Time between games doesn’t faze UTSA’s Henson

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Florida International 100-67 on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson and the Roadrunners host first-place Old Dominion on Feb. 28 to kick off Conference USA bonus play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners have expressed mixed feelings about 11 days off between games during the stretch drive of the Conference USA regular-season race.

But with the team coming off a disappointing road trip that ended last Saturday at Louisiana Tech, and then not playing again until Feb. 28 at home against first-place Old Dominion, coach Steve Henson wants his players to use the time wisely.

“I like the fact that we’ve got days to take advantage of, for a lot of different reasons,” Henson said.

In a C-USA bonus play schedule announced last weekend, the No. 4 Roadrunners were matched against the first-place Old Dominion Monarchs and No. 5 UAB Blazers at home, followed by the second-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and No. 3 Southern Miss Golden Eagles on the road.

For most teams in the C-USA’s three groups, the competition starts Saturday, with Group 1 openers featuring Western Kentucky at Old Dominion and UAB at Southern Miss.

The Roadrunners will have to wait another five days before they tip off at home against the Monarchs.

Henson didn’t like the outcome of his last two games, a 7-point loss at Southern Miss and a 5-point loss at Louisiana Tech.

But he said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that he likes the opportunity to focus for a few days on fine tuning his own team before starting work next week on Old Dominion.

“We had a couple of days off coming back from the trip, which was good,” Henson said. “Our guys really came in with good energy today because of that extra day off.

“It gives us a chance to work on some things we need to work on as part of our base,” he added. “This time of year, you spend so much time working on specifics for your next opponent.

“We’ve got a few days to work on some general things … to help us be a better basketball club, and then we’ll still have time to get ready for Old Dominion.”

Group 1 schedules

Here are the schedules for teams in Group 1 of Conference USA’s bonus play. After bonus play is complete, the standings leader is the C-USA regular-season champion and the top four get first-round byes in the C-USA tournament.

1) Old Dominion (21-6, 11-3)

Saturday – Western Kentucky at Old Dominion
Feb. 28 – Old Dominion at UTSA
March 6 – Southern Miss at Old Dominion
March 9 – Old Dominion at UAB

2) Western Kentucky (16-11, 9-5)

Saturday – Western Kentucky at Old Dominion
Feb. 28 – Western Kentucky at UAB
March 3 – Southern Miss at Western Kentucky
March 6 – UTSA at Western Kentucky

3) Southern Miss (17-9, 9-5)

Saturday – UAB at Southern Miss
March 3 – Southern Miss at Western Kentucky
March 6 – Southern Miss at Old Dominion
March 9 – UTSA at Southern Miss

4) UTSA (15-12, 9-5)

Feb. 28 – Old Dominion at UTSA
March 3 – UAB at UTSA
March 6 – UTSA at Western Kentucky
March 9 – UTSA at Southern Miss

5) UAB (16-11, 8-6)

Saturday – UAB at Southern Miss
Feb. 28 – Western Kentucky at UAB
March 3 – UAB at UTSA
March 9 – Old Dominion at UAB

They said it

UTSA forward Byron Frohnen

“The time off is kind of nice, (but) it sucks because I feel like we were playing well, even though we were coming off two losses … But the time off is going to be good. Get some rest. Get caught up in class and just relax a little bit going into the home stretch.”

Baylor firms up NCAA standing after victory at Iowa State

After losing three of their last four games, the Baylor Bears started to look like a team that might be slipping below eight line in the NCAA Tournament projections.

No more.

Baylor showed some toughness and resilience on the road Tuesday night, taking down 19th-ranked Iowa State, 73-69.

The Bears were bolstered by freshman Jared Butler’s 17 points. Also, Division III transfer Freddie Gillespie came through with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Coming into the game, Baylor had been projected as a No. 8 seed and Iowa State a No. 5 in various bracket projections.

Now, such thinking could be up to debate after the Bears handed the Cyclones their second straight home loss.

“They came in here and kicked our butts,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said in an Associated Press story. “We’ve got to find a way to be tougher. That’s the bottom line.”

Butler, a 6-3 guard from Reserve, Louisiana, produced a layup and a three-point shot down the stretch.

Gillespie, a transfer from Carleton College in Minnesota, provided an inside presence that allowed the Bears to outrebound the Cyclones, 44-28.

“I’m just really proud of the way our guys responded in a tough place to play down the stretch,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told the AP.

Records

Baylor 17-9, 8-5
Iowa State 19-7, 8-5

Barrett, Williamson lead Duke back to No. 1 in the AP poll

With an Atlantic Coast Conference rivalry game scheduled Wednesday at home against North Carolina, the Duke Blue Devils are back on top.

They moved up one spot to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Monday morning when the 16th poll of the season was published.

The Tennessee Volunteers had been No. 1 for four straight weeks, but they took a tumble following an 86-69 loss to Kentucky at Lexington.

Now, the top five includes Duke at No. 1, followed by Gonzaga, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Bolstered by one of the most talented freshmen classes in Mike Krzyzewski’s career, Duke started the year at No. 4 in the preseason.

They’ve been up and down since then, ranked No. 1 in Weeks 2 and 3 and then again from 8-11 and now in Week 16.

Two freshmen forwards entered the season with high expectations, and both are delivering.

RJ Barrett leads the Blue Devils in scoring, averaging 22.7 points and 7.4 rebounds, while Zion Williamson averages 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.9 blocks.

Barrett recorded Duke’s first triple-double in 13 years, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and a season-high 10 assists in a 94-78 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday night.

Williamson also played well, scoring 32 points on 12 of 16 shooting.

In the ACC, Duke leads the standings at 11-1, with Virginia and North Carolina trailing at 10-2.

Duke has already swept two games from Virginia.

Now, the Blue Devils will test the eighth-ranked Tar Heels for the first time this year on Wednesday in Durham.

The two teams will play again on March 9 in Chapel Hill.

AP Top 25

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

UTSA to host Old Dominion on Feb. 28 in bonus play

The UTSA Roadrunners will get an 11-day break before opening Conference USA bonus play on Feb. 28 at home against Old Dominion, according to the C-USA schedule.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., with the game telecast on the CBS Sports Network.

UTSA, playing in Group 1 of the C-USA’s new scheduling format, also will host the UAB Blazers before going on the road to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

UTSA schedule

Feb. 28 — (1) Old Dominion at (4) UTSA, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

March 3 — (5) UAB at (4) UTSA, 3 p.m., CUSA TV

March 6 — (4) UTSA at (2) Western Kentucky, 6:30 p.m., beIN SPORTS

March 9 — (4) UTSA at (3) Southern Miss, 5 p.m., CUSA TV

C-USA Group 1

1) Old Dominion 11-3, 21-6

2) Western Kentucky 9-5, 16-11

3) Southern Miss 9-5, 17-9

4) UTSA 9-5, 15-12

5) UAB 8-6, 16-11

Notable

The Group 1 standings leader after bonus play is the C-USA regular-season champion. The top four teams after bonus play receive byes through the first round of the conference tournament.

UTSA versus the elite

Here is a recap of UTSA’s regular-season games against each of its four opponents in bonus play:

x-UAB 83, UTSA 73, at Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 19 – The Blazers took charge with 16-3 run to close the first half, followed by a 15-0 streak to open the second half

x-UTSA 74, Old Dominion 73, at San Antonio, Jan. 26 – The Roadrunners rocked the Bird Cage with a 25-6 run in the final 4:43 to erase an 18-point deficit.

x-Western Kentucky 96, UTSA 88, overtime, at Bowling Green Ky., Jan. 31 – Hilltoppers won in spite of 46 points from UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson.

x-Southern Miss 78, UTSA 71, at Hattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 14 – Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Leoard Harper-Baker combined for 56 points, leading the Golden Eagles on a comeback from an early 23-10 deficit.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles hold off UTSA, 78-71

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles on Thursday night boosted their chances for a top-five finish in Conference USA with a 78-71 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

Trailing by 13 points early in the game at Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the Golden Eagles rallied behind guards Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin and forward Leonard Harper-Baker for their fifth straight win.

In the second half, Southern Miss built a 17-point lead, only to have UTSA cut it to three in the final minutes.

But, in response, Harper-Baker and Edwards scored on field goals inside of two minutes, and then Griffin hit both ends of a one-and-one with 42 seconds left for the key plays down the stretch.

Edwards led Southern Miss with 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting. He also had 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

Even though Keaton Wallace scored 27 and Jhivvan Jackson 25 for the Roadrunners, the Golden Eagles made them earn it, holding the tandem to a combined 15 of 41 from the field.

Jackson entered the game as the C-USA’s leading scorer and Wallace was third. It didn’t matter in the end, as UTSA remained winless in Hattiesburg at 0-6, including 0-3 under third-year coach Steve Henson.

UTSA will complete a two-game road trip Saturday at Louisiana Tech.

Records

UTSA 15-11, 9-4
Southern Miss 16-9, 8-5

Title chase

Old Dominion 10-3, Western Kentucky 9-4, UTSA 9-4, North Texas 8-5, Southern Miss 8–5.

Notable

Trailing 23-10 early, Southern Miss went on an extended run. The Golden Eagles finished the first half, 22-8, to take a one-point intermission lead. They kept applying the pressure after the break, riding a 29-13 streak to a 61-44 lead. Griffin, a 5-10 senior from New Orleans, scored 11 in the stretch.

Quotable

‘We got off to a good start, really were guarding ’em in the halfcourt … First half was about turnovers. Every time we made a turnover, they scored. They didn’t have anything going in the halfcourt. In the second half, they scored trip after trip after trip. Built the lead. Just whooped us,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast.

Added Henson: “They beat our man. They beat our 3-2. They beat our 2-3. We didn’t have any other defenses to go to. Finally responded a little bit. Cut into the lead. Took better care of the ball in the second half. Big thing was, turnovers in the first half and them whoopin’ us and kinda punkin’ us there in the second half.”

Coming up

After Saturday’s games, the conference will divide teams into three groups and start bonus play. Teams will play four games within their groups to complete the regular season. Details on the groupings and the schedule will be announced Saturday night. Old Dominion, Western Kentucky and UTSA are solidified in the top group.

Confident UTSA visits Southern Miss as ‘bonus play’ looms

Freshman Adokiye Iyaye says his UTSA teammates have a high level of confidence as they embark on a two-game trip this week to Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After a clunky start to the season last fall, UTSA has transformed itself into a smooth operation, a basketball team that expects to win.

The Roadrunners have won 15 of their last 20 leading into a key Conference USA road trip this week to Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.

Moreover, they’ve moved into a virtual tie for first in the C-USA with Old Dominion, all of which has made UTSA coach Steve Henson proud of his players for their efforts.

“Proud of the way they handled it early on when we weren’t winning, when we weren’t playing great basketball,” Henson said. “You know, our guys stayed together. They believed in each other. They knew they had enough talent in the locker room to turn it around.

“Early in the season, we talked about our leadership and maturity, and those things really came through when we needed them to.”

Old Dominion (20-6, 10-3) and UTSA (15-10, 9-3) lead the C-USA race as teams around the conference forge ahead into the last weekend before a four-game, ‘bonus play’ phase of the schedule commences next week.

In all, the Roadrunners will play six more games to complete the regular season, including Thursday night at Southern Miss and Saturday afternoon at Louisiana Tech.

At Southern Miss, the Roadrunners will play in a venue where they’re 0-5 all time, including 0-2 in two trips during the Henson era.

In addition, the fifth-place Golden Eagles (15-9, 7-5) have won four straight.
Given all that, Southern Miss can expect a serious challenge from the Nos. 1 and 3 scorers in the conference – UTSA guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

That winning feeling

The two have taken turns in leading the Roadrunners to important C-USA victories over North Texas, Old Dominion and Marshall.

“Whenever we step on the court, we just feel like we’re going to win every game,” UTSA freshman Adokiye Iyaye said. “That’s our approach.”

Coach Steve Henson says UTSA faces a tough six-game schedule to close the regular season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After sweeping Florida International and Florida Atlantic last week, the Roadrunners learned late Saturday that they had clinched a spot in the top tier of bonus play.

In other words, UTSA will be grouped with the C-USA’s top five teams after Saturday to play its last four games.

“Well, it’s interesting,” Henson said. “It’s nice. I guess.

“It guarantees us six really, really tough games (to close the regular season). I know that. But it also gives us a chance to play the other teams that are fighting for the league championship.

“That’s the thing that’s unique. There’s a feeling that we’re starting something new, but in reality, it’s still regular season play.

“We know that we’re going to have four really tough games. Two at home. Two on the road. That’s all we know at this point.”

New schedule origins

The new scheduling format was voted in last spring in an effort to help the conference get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament.

It was also designed to help an NCAA qualifier, or qualifiers, get higher seeds in the 68-team bracket.

Henson said it doesn’t look like the C-USA will get a second team in the NCAA field this season.

The coach said it’s unlikely that anyone beyond the C-USA tournament champion will make it because teams didn’t do enough in pre-conference games for the ‘bonus play’ matchups to help.

Asked if he thinks C-USA will elect to employ the ‘bonus play’ experiment next year if, as expected, a second team doesn’t make it, Henson declined to speculate.

“Well, it’ll be interesting,” the coach said. “We’ll go to those league meetings. Everybody will start out the meeting trying to figure out what’s best for the league, and then in the end, everyone starts fighting for their own territory.

“You know, it’s hard. You got to get 14 people on the same page. You have to look at the big picture. We all are in agreement (that) we want to be a two-bid league. A three-bid league. We’ll agree that the teams at the top are good enough.”

Searching for answers

Henson pointed out that the one C-USA entry in the NCAA field each of the past four seasons has won at least one game against a higher-seeded opponent.

“You know, we go to the NCAA Tournament every year, and we win … four straight years, against elite opponents,” he said. “We go in with a low seed and knock off good teams. We know the potential is there.

“We just have to figure out the best way to do it.”

Texas Longhorns continue to search for consistency

Inconsistency continues to plague the Texas Longhorns leading into a Saturday afternoon home game against Oklahoma State.

When the Longhorns tip off against the Cowboys at noon, the Longhorns will try to gain some traction after having lost seven of their last 11.

Their latest stumble?

Well, let’s just say the Kansas State Wildcats thoroughly enjoyed themselves Tuesday night in downing the ‘Horns 71-64 in Austin.

Big 12-leading Kansas State shot 54.9 percent from the floor and held Texas to 25 points in the second half.

Maddening stuff for Longhorns fans after watching their team chalk up non-conference victories over Arkansas, North Carolina and Purdue in November and December.

On the strength of its non-conference schedule and some solid efforts during that stretch, forecasters still believe Texas is an NCAA Tournament team.

But how many more times can it afford to score 61 points at home and still be regarded as worthy of an NCAA at-large bid?

Records

Kansas State 19-5, 9-2
Texas 14-11 6-6

Freshmen pace No. 14 Kansas past TCU, 82-77, in OT

Kansas coach Bill Self started four freshman in Fort Worth Monday night in hopes of lighting a spark for the 14th-ranked Jayhawks.

Two of them answered with standout performances in a 82-77 victory in overtime against the TCU Horned Frogs at Schollmaier Arena.

In a game Kansas needed to win to stay in the race for its 15th-straight Big 12 title, freshmen guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji combined for 45 points.

Dotson produced a career-high 25 and also pulled down 10 rebounds. Agbaji added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Desmond Bane led the Horned Frogs with 18 points.

Trailing by 12 with nine minutes remaining, TCU rallied with a 20-8 run to tie it at the end of regulation.

TCU had a chance to win at the buzzer, but guard Kendrick Davis couldn’t get a shot off in time.

Kansas played without senior guard Lagerald Vick (leave of absence) and sophomore forward Marcus Garrett (injury).

Standout power forward Dedric Lawson and two other Kansas players fouled out, leaving the Jayhawks scrambling to win it in the extra period.

Down by five early in overtime, the Horned Frogs rallied to tie on a JD Miller hook shot with 1:29 remaining.

Dotson, a 6-2 guard from Charlotte, N.C., answered for Kansas by making six of six free throws down the stretch.

Records

Kansas 19-6, 8-4
TCU 17-7, 5-6

Houston rises to No. 9 in Associated Press poll

The Houston Cougars on Monday moved up to No. 9 in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll.

AP Top 25
1. Tennessee 22-1 SEC
2. Duke 21-2 ACC
3. Gonzaga 23-2 West Coast
4. Virginia 20-2 ACC
5. Kentucky 20-3 SEC
6. Michigan 22-2 Big Ten
7. Nevada 23-1 Mountain West
8. North Carolina 19-4 ACC
9. Houston 23-1 American
10. Marquette 20-4 Big East
11. Michigan State 19-5 Big Ten
12. Purdue 17-6 Big Ten
13. Villanova 19-5 Big East
14. Kansas 18-6 Big 12
15. Texas Tech 19-5 Big 12
16. Louisville 17-7 ACC
17. Florida State 18-5 ACC
18. Kansas State 18-5 Big 12
19. LSU 19-4 SEC
20. Wisconsin 17-7 Big Ten
21. Iowa 19-5 Big Ten
22. Virginia Tech 18-5 ACC
23. Iowa State 18-6 Big 12
24. Maryland 18-6 ACC
25. Buffalo 20-3 Mid-American

UTSA clinches berth in C-USA’s top tier for ‘bonus play’

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Florida International 100-67 on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Conference USA scoring leader Jhivvan Jackson says UTSA is ready for heightened competition in the next six regular-season games, including the last four in ‘bonus play.’

The UTSA Roadrunners knew immediately after Saturday’s victory over Florida Atlantic that they would have a good chance to qualify for the top tier in Conference USA’s new ‘bonus play’ format.

After the results of other C-USA games rolled in Saturday night, it was confirmed.

The Roadrunners have clinched a spot in regular season-ending, round-robin play involving the top five teams in the conference standings, a school spokesman said in a text Sunday.

As a result, the Roadrunners will play at Southern Miss on Thursday and at Louisiana Tech on Saturday, before getting slotted into a two-week, four-game bonus play schedule against the rest of the best in the conference.

C-USA scoring leader Jhivvan Jackson said Saturday that he believes the Roadrunners will be ready to stand up to what promises to be a rigorous test of their ability.

“We’re prepared for our next one,” Jackson said. “We take it one at a time. But, I mean, our team is really prepared. You know, our preparation for the games is outstanding. We key in on things that a lot of teams don’t key in on. I mean, we just come out to the games, and just show it.

“The next six (games are) going to be as tough as any we’ve played, but we’re ready. We’re just focused on Southern Miss right now.”

The schedule for the bonus play round is expected to be sorted out by the conference office after Saturday night. Possible dates for the games are Feb. 23, Feb. 28, March 3, March 6 and March 9.

Other pods in bonus play will include teams from Nos. 6-10 and 11-14 in the standings.

The C-USA tournament is March 13-16 in Frisco at The Ford Center. The winner of the event in Frisco will clinch the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Adding sizzle to the top-tier designation, the top five teams in the bonus-play round will be playing for the top four seeds in the tournament.

Getting a top-four seeding would be meaningful for the Roadrunners, who would then be in position to qualify for the NCAA Tournament with three victories in Frisco, rather than four.

It’s a key for UTSA’s team, which relies primarily on a seven-man rotation.

The Roadrunners haven’t played in the national tournament since 2011.

C-USA standings
x-Old Dominion 10-3, 20-6
x-UTSA 9-3, 15-10
North Texas 8-4, 20-5
Western Kentucky 8-4, 15-10
Southern Miss 7-5, 15-9
UAB 6-6, 14-11
Marshall 6-6, 13-12
Louisiana Tech 5-7, 15-10
FIU 5-7, 14-11
Florida Atlantic 5-7, 14-11
Rice 5-7, 10-15
Middle Tennessee 5-7, 8-17
UTEP 3-9, 8-15
Charlotte 3-10, 6-18

x-clinched top tier in C-USA bonus play