mary’s seems to have a big season in the works, with seven players in the regular rotation shooting above .500.
But the Rattlers’ future beyond Tuesday will not be considered in the time being, as all energy is being channeled to stifle the Cardinals one last time. St. Mary’s will surely try to put up one of its best games of the season against Incarnate Word, hoping to close the Rattler-Cardinal chapter in victory.