Houston beats Saint Louis, 68-64, to remain undefeated

Guard Corey Davis hit a go-ahead three pointer with 20 seconds remaining, lifting the 24th-ranked Houston Cougars to a 68-64 victory over Saint Louis Sunday afternoon.

Houston played before a home crowd at the Fertitta Center and improved to 10-0 on the season.

The Cougars trailed 63-60 with 1:37 remaining but rallied down the stretch for their 23rd straight victory at home.

Davis, a senior from Lafayette, Louisiana, finished with a team-high 17 points for Houston. Armoni Brooks and Galen Robinson, Jr., had 13 each.

The Cougars won the game on the defensive end as they limited the visitors to 36.7 percent shooting from the field.

Javon Bess led the Billikens with 17 points. Bess snared an offensive rebound in the final seconds but missed on a jumper that would have tied the game.

Davis hit two free throws at the end to seal it for Houston, dropping Saint Louis to 7-3 on the season.

Records

Houston 10-0
Saint Louis 7-3

Notable

Saint Louis was the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10. The Billikens had posted victories over Butler and Oregon State. Houston was picked third in the American Athletic Conference poll, behind UCF and Cincinnati.

Duke-fueled hype on the horizon for 10-0 Texas Tech

The 11th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders are taking a clear-eyed view of their 10-0 record leading into a Thursday night game in New York against the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils.

Asked late Saturday night how he will “coach emotion” in preparation for Mike Krzyzewski’s perennial ACC powerhouse, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said it won’t be a problem.

“It’s kind of a non-issue with us because we got these seniors,” Beard said. “These four seniors, they know that 10-0 doesn’t mean much.

“We’d much rather win our last 10 games. That means you’re going to win the Big 12 tournament and the national championship.”

The Big 12 regular-season schedule starts in January, and Tech is expected to be a contender in the conference race.

But until then, the Duke game promises to be a topic of discussion locally, as well as in the biggest media market in the nation.

Conversations on the game could very well spin off into issues, such as:

1) Whether the Red Raiders are as good as advertised. After all, they lost a lot of talent from last year’s Elite Eight team, and their best victories this year, thus far, have come against Southern Cal, Nebraska and Memphis.

2) Whether they can guard Blue Devils freshmen RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, already considered as NBA lottery prospects.

3) Whether they can deal with the hype of a game played in the biggest media market in the nation.

As a coach, Beard seems much more concerned about how he will deal with the Blue Devils’ talent, and not so much the intangibles.

Tech seniors such as Brandone Francis, Matt Mooney, Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens seem to instill confidence in the coach.

So does sophomore Jarrett Culver, who scored 30 points Saturday night in an 82-48 victory over Abilene Christian.

No doubt, Beard has some swagger about him.

“With some younger teams, I’d worry about things like (a big-game atmosphere),” Beard said. “But with these four seniors leading this team, and (with) Jarrett Culver being a best-player type guy …

“You know I got a lot to worry about, with the next game on the schedule (against) a Hall of Fame coach, and NBA (caiber) players. I don’t worry much about our guys not being focused,” he said.

UTSA’s Henson ‘really proud’ after Arkansas wins, 79-67

Guard Isaiah Joe hit six free throws in the final 29 seconds and scored a game-high 21 points Saturday night as Arkansas turned back an upset bid by the UTSA Roadrunners, 79-67.

The Roadrunners led the Razorbacks by four points with nine minutes remaining and trailed by two with 2:23 left on the clock, but couldn’t finish off what would have been the program’s biggest victory in years.

In a game played at North Little Rock, Arkansas, Jhivvan Jackson scored 20 and Keaton Wallace 18 for UTSA.

The Roadrunners return home to play on Monday night against the Bethany College Swedes.

“Really proud of our guys, the way we fought and the way we competed, the way we prepared all week,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “That was my message to ’em just now. If we had played our best game, we would have won.

“You know, if one of our key guys had gotten really, really hot — Jhivvan and Keaton made some plays — but they didn’t get hot like they can. If someone else had caught fire for a little stretch, we had a chance to win, because of the way we did everything else.”

With the victory, Arkansas extended UTSA’s nine-year streak of losses against power conference competition in men’s basketball.

The Roadrunners have lost 20 in a row since 2009 against teams from the major revenue-producing conferences.

UTSA’s last victory against a power program came in 2009, when the Roadrunners downed the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten, 62-50, in Iowa City.

Records

UTSA 3-7
Arkansas 7-2

Notable

Three UTSA starters fouled out. Nick Allen, Jackson and Giovanni De Nicolao all picked up their fifth fouls down the stretch. Allen was on the bench for much of the second half with four.

Quotable

“It was a good team (we played) and we didn’t quite get done what we were trying to accomplish.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson

Turning the tide

Jackson hit a three-pointer with 2:23 remaining to pull UTSA with two of the Razorbacks, who promptly outscored the visitors 15-5 down the stretch to clinch the victory.

In it until the end

UTSA still had a chance in the final minute, with Wallace missing a couple of threes on one possession that would have cut the lead to two again. Arkansas expanded the lead when UTSA was forced to foul.

Top-ranked Kansas holds off Villanova, 74-71

Guard Lagerald Vick scored 29 points and forward Dedric Lawson had 28 and 12 rebounds on Saturday, as the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks held off defending NCAA champion Villanova, 74-71.

An announced crowd of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse watched as freshman guard Devon Dotson scored six points in the final 2:25 for the Jayhawks.

For 17th-ranked Villanova, Phil Booth scored 29 and Eric Paschall produced 17.

The game was a rematch of sorts of the 2018 NCAA semifinals, in which the Wildcats routed the Jayhakws 95-79 at the Alamodome on the way to their second national title in three years.

Records

Kansas 9-0
Villanova 8-4

Notable

Kansas has notched victories this season against four teams in this week’s AP Top 25, including No. 3 Tennessee, (9) Michigan State, (17) Villanova and (21) Marquette.

Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, is on fire. He has posted six straight games of 20 or more points. Also, he has produced six games this season of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

UTSA’s Steve Henson shows confidence in Adokiye Iyaye

Adokiye Iyaye. UTSA beat Mid-American Christian 104-74 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Adokiye Iyaye has averaged 6.1 points in 19.1 minutes through nine games.

Two years ago, UTSA coach Steve Henson identified Giovanni De Nicolao and Byron Frohnen as two freshmen he could trust.

As a result, the two have started every game of their college careers thus far.

Last season, Henson unleashed two more freshmen — Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace — and they not only showed maturity beyond their years, but they also led the Roadrunners to a 20-win season.

This year, freshman Adokiye Iyaye has emerged as the latest example of Henson’s ability to find and sign players in high school who can produce immediately in college.

Unlike De Nicolao and Frohnen, Iyaye hasn’t started a game. Also, he hasn’t shown the explosive offensive skills of a Jackson or a Wallace.

Not yet, anyway.

But the 6-3 guard from Oklahoma City has won enough confidence from coaches to remain solidly in the playing rotation leading into a Saturday afternoon test in Little Rock against Arkansas.

Posssessing excellent defensive skills, Iyaye has played in all nine games, averaging 6.1 points in 19.1 minutes.

“We threw him right into the fire,” Henson said. “When Jhivvan was out (injured), certainly there were a lot of minutes available. We threw him in there, and he was pretty comfortable from the start (of the season).

“His IQ is very good. His feel for the game is very, very good.”

As a result, Iyaye has been either the first or second guard off the bench.

His shooting has been spotty — 2 of 22 on 3-pointers — but coaches are sticking with him, perhaps because of what they saw of him in high school.

“We watched him a lot in the summer,” Henson said. “There were AAU games when his team would be dominating … and you’d hardly notice Doke. (But) if there’s a close game and they needed a bucket, he’d take over.

Steve Henson, UTSA beat Mid-American Christian 104-74 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Third-year UTSA coach Steve Henson.

“Same thing in high school. He played with another really good guard, and at times he deferred to the other kid. But when the game was on the line, he could step up and make the plays that needed to be made.”

For instance, Iyaye averaged 18 points and led Oklahoma City’s Putnam High School to the Class 6A state title last season.

In the title game, he was clutch, scoring the last six points to clinch the title.

Of course, UTSA’s fans have yet to see anything like that so far this season, with Iyaye shooting 36.5 percent from the field and .091 percent from three.

“It’s a little tougher here (compared to high school),” he said. “But that’s what I like. You just got to get in the gym and shoot all the time. In practice, you (have got to) get yourself really tired and then just shoot the ball, so, it can be like it is in the game.”

Henson recently had a heart-to-heart with Iyaye. Considering his shooting woes, he was encouraged to drive more to the basket, to try to create for himself and others.

Iyaye responded with a 4-for-6 shooting effort and 12 points last week against Mid-America Christian.

“(Coach) really helped me out on that,” Iyaye said. “Like, he came up to me and told me, ‘Your shots are going to fall. You’ll be a great 3-point shooter.

“‘Keep working on the shot. You’ll be fine. But, also attack and make plays.’

“(With) him coming up to me like that, (it) really helped. (It) really helped me feel better.”

Alonzo Sule’s inspired play off the bench sparks Texas State

When the Texas State University basketball team started working out earlier this fall, a series of ankle injuries kept redshirt freshman forward Alonzo Sule off the floor.

Sule would sit out for a few days each time until, one day, Bobcats coach Danny Kaspar summoned him for a chat.

“When you get hurt,” Kaspar told him, “you can’t help me and I can’t help you.”

With his injury woes in the past, Sule has started to help Kaspar and the Bobcats in a big way.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Africa has exploded for 45 points off the bench in his last two games.

More impressively, in scoring 22 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 23 against Houston Baptist, Sule has hit 19 of 21 shots from the floor.

“Almost seems like a light switch just flipped on,” Kaspar said.

As Texas State prepares for a road test Saturday at UT Rio Grande Valley, Sule said it feels great to contribute to the team, its 9-1 record and its seven-game winning streak.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Really, winning is the most important thing. It’s been a good experience. I’m just feeling more comfortable in the system.”

Growing up in Cameroon, Sule moved to Texas, where he played his last two seasons of high school at Katy Cinco Ranch in the Houston area.

He said he talked to Brown in the Ivy League and also to A&M-Corpus Christi and UT Rio Grande Valley.

But he eventually settled on Texas State, where he sat out last year as a redshirt.

As this season started, Sule was not playing a major role for the Bobcats. At times, it seemed that for every play he made, he was also called for a foul.

Sule racked up 14 fouls in 52 minutes in his first five games.

“Playing defense without fouling is big,” Sule said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better at that. But it was frustrating (at first). I’d come in, and I’d foul.”

In Texas State’s last three games, Sule has come off the bench to wreak havoc on the offensive glass, pulling down nine offensive rebounds in that span.

In the best game of his burgeoning college career, Sule torched HBU last Saturday in San Marcos with career highs in points (23) and rebounds (10).

“I’ve been given an opportunity,” he said. “So, now, I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”

Houston rallies past LSU 82-76 to remain undefeated

Trailing by 15 points early in the second half Wednesday night, the 24th-ranked Houston Cougars rallied to stun the LSU Tigers 82-76 at the Fertitta Center.

With the win, the Cougars of the American Athletic Conference improved to 9-0 on the season.

Houston has beaten teams from the Pac-12 (Oregon), the Big 12 (Oklahoma State) and now the Southeastern Conference (LSU) since Dec. 1.

LSU tumbled to 7-3 on the season despite leading by 10 at halftime and by 50-35 with 19:04 remaining.

Houston’s backcourt play proved to be the difference, with senior guard Galen Robinson Jr. leading the way with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Junior guard Armoni Brooks had 13 points and nine rebounds, with all of his scoring coming in the second half.

After LSU pulled to within two with 28 seconds left, Houston guard Corey Davis Jr. sank four straight free throws for the final points.

Ja’Vonte Smart paced the Tigers with 18 points. LSU, a 34-percent shooting team on three-pointers, finished 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.

Notable

Houston has won 22 games in a row at home, including a 2-0 record at the Fertitta Center, its new, refurbished, on-campus facility. For a little more than a year, the Cougars had been playing their home games at nearby Texas Southern University as a $60 million makeover was done on the former Hofheinz Pavilion. Crowds announced at a little more than 7,000 have packed the new building since it opened on Dec. 1 against Oregon.

Quotable

“This building is not winning the game for us, but what our winning is doing is putting people in an incredible arena. You could feel it. We didn’t have this before. We had to win games like this by manufacturing our own enthusiasm. We didn’t always get a little help. That crowd was incredible. That crowd was a big reason we won.” — Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, according to comments posted on the UH athletics’ website.

UIW will upgrade the McDermott Center with a new floor

Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham expresses his frustration after a call during a 90-64 loss to Northern Colorado on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.

UIW men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham. –Photo by Joe Alexander.

The University of the Incarnate Word announced Tuesday that it will upgrade the Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center with the installation of a new floor, thanks to a partnership with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital System.

To honor the generosity of the donor, the basketball/volleyball court will carry the organization’s namesake (CHRISTUS Court), with branding on the surface, according to a news release from the UIW athletics department.

The project will include installation of a 12,000 square-foot floor with better grade maple and will include a new subfloor system. The new court will also have an enhanced design for a more aesthetically pleasing look.

Installation is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2019, according to the release.

UIW men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham called it a “fantastic” development for the school’s student-athletes.

“For a student-athlete’s body, the benefits of a state-of-the-art floor, one with excellent resilience, cushioning and durability, are plentiful and long lasting,” Cunningham said.

The cost of the project wasn’t made public due to a confidentiality agreement between the private entities, a spokesman said. But the release said it was the fourth-largest donation in UIW athletics history.

UIW athletics teams compete in NCAA Division I as a member of the Southland Conference.

Rock Chalk: Jayhawks move up to No. 1 in AP poll

Kansas moved up to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Monday after escaping an upset bid a few days ago against the New Mexico State Aggies.

Trailing by seven points several times in the second half, the Jayhawks rallied behind Dedric Lawson to topple the Aggies, 63-60, Saturday in Kansas City.

Later Saturday night, Tennessee upset top-ranked Gonzaga, opening the door for Kansas to take the top spot in the poll for the first time since the preseason.

The Jayhawks are expected to be without injured center Udoka Azubuike as they prepare to play 17th-ranked and defending national champion Villanova at home on Saturday.

Azubuike injured his ankle on Nov. 22 against Wofford and did not play against New Mexico State.

Last March, Villanova knocked Kansas out of the NCAA Tournament at the Final Four in San Antonio, recording a 95-79 victory in the semifinals at the Alamodome.

AP Top 25

1. Kansas 8-0 Big 12
2. Duke 9-1 ACC
3. Tennessee 7-1 SEC
4. Gonzaga 9-1 West Coast
5. Michigan 10-0 Big Ten
6. Virginia 9-0 ACC
7. Nevada 10-0 Mountain West
8. Auburn 8-1 SEC
9. Michigan State 8-2 Big Ten
10. Florida State 8-1 ACC
11. Texas Tech 8-0 Big 12
12. North Carolina 7-2 ACC
13. Virginia Tech 8-1 ACC
14. Buffalo 9-0 Mid-American
15. Ohio State 8-1 Big Ten
16. Wisconsin 8-2 Big Ten
17. Villanova 8-2 Big East
18. Mississippi State 8-1 SEC
19. Kentucky 7-2 SEC
20. Arizona State 7-1 Pac-12
21. Marquette 8-2 Big East
22. Iowa 7-2 Big Ten
23. Furman 10-0 Southern
24. Houston 8-0 American
25. Indiana 8-2 Big Ten
25. Syracuse 7-2 ACC
25. Kansas State 6-2 Big 12

A victory over Purdue was nice, but UT needs more from Roach

Coach Shaka Smart has stocked the Texas Longhorns with enough talent that senior guard Kerwin Roach II doesn’t necessarily need to lead the team every night.

But for the Longhorns to reach their potential this season, Roach will need to play better than he has been playing lately.

Which is to say, not all that great.

Roach is at the center of one of the early mysteries to the new season.

In the state of Texas, few players have the athleticism that Roach can bring to the floor every night.

His skills were on full display on Nov. 22 when he scored 32 points to help the Longhorns defeat the seventh-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

In addition to his 12 of 15 shooting against the Heels, he also produced seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

Since then, his offensive efficiency has declined dramatically.

Over the past four games, including Texas’ 72-68 home victory over Purdue on Sunday night, Roach has hit only 21 percent of his shots from the field.

Yes, Matt Coleman, Dylan Osetkowski and freshman phenom Jaxson Hayes can, and should, be leading on a nightly basis.

The Longhorns can win their share of games in the upcoming Big 12 race with those three playing well.

But, no matter how you slice it, 9 of 43 from the field from Roach over a four-game stretch is not going to inspire much confidence leading into conference.

Shooting 80 percent shouldn’t be expected every night. But, some consistency would be a welcome sight for the fans.