UTSA set to open three-game Costa Rica exhibition series


Still recovering from a knee injury, UTSA star Jhivvan Jackson (2) is running and practicing with the team this summer but won’t play in the team’s three-game series in Costa Rica.

The UTSA men’s basketball team is set to open on Monday a three-game series of exhibitions in Costa Rica.

Third-year Roadrunners coach Steve Henson put the team through 10 workouts in San Antonio leading into the trip.

The coach will have 10 players available, including forward Adrian Rodriguez, who sat out last season after injurying his knee in the regular-season opener.

In addition, newcomers Tamir Bynum, Adokiye Iyaye, Atem Bior and Knox Hellums will see action for the first time.

“The basketball portion is an opportunity for the new guys to get meshed into the system with the returners,” Henson said in an interview on campus last week. “The) things we’re doing now are things that will take quite a bit of time to do when the official season starts.

“So, we’re getting some that stuff out of the way now. Help them create that comfort level.”

Key players from last year, including Giovanni De Nicolao, Keaton Wallace and Nick Allen, are set to play.

Guard Jhivvan Jackson (knee) and forward Byron Frohnen (hand/wrist) won’t play.

Jackson, the leading scorer for a 20-15 team last year, is hopeful of returning to play some time around the start of the season after undergoing surgery last spring.

He has been running and shooting but hasn’t been cleared yet for contact.

“I feel great,” Jackson said last week. “You know, I’m getting better every day. I’m starting to do all the drills except the physical (contact).

“When we get back from Costa Rica, I’m going to get the knee brace. Then, most likely, two weeks after the knee brace, close to a month, I’m going to be able to do the physical (contact in practice).”

Costa Rica exhibitions

Monday — UTSA vs. University of Calgary
Tuesday — UTSA vs. University of Calgary
Wednesday –UTSA vs. U21 Costa Rica national team

UTSA roster

Jhivvan Jackson, sophomore, guard, Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Byron Frohnen, junior, forward, Las Vegas
Tamir Bynum, freshman, guard, Houston
Giovanni De Nicolao, junior, guard, Padua, Italy
Mitar Stanojevic, junior, forward, Serbia
Adokiye Ayaye, freshman, guard, Oklahoma City
Adrian Rodriguez, redshirt freshman, forward, Tulsa
Knox Hellums, junior, guard, Tomball/Pepperdine
Keaton Wallace, sophomore, guard, Dallas
Atem Bior, junior, forward, Brisbane, Australia
Nick Allen, senior, forward, Surprise, Arizoona
Toby Van Ry, senior, forward, Fort Collins, Colorado

Notable

UTSA finished 20-15 last season, including 11-7 and fifth place in Conference USA. The Roadrunners reached the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. It was UTSA’s first 20-win season since the 2010-11 squad finished 20-14. Forward Deon Lyle and George Willborn III, who had eligibility remaining, are no longer with the team.

Quotable

“To be honest, we as a team, got really high expectations for ourselves. The main goal is to win the conference and go to the (NCAA) tournament … We got new guys coming in to help us get there and give us energy.” — UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson

San Antonio to host the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2025

The NCAA Men’s Final Four is returning to San Antonio for the fifth time.

Officials on Monday announced that college basketball’s showcase event will be played at the Alamodome in 2025, with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg calling it, “Great news.”

Nirenberg said in a news release that the decision confirms that San Antonio “is one of the best cities in the nation — if not the best” to host the tournament.

In thanking local organizers, the mayor added, “Once again, all that makes San Antonio special will be showcased across the country and around the world.”

San Antonio previously staged the Final Four in 1998, 2004, 2008 and in April of this year.

Host institutions will be NCAA Division I members UTSA and the University of the Incarnate Word.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee selected Houston for 2023, Phoenix (2024), San Antonio (2025) and Indianapolis (2026).

According to ncaa.com, the announcement capped a year-long process that included site visits to each of seven finalist cities and in-person presentations during the committee’s annual summer meeting, which took place last week in Boston.

The other finalists were Detroit, Los Angeles and North Texas.

Final Four sites

2019 — Minneapolis
2020 — Atlanta
2021 — Indianapolis
2022 — New Orleans
2023 — Houston
2024 — Phoenix/Glendale
2025 — San Antonio
2026 — Indianapolis

Quotable

Lisa Campos, UTSA vice president for athletics:

“We’re so excited that the Final Four is returning to San Antonio. I’d like to thank the NCAA for selecting our great city as the location for the 2025 Final Four and I also want to congratulate everyone who worked so hard behind the scenes on the bid and presentation. Earlier this year, the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, which includes UTSA, put in an incredible amount of hard work to host one of the best Final Fours ever held. We look forward to making the 2025 event even better.”

Notable

In April, San Antonio hosted a Final Four consisting of the University of Michigan, Loyola (Chicago), Villanova and Kansas.

A crowd of 68,257 watched in the semifinals as Michigan defeated Loyola 69-57 and Villanova downed Kansas, 95-79. Another 67,831 turned out for Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan in the finals.

UIW steps up

The announcement proved to be a big moment for the University of the Incarnate Word, whose athletics program has stepped up in recent years from NCAA Division II to Division I.

After a four-year transition, UIW of the Southland Conference became fully eligible for the Division I men’s basketball tournament for the first time in 2017-18. When the news surfaced, the Cardinals tweeted it out to their supporters.

Villanova hits a record 18 threes to sink Kansas

The record-setting Villanova Wildcats buried six three-pointers in the first seven minutes Saturday night at the Alamodome en route to an easy 95-79 victory over Kansas in the NCAA Final Four semifinals.

With the win, the Wildcats set the stage for a Monday night showdown against the Michigan Wolverines for the national title.

Michigan advanced earlier in the evening by rallying in the second half to down Loyola-Chicago, 69-57.

In the blowout over Kansas, Villanova set a Final Four record for three-pointers in a game with 18.

Villanova also established an NCAA single season record for threes in a season with 454.

Remarkably, the Big 12-champion Jayhawks led only once in the game at 2-0 before the Wildcats started to rain threes on them.

Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman hit three straight from long distance to make it 9-2.

Spellman, Donte DiVincenzo and Collin Gillespie added three more to cap a 22-2 run.

Suddenly, the Jayahwks were down by 18 and struggling.

The struggle lasted for the duration of the half as the Wildcats maintained a double-digit lead though intermission.

Trailing by 47-32 entering the second half, the Jayhawks hit a couple of free throws to cut the lead to 13.

Not to be outdone, Paschall nailed another three to start a 7-0 run for the Wildcats, boosting the lead to 20.

Kansas never got closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Statistics

Attendance in the dome was announced at 68,257.

Villanova continued to bury tournament opponents with its prolific shooting from beyond the arc, hitting 18 of 40 threes against Kansas, increasing its totals to 66 of 156 in five NCAA games.

Paschall, who sat out Villanova’s 2016 NCAA championship run while sitting out under transfer rules, led the Wildcats with 24 points on 10 of 11 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 from three.

Guard Jalen Brunson produced 18 points, including 13 in the first half, to go with a team-best six assists.

The recently-named Player of the Year in college basketball by the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers also nailed 3 of 8 from deep.

Spellman, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound redshirt freshman, contributed a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Stepping outside, he showed off great touch, hitting 3 of 9.

DeVincenzo was 3 of 5 from deep to go along with his usual energetic play off the bench. He had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

Quotable

“Well, that was just one of those nights, man,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Man, we made every shot to start the game. And when you do that, you get up 22-4, if you’re a decent free-throw shooting team, it’s tough to come back on that.”

Notable

Kansas guard DeVonte’ Graham finished with 23 points and three assist in 39 minutes, and came off the floor with tears in his eyes, having played his last game for the Jayhawks.

Malik Newman, who had 32 points in an Elite Eight victory over Duke, scored 21. But he had only 7 points on 3 of 8 shooting when Kansas was getting blown out before intermission.

Quotable

Graham said coach Bill Self told the players to keep their heads up.

“We had an unbelievable season,” Graham said. “You know, it’s not the way you want it to end. But even if you lost by one point it will still hurt. And we all just need to keep our heads up. It’s going to hurt now but we’ll be all right.”

Self disagreed gently with a question that suggested the season had a “sour ending” with the blowout loss.

“I don’t know if I totally agree with that,” he said. “To me it would be a sour ending if you lost on the last possession. Do you feel better, you know, losing the way we did today or losing on the last possession?

“You always want to perform in a way to put yourself in position to win. But when it’s the last game, certainly it stings and hurts no matter what. I’m really proud of our guys.

“We did not have the perfect roster in many ways to probably win 31 games and win the league in a great league and conference tournament ad get to the Final Four, in a lot of ways.

“And, today, it felt like today it just kind of caught up with us.”

A ‘road game’ for Michigan? Beilein doesn’t mind

Michigan coach John Beilein addresses the media at the NCAA Final Four.

Most of the anticipated 69,000 fans in attendance for the NCAA semifinals Saturday at the Alamodome are expected to be cheering for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers against the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan coach John Beilein doesn’t mind.

He said it hasn’t been necessary to talk to his players about it, either.

“I think they know that this is a great story, one that all of us should really admire what Loyola has been able to do,” Beilein said. “But you’ve seen us play at Michigan State and you’ve seen us play at Penn State and Mayland.

“People weren’t cheering for us there.”

Beilein said he expects Michigan fans to turn out “strong” for their team. He downplayed the idea that most of the crowd should be cheering for Loyola, one of the ‘Cinderella’ stories of the tournament.

“I don’t think that will bother us,” Beilein said. “I think that this is going to be a great basketball game with two teams that really have moments where they play great basketball.”

With two Catholic schools in Final Four spotlight, UIW rebuilds

Carson Cunningham started work this week as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

The presence of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the Villanova Wildcats at the NCAA Final Four this week serves as proof that small, Catholic schools can compete – and win – against larger, state-supported institutions.

On the other hand, the Division I basketball gods don’t always smile on the Catholic institutions.

If you doubt that, just call over to the athletic department at the University of the Incarnate Word and ask for new men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham.

Cunningham, who has been on the job for only a few days, is busy trying to figure out how to correct problems that led to a 19-38 combined record the past two seasons.

UIW finished 7-21 last year and at one point lost 17 straight.

Asked about the nature of the rebuilding task at UIW, Cunningham said Tuesday afternoon that “we certainly have work to do.”

Which is precisely why UIW athletic director Brian Wickstrom wanted him in the first place.

Cunningham, a former starting point guard for Gene Keady at Purdue, has found success as a head coach at both Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana, and at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

At Carroll, the Fighting Saints won only two games in 2012-13, the year before Cunningham arrived. In his last two seasons, they won 29 and 28, respectively.

“I have been through a rebuilding process before,” Cunningham said. “So, I’m confident we can build a program (at UIW) that alumni and current students and fans can be proud of and can celebrate. That’s certainly the goal.”

In Saturday’s national semifinals at the Alamodome, Loyola-Chicago will take on Michigan, before Philadelphia-based Villanova battles against Kansas.

Some might suggest that it’s a good omen for Cunningham that two Catholic schools from urban areas have advanced to play at the dome this week, his first on the job at UIW.

Though Cunningham smiled at the question, he wasn’t buying into that line of thinking. He just said it shows that every school has an opportunity to succeed with hard work.

“Being from Northwest Indiana and having lived in Chicago for several years, you know, I know Loyola and its background and kind of its general story quite well,” he said. “To think that it’s in the Final Four in 2018 is unbelievable.

“I think it just represents opportunity. It’s not easy. What they’re doing is out of this world, and I’m sure they feel great about it, as they should.”

A former history teacher at DePaul, in Chicago, Cunningham said “it’s awesome” that Loyola’s 98-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, is getting recognized for her many years of service to the school.

“I think it just serves as a motivator to us,” Cunningham said. “I know, really, so many people across the nation are awed by Sister Jean’s story, and I think it’s a great representation of what Catholic higher education is, at the heart.”

UIW doesn’t have the resources to match Villanova, which plays in the powerful Big East Conference.

Even though UIW has recorded a few important victories on the basketball court over the past few years under former coach Ken Burmeister, the program lacks the tradition of a Villanova or a Loyola-Chicago, which have both won NCAA titles.

Still, UIW does have the tradition of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, brave souls who came to Texas in 1869 to help set up a hospital to treat victims of cholera, Cunningham said.

The coach also pointed out the accomplishments of Sister Walter Maher, the vice president for Mission and Ministry at UIW, whose background includes work as an administrator in the CHRISTUS Healthcare system.

Like Sister Jean, Sister Walter works with UIW athletes.

Cunningham said it’s important in starting to build his program that it “wave the banner” for Sister Walter and for those who came before her.

“That’s deeply motivating to know that we are part of that story,” the coach said. “Even if it’s just through basketball, we can at least be connected to that larger mission. Again, that’s a great honor.”

Final Four glance: Loyola, Michigan, Villanova, Kansas

Welcome to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, from The JB Replay.

The NCAA Final Four is set to tip off Saturday at the Alamodome, with Loyola-Chicago playing Michigan at 5:09 p.m. Villanova takes on Kansas in the second of two national semifinals at 7:49. Here’s a quick glance at each team:

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Coach: Porter Moser
Conference: Missouri Valley
Record: 32-5
Streak: Won 14 in a row and 21 of 22

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Miami, 64-62; beat Tennessee, 63-62; beat Nevada, 69-68; beat Kansas State, 78-62.

Reasons to believe: With a 98-year-old nun known as Sister Jean cheering them on, the Ramblers called on different players to hit game-deciding shots in the last 10 seconds of their first three tournament games. Loyola then won going away against Kansas State.

Michigan Wolverines

Coach: John Beilein
Conference: Big Ten
Record: 32-7
Streak: Won 13 in a row and 15 of 16

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Montana, 61-47; beat Houston, 64-63; beat Texas A&M, 99-72; beat Florida State, 58-54.

Reasons to believe: Wolverines play tough defense, yielding only 63 points per game. Most of their games are of the grind-it-out style, but they can play fast, as evidenced by a 99-point explosion against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.

Villanova Wildcats

Coach: Jay Wright
Conference: Big East
Record: 34-4
Streak: Won 9 in a row and 11 of 12

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Radford, 87-61; beat Alabama, 81-58; beat West Virginia, 90-78; beat Texas Tech, 71-59.

Reasons to believe: The Wildcats always seem to have the answers in big moments, most notably point guard Jalon Brunson. Both Brunson and Phil Booth played major roles in ‘Nova’s 2016 national championship.

Kansas Jayhawks

Coach: Bill Self
Conference: Big 12
Record: 31-7
Streak: Won 7 in a row and 12 of 13

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Penn, 76-60; beat Seton Hall, 83-79; beat Clemson, 80-76; beat Duke, 85-81, overtime.

Reasons to believe: Jayhawks point guard Devonte’ Graham is playing with supreme confidence. Guards Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk all hit big shots against Duke. Bill Self has the mojo. He won here in 2008.

Michigan defeats Florida State, earns trip to the Final Four

The Michigan Wolverines are returning to the NCAA Final Four.

Michigan will make the trip to San Antonio next week after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 58-54 on Saturday for the West Regional championship.

It is the second Final Four for Michigan and veteran coach John Beilein in the past six seasons.

The Wolverines reached the NCAA finals in 2013 before losing to the Louisville Cardinals.

After Saturday’s Round of Eight, two of the hottest teams in the nation are paired in the NCAA semifinals.

Loyola-Chicago will bring a 14-game winning streak to the Alamodome. Michigan has won 13 straight.

On Sunday, the final two teams will be decided.

Villanova and Texas Tech will play for one spot, while Kansas and Duke will meet for the other.

The semifinals are set for March 31. After a day off, the NCAA title game will be held on April 2.

Top-seeded Kansas holds off Clemson in NCAA round of 16

The Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks scored a Round of 16 victory in the NCAA Tournament Friday with an 80-76 decision over the Clemson Tigers.

Kansas, with a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, held off a furious second-half charge by the fifth-seeded Tigers in the game at Omaha, Nebraska.

Leading by 20 early in the second half, the Jayhawks had to make free throws at the end, and they did, knocking down 5 of 6 in the final minute.

Guard Devonte’ Graham was 4 for 4 in that stretch, including two with 13 seconds left for a six-point lead that put the game away.

As the No. 1 seed in the East Region, the Villanova Wildcats have made a living all season with offensive bursts that leave opponents searching for answers.

Villanova slapped an 11-0 run on fifth-seeded West Virginia in the second half en route to a 90-78 victory in the Round of 16 at Boston.

Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman capped the run with plays that brought Wildcats fans to their feet.

First, Bridges sank a three from the corner. Next, Spellman blocked a West Virginia shot.

On the other end, Spellman trailed the play and followed a miss by Phil Booth for a monster dunk.

Just like that, a six-point deficit for Villanova turned into a 65-60 lead with nine minutes left.

UTSA’s season ends with 76-69 playoff loss to Sam Houston State

UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao drives against Sam Houston State at the UTSA Convocation Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018 in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.

UTSA sophomore guard Giovanni De Nicolao drives against Sam Houston State in the CIT quarterfinals. Photo by Joe Alexander.

An emotional UTSA coach Steve Henson addressed reporters Thursday night, explaining the difficulty of delivering a proper message to his players following their last game of the season.

“That’s always a tough conversation,” Henson said. “You know, you’re never totally prepared for it. Going into tonight’s game, (you’re) expecting to win and hoping to win and play next week, so, it was tough. A very tough locker room.”

Trailing by 12 early in the second half, Sam Houston State rallied to eliminate UTSA on its home court with a 76-69 victory in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

An announced crowd of 1,352 watched as the visitors from the Southland Conference hit the home team with a late 17-2 run over a five-minute span to take charge.

With the surge, Sam Houston turned a 57-50 deficit into a 67-59 lead with five minutes remaining.

The Roadrunners (20-15) of Conference USA never got closer than five the rest of the way.

Ultimately, the Bearkats (21-14) won the game at the free-throw line. They hit 27 of 34 to only 7 of 13 for the Roadrunners.

UTSA players took the loss hard.

“I want to keep this feeling, right here, for all summer, how I hurt right now, to work out all summer, to get better and to win the conference (next year),” UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao said.


Sam Houston State’s Josh Delaney (15) drives hard to the bucket and dishes to teammate Freddy Bitondo (0) for a layup mid-way through the second half.

Statistical leaders

Sam Houston State: John Dewey III, 18 points, including 13 in the second half. He hit 8 of 10 free throws. Cameron Delaney, 13 points, 6 rebounds. Chris Galbreath, 11 points, 12 rebounds. Josh Delaney, 11 points, 5 assists.

UTSA: Keaton Wallace, 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting, 3 of 7 from three-point distance. Giovanni De Nicolao, 17 points on 7 of 13, including 3 of 5 from three. Nick Allen, 11 points, 4 of 12. Byron Frohnen, 8 points, 4 rebounds. Deon Lyle, 5 points on 2 of 9, 1 of 7 from three.


UTSA forward Byron Frohnen runs the floor and gets the ball for an easy shot late in the first half against Sam Houston State.

First-half highlights

The UTSA Roadrunners hit eight three-pointers in the first half, breaking out to a 37-28 intermission lead.

Wallace led the long-distance barrage, nailing three shots from beyond the arc.

De Nicolao and Allen added two more apiece as the Roadrunners nailed 8 of 16 overall.

Defensively, UTSA played well, holding Sam Houston to 10 of 30 from the field and 4 of 6 free throws.


UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao hits a three from the corner early in the first half against Sam Houston State.

Game notes

UTSA players wanted a CIT championship, but they did bring home a 20-win season — only the seventh in the program’s 37 years.

The Roadrunners played its sixth straight game without leading scorer Jhivvan Jackson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 24 against Louisiana Tech. UTSA went 3-3 in his absence, including 1-1 in the C-USA tournament and 1-1 in the CIT.

Cameron Delaney, a junior guard from Harker Heights, sparked Sam Houston’s decisive 17-2 run with three-pointer, a steal and another basket.

The Bearkats played without guard Marcus Harris, who injured his foot Monday night in a 69-62 home victory over Eastern Michigan. Harris played in high school in San Antonio for the MacArthur Brahmas. He is averaging 9.7 points per game.

CIT quarterfinals

Saturday’s game
Central Michigan at Liberty

Thursday’s results
Sam Houston State beat UTSA, 76-69

Wednesday’s results
Illinois-Chicago beat Austin Peay, 83-81
Northern Colorado beat San Diego, 86-75

UTSA’s 20-win seasons
Year, record, head coach

1983-84: 20-8 (Don Eddy)
1987-88: 22-9 (Ken Burmeister)
1989-90: 22-7 (Ken Burmeister)
1990-91: 21-8 (Stu Starner)
1991-92: 21-8 (Stu Starner)
2010-11: 20-14 (Brooks Thompson)
2017-18: 20-15 (Steve Henson)

UTSA guard Keaton Wallace plays defense against Sam Houston State's Dajuan Jones at the UTSA Convocation Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018 in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.

UTSA freshman guard Keaton Wallace plays defense against Sam Houston State’s Dajuan Jones. Wallace finished with a team-high 18 points. Photo by Joe Alexander.

UTSA vs. Sam Houston State photo gallery

Nick Allen. UTSA lost to Sam Houston State on Thursday, March 22, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals.UTSA lost to Sam Houston State on Thursday, March 22, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals. UTSA guard forward Nick Allen, who scored 11 points, shoots over the Sam Houston State defense. Photo by Joe Alexander.