Carson Cunningham: ‘I’m just really grateful for the opportunity’

Former Purdue University guard Carson Cunningham says he is “super excited” to get the job as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the University of the Incarnate Word mission,” said Cunningham, who has coached the past five seasons at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

UIW is an NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.

Cunningham said in a telephone interview that he applied for the job soon after it came open in the first week of March.

He said he had preliminary talks with members of the UIW search committee, headed by athletic director Brian Wickstrom.

Subsequently, he was invited to the campus.

“Really, it all happened pretty fast,” Cunningham said. “I’m just really grateful for the opportunity, excited to get to work.”

Cunningham played for Gene Keady at Purdue for three seasons through 2001.

It’s the first Division I head coaching job for Cunningham, 40, from Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

In the past three years, his teams at Carroll dominated with a combined 80-22 record and back-to-back Frontier Conference titles.

Cunningham took over a program in 2013 that finished with only two victories the previous season.

He won nine games in his first year and then followed with records of 18-11, 23-10, 29-6 and 28-6.

The Saints reached the NAIA tournament in each of the past three years.

Cunningham will replace Ken Burmeister at UIW, which is still a program in transition.

In 2013-14, UIW embarked on a move from Division II and the Lone Star Conference to Division I and the Southland.

The Cardinals posted three straight winning records to start the transition but have since fallen on hard times.

Two years ago, UIW fell to 12-17. This past season, with the program eligible to compete for both the Southland and NCAA tournaments for the first time, the Cardinals dropped to 7-21.

At one point, they lost 17 games in a row. Ultimately, UIW fell short of the eight-team, SLC tournament, finishing tied for 11th at 2-16.

Quotable

From new UIW head coach Carson Cunningham:

“It’s thrilling to join the University of the Incarnate Word — a school with a wonderful mission and super-dynamic academics — as its next head men’s basketball coach,” Cunningham said. “I’d like to thank AD Dr. Brian Wickstrom and the hiring committee for the opportunity to join such an impressive athletic program; one that is positioning itself for a bright future.”

From former Purdue coach Gene Keady:

“I’m very happy for Carson. He was fun to be around and very intelligent as a player. I’ve visited him at Carroll in Montana twice and really liked his program. I’m excited to follow UIW now, and I’m happy for him and his family.”

Henson wins NABC District 11 Coach of the Year honors

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Lamar 76-69 on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at the UTSA Convocation Center in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Steve Henson has been honored as both the NABC District 11 and C-USA coach of the year.

Steve Henson has won his second major coaching honor of the season.

He was named on Wednesday as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 11 coach of the year.

In his second year at UTSA, Henson previously had been cited as the Coach of the Year in Conference USA.

Henson won the award on the eve of a CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament quarterfinal between UTSA (20-14) and Sam Houston State (20-14).

UTSA hosts Sam Houston Thursday night at 7.

The Roadrunners finished 5-27 in 2015-16, the year before Henson arrived.

They improved to win 14 games last year and 20 this year on the heels of back-to-back strong recruiting classes.

Two years ago, Henson brought in a freshman class that included Giovanni De Nicolao, Byron Frohnen and George Willborn III.

Last year, his staff added freshmen Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace and transfer Deon Lyle.

Jackson, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and a second-team, all C-USA selection, averaged 18.4 points per game.

UTSA suffered a blow to its postseason chances when it lost Jackson to a knee injury against Louisiana Tech.

But even without Jackson, the Roadrunners split the next two games on the road to finish the regular season 18-13 overall and 11-7, good for fifth place in the C-USA.

UTSA defeated UTEP to reach the quarterfinals in the C-USA tournament before losing to Marshall, the eventual champion.

In the CIT, UTSA hosted Lamar last Wednesday, recovered from a slow start and won 76-69.

Sam Houston at a glance

Sam Houston State finished the regular season 19-13 overall and fourth in the SLC standings with a 12-6 record.

Moving into the SLC tournament at Katy, the Bearkats routed New Orleans 85-63 before losing in the second round to Southeastern Louisiana, 89-79.

Sam Houston won at home in its first game in the CIT, beating Eastern Michigan 69-62 on Monday, to qualify for the quarterfinal game against UTSA.

The Bearkats have won 20 games or more in four of the past five seasons under coach Jason Hooten. Hooten is in his eighth year at the school.

Leaders

Sam Houston — Chris Galbreath, Jr. leads Sam Houston, averaging 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. John Dewey III averages 10 points and 4.5 assists. Transfer Marcus Harris, who played in high school at MacArthur, is averaging 9.4 points in his first season with the Bearkats.

UTSA — Junior transfer Deon Lyle has stepped up to average 17 points in the five games since Jackson has been out. He has led UTSA in scoring four times during the stretch.

For the season, Lyle is averaging 11.5, Wallace 11.2, Nick Allen 8.8 and De Nicolao 8.4. Willborn, a 4.5 ppg scorer last year, has boosted his average to 7.8 as a sophomore. Byron Frohnen averages 7.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.

UTSA set to host Sam Houston State in CIT quarterfinals

Giovanni De Nicolao. UTSA beat Lamar 76-69 on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at the UTSA Convocation Center in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao shoots a jumper against Lamar on March 14 in the first round of the CIT. The Roadrunners advanced with a 76-69 victory.

The UTSA men’s basketball team will host Sam Houston State Thursday night at 7 in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, officials announced Monday night.

Officials announced the pairing after Sam Houston State scored a 69-62 victory at home over Eastern Michigan.

UTSA won its CIT opener last Wednesday, defeating Lamar, 76-69.

Both UTSA of Conference USA and Sam Houston State of the Southland Conference are 20-14 on the season.

Wild West: Florida State knocks off No. 1 seed Xavier, 75-70

Trailing by 12 points in the second half, the Florida State Seminoles rallied to stun the top-seeded Xavier Musketeers 75-70 on Sunday night in second-round play at Nashville in the NCAA Tournament’s West Region.

The Musketeers, holding a two-point lead at halftime, built it to 58-46 over the No. 9 Seminoles with 9:50 remaining.

With 5:37 left, they were still up by nine at 66-57 when the tide started to turn in Florida State’s favor.

From there, the Seminoles outscored the Musketeers 18-4 the rest of the way, earning a ticket to play in Los Angeles in the Sweet 16.

PJ Savoy hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 68 seconds left to give Florida State its first lead in the second half.

With the loss, Xavier became the second No. 1 seed to fall in the first week of the tournament.

The Musketeers followed the Virginia Cavaliers, who made history Friday night as the first No. 1 to lose in the Round of 64.

UMBC recorded a 74-54 victory over Virginia in the South Region that seemed to set the stage for a rash of upsets over the next few days.

By Sunday night, Florida State got into the act with a stirring finish against Xavier.

With the victory, the Seminoles will meet the No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in one of two semifinals Thursday at the Staples Center in L.A.

In the other, it will be the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines against the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies.

The winner of the regional finals on Saturday will earn a trip to the Final Four at the Alamodome from March 31-April 2.

Round of 32 at a glance

Weekend scores

x-Saturday’s games
y-Sunday’s games

South

y-(9) Kansas State beat (16) UMBC, 50-43
x-(5) Kentucky beat (13) Buffalo, 95-75

x-(11) Loyola-Chicago beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62
y-(7) Nevada beat (2) Cincinnati, 75-73

(Winners play in Atlanta on Thursday. Finals are Saturday)

West

y-(9) Florida State beat (1) Xavier, 75-70
x-(4) Gonzaga beat (5) Ohio State, 90-84

x-(3) Michigan beat (6) Houston, 64-63
y-(7) Texas A&M beat (2) North Carolina, 86-65

(Winners play in Los Angeles on Thursday. Finals are Saturday).

East

x-(1) Villanova beat (9) Alabama, 81-58
(5) West Virginia beat (13) Marshall, 94-71

x-(3) Texas Tech beat (6) Florida, 69-66
y-(2) Purdue beat (10) Butler, 76-73

(Winners play in Boston on Friday. Finals are Sunday, March 25).

Midwest

x-(1) Kansas beat (8) Seton Hall, 83-79
y-(5) Clemson beat (4) Auburn, 84-53

y-(11) Syracuse beat (3) Michigan State, 55-53
x-(2) Duke beat (7) Rhode Island, 87-62

(Winners play in Omaha, Neb., on Friday. Finals are Sunday, March 25).

Texas A&M routs second-seeded North Carolina, 86-65

Texas A&M played championship-level basketball Sunday in routing the second-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels 86-65 in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.

In a game played in Tar Heels country at Charlotte, the seventh-seeded Aggies bolted to a 14-point lead at intermission and boosted it to 24 with 13 minutes left.

A&M cruised the rest of the way, ousting the defending NCAA champions from the tournament behind the likes of TJ Starks, Tyler Davis, DJ Hogg and Robert Williams III.

As a result, A&M (22-12) of the Southeastern Conference will advance to take on third-seeded Big Ten power Michigan (30-7) in the Round of 16 on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Individual leaders

Aggies — Starks (21 points), Davis (18 points, 9 rebounds), Hogg (14 points, 8 rebounds), Admon Gilder (12 points), Williams (8 points, 13 rebounds).

Tar Heels — Joel Berry (21 points), Luke Maye (13 points, 11 rebounds)

Quotable
(From Texas A&M’s athletics website)

“Great win, great team win. I thought we got a performance from everybody. I thought once we slowed them up in transition and our zone gave them some problems.” — A&M head coach Billy Kennedy

A&M forward Tyler Davis — “We just stuck to our game plan and played to our strengths. We know we have the advantage on the inside against most teams. So we just did what we do every day — go to war on the inside and eat glass.”

Two from Texas in Sweet 16

Over the past 48 hours, two teams from the state of Texas have advanced to the Sweet 16. Texas Tech will play Purdue in Boston on Friday. The Red Raiders of the Big 12 edged the Florida Gators 69-66 on Saturday in Dallas.

Round of 32 at a glance

Weekend scores
x-Saturday’s games
y-Sunday’s games

South

y-(9) Kansas State beat (16) UMBC, 50-43
x-(5) Kentucky beat (13) Buffalo, 95-75

x-(11) Loyola-Chicago beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62
y-(7) Nevada beat (2) Cincinnati, 75-73

West

(1) Xavier vs. (9) Florida State, Sunday, 7:45 p.m., TNT
x-(4) Gonzaga beat (5) Ohio State, 90-84

x-(3) Michigan beat (6) Houston, 64-63
y-(7) Texas A&M beat (2) North Carolina, 86-65

East

x-(1) Villanova beat (9) Alabama, 81-58
(5) West Virginia vs. (13) Marshall, Sunday, 8:40 p.m., TBS

x-(3) Texas Tech beat (6) Florida, 69-66
y-(2) Purdue beat (10) Butler, 76-73

Midwest

x-(1) Kansas beat (8) Seton Hall, 83-79
y-(5) Clemson beat (4) Auburn, 84-53

y-(11) Syracuse beat (3) Michigan State, 55-53
x-(2) Duke beat (7) Rhode Island, 87-62

Kansas State stops UMBC

The ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats forged a 50-43 victory over the history-making, No. 16 UMBC Retrievers in a Round of 32 game at Charlotte Sunday night.

Barry Brown scored 18 for Sweet 16-bound Kansas State. K-State will take on Kentucky in the South regional semifinals Thursday in Atlanta.

UMBC’s season is over, but it won’t soon be forgotten.

The Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to advance to the second round after they walloped top-seeded Virginia 74-54 Friday night.

Against Kansas State, UMBC couldn’t sustain anything on offense, shooting only 29 percent. Jairus Lyles led Retrievers with 12 points.

Nevada races past Cincinnati

The seventh-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack erased a 22-point deficit in the final 11 minutes Sunday to stun No. 2 Cincinnati, 75-73, at Nashville.

Cincinnati led 65-43 with 10:48 remaining before Nevada mounted its second comeback in three days.

The Wolf Pack trailed by 14 early in the second half Friday before rallying past the Texas Longhorns, 87-83, in overtime.

Asked what the two comebacks say about his team, Nevada coach Eric Musselman said, “Just a lot of heart, a lot of determination and no quit.”

Syracuse upsets Michigan State

Eleventh-seeded Syracuse held No. 3 Michigan State without a field goal in the final 5:43 Sunday to register a stunning 55-53 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the game played at Detroit, the Syracuse zone defense completely flustered the Spartans and lifted the Orange into the Sweet 16.

Syracuse’s NCAA opponents: field goal shooting
Arizona State — 21 of 52
TCU — 19 of 48
Michigan State — 17 of 66

Clemson rips Auburn

Gabe DeVoe scored 22 points and fifth-seeded Clemson romped past No. 4 Auburn 84-53 at San Diego in the West region. Clemson held Auburn to 25.8 percent shooting in the rout.

Purdue downs Butler

Second-seeded Purdue beat No. 10 Butler 76-73 Sunday at Detroit in an East Region second-round game, setting up a Sweet 16 matchup Friday in Boston against Texas Tech.

Senior forward Vincent Edwards led the Boilermakers with 20 points and added a key blocked shot in the final minute.

Texas Tech beats Florida, advances to Round of 16

Texas Tech advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years Saturday night following a 69-66 victory over Florida in an East Regional second-round game at Dallas.

It’s a stunning achievement for the Red Raiders, who were picked in the preseason to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 Conference.

Second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard told a television reporter for TBS that he has always been driven to prove people wrong.

“We don’t have the McDonald’s All-Americans,” Beard said. “But we’ve got guys who have gotten better, and we’ve got guys who believe in themselves.”

As a result, third-seeded Tech (26-9) will move on to Boston next week to face either Purdue or Butler.

The Red Raiders last played in the Sweet 16 in 2005 when they defeated UCLA and Gonzaga in Tucson before losing to West Virginia, 65-60, in the regional semifinals at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Bob Knight was in his fourth season as Tech’s coach at the time.

Houston’s heart-break

Jordan Poole hit a long three-pointer to beat the buzzer as the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines ousted No. 6 Houston 64-63 in a Round of 32 West Region thriller at Wichita, Kansas.

The Cougars had a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 34 years but couldn’t stop the Wolverines from making the winning play with a possession that started with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Michigan inbounded the ball from its own baseline. The pass went to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who passed to Poole on the right wing.

Poole elevated with pressure from a Houston defender and, with legs splayed, hoisted the shot that lifted Michigan into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Loyola-Chicago wins again

Clayton Custer’s jumper with 3.6 seconds left boosted the 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers into the Round of 16 with a 63-62 victory over No. 3 Tennessee in a South Region game at Dallas.

The Volunteers had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Jordan Bone misfired on a contested three from top of the circle.

With the victory, Loyola-Chicago emerged as the only double-digit seed to win a second-round game on Saturday, with three more — UMBC, Butler and Syracuse — playing Sunday.

Round of 32

Saturday’s scores / Sunday’s schedule

South

(16) UMBC vs. (9) Kansas State, Sunday, 6:45 p.m., TruTV
(5) Kentucky beat (13) Buffalo, 95-75

(11) Loyola-Chicago beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62
(2) Cincinnati vs. (7) Nevada, Sunday, 5:10 p.m., TNT

West

(1) Xavier vs. (9) Florida State, Sunday, 7:45 p.m., TNT
(4) Gonzaga beat (5) Ohio State, 90-84

(3) Michigan beat (6) Houston, 64-63
(7) Texas A&M vs. (2) North Carolina, Sunday, 4:15 p.m., CBS

East

(1) Villanova beat (9) Alabama, 81-58
(5) West Virginia vs. (13) Marshall, Sunday, 8:40 p.m., TBS

(3) Texas Tech beat (6) Florida, 69-66
(10) Butler vs. (2) Purdue, Sunday, 11:10 a.m., CBS

Midwest

(1) Kansas beat (8) Seton Hall, 83-79
(4) Auburn vs. (5) Clemson, Sunday, 6:10 p.m., CBS

(11) Syracuse vs. (3) Michigan State, Sunday, 1:40 p.m., CBS
(2) Duke beat (7) Rhode Island, 87-62

History: 16th-seeded UMBC ousts No. 1 Virginia

Maryland-Baltimore County recorded perhaps the greatest upset in college basketball history Friday night, knocking off Virginia 74-54 in a Round-of-64, South Region game at the NCAA Tournament.

Registering the victory at Charlotte, North Carolina, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to oust a No. 1.

The Retrievers, who are led by second-year head coach Ryan Odom, pulled off the shocker in style at Spectrum Center.

They outscored the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament 53-33 in the second half, running away from the defense-minded champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Coming in, Virginia had held opponents to an average of 53.4 points a game.

Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points to lead the Retreivers, who raced off the floor with raised fingers pointing toward the sky, according to the Associated Press.

“These are the moments that you dream of,” Lyles said.

UMBC advanced to play in the Round of 32 on Sunday against ninth-seeded Kansas State of the Big 12 conference.

Earlier in the day, Kansas State beat Creighton, 69-59, a game that was also held in Charlotte.

Meanwhile, two other tournament heavyweights survived scares.

Third-seeded Michigan State, buoyed by Miles Bridges’ 29 points and 9 rebounds, held off Bucknell 82-78 in the West Region at Detroit.

Also, Mustapha Heron scored 16 as No. 4 Auburn beat the College of Charleston 62-58 in the Midwest at San Diego.

Here’s a recap of the R-64 results, including scores of games played on Thursday.

NCAA Round of 64

South

* (16) UMBC beat (1) Virginia, 74-54
* (9) Kansas State beat (8) Creighton, 69-59
* (5) Kentucky beat (12) Davidson, 78-73
* (13) Buffalo beat (4) Arizona, 89-68
* (11) Loyola-Chicago beat (6) Miami, Fla., 64-62
* (3) Tennessee beat (14) Wright State, 73-47
* (7) Nevada beat (10) Texas, 87-83, overtime
* (2) Cincinnati beat (15) Georgia State, 68-53

West

* (1) Xavier beat (16) Texas Southern, 102-83
* (9) Florida State beat (8) Missouri, 67-54
* (5) Ohio State beat (12) South Dakota State, 81-73
* (4) Gonzaga beat (13) UNC-Greensboro, 68-64
* (6) Houston beat (11) San Diego State, 67-65
* (3) Michigan beat (14) Montana, 61-47
* (7) Texas A&M beat (10) Providence, 73-69
* (2) North Carolina beat (15) Lipscomb, 84-66

East

* (1) Villanova beat (16) Radford, 87-61
* (9) Alabama beat (8) Virginia Tech, 86-63
* (5) West Virginia beat (12) Murray State, 85-68
* (13) Marshall beat (4) Wichita State, 81-75
* (6) Florida beat (11) St. Bonaventure, 77-62
* (3) Texas Tech beat (14) Stephen F. Austin, 70-60
* (10) Butler beat (7) Arkansas, 79-62
* (2) Purdue beat (15) Cal-State Fullerton, 74-48

Midwest

* (1) Kansas beat (16) Penn, 76-60
* (8) Seton Hall beat (9) N. Carolina State, 94-83
* (5) Clemson beat (12) New Mexico State, 79-68
* (4) Auburn beat (13) College of Charleston, 62-58
* (11) Syracuse beat (6) TCU, 57-52
* (3) Michigan State beat (14) Bucknell, 82-78
* (7) Rhode Island beat (10) Oklahoma, 83-78
* (2) Duke beat (15) Iona, 89-67

Late run lifts third-seeded Texas Tech past SFA, 70-60

Keenan Evans scored 23 points Thursday night in a 70-60 victory for third-seeded Texas Tech over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin in an NCAA East Regional round-of-64 game at Dallas.

Trailing by seven, Texas Tech outscored SFA 26-9 in the last 10 minutes of the game to secure its first NCAA victory in 13 years.

The win lifted the Red Raiders (25-9) of the Big 12 conference into the round of 32 against either sixth-seeded Florida or No. 11 St. Bonaventure.

Riding a five-game winning streak into the tournament, the Southland Conference champs from SFA (28-7) played well for 30 minutes and had a chance, but lost in Kyle Keller’s first NCAA game as a head coach.

The game was a reunion of coaches, of sorts.

Keller and SFA assistant Jeremy Cox worked on Tim Carter’s staff at UTSA in the 1990s, and both knew Chris Beard, then an assistant at Incarnate Word.

Beard is in his second season as Texas Tech’s head coach.

Stat leaders

Texas Tech: Keenan Evans, 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists. Zhaire Smith, 10 points, 8 rebounds.

SFA: Ivan Canete, 17 points, 5 of 8 shooting, 4 steals. Shannon Bogues, 14 points off the bench. Kevon Harris, 12 points, 4 steals. TJ Holyfield, 10 points.

Coming up: Texas Tech will meet either Florida or St. Bonaventure with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line. Tech’s last Sweet 16 berth came in 2005 under coach Bob Knight.

Rhode Island ends Oklahoma’s season, 83-78, in overtime

Trae Young’s momentous freshman year is over.

Now we wait to see if his college career has expired, as well.

Trailing by four points at halftime, seventh-seeded Rhode Island rallied Thursday to oust Young and the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners 83-78 in overtime in a round-of-64 NCAA Tournament game.

Young, with dazzling shot-making and play-making ability, soared into consideration for national Player of the Year honors in November, December and January.

He erupted for a season-high 48 points on Jan. 28 at Oklahoma State.

But the narrative of his memorable season, which included four 40-point outbursts, did not have a happy ending.

Young was stymied in his ultimate goal of leading the Sooners on a deep run in the tournament.

He played a steady game against Rhode Island, finishing with 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

But Young also had six turnovers, and he missed his first three field goal attempts in overtime.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews and Fatts Russell made the plays that counted.

Matthews, in particular, was brilliant down the stretch with two three-pointers in the extra period.

As for OU’s future, a lot depends on Young’s decision concerning the NBA draft.

He led the nation in scoring and assists and surely would make plenty of NBA teams better next year.

Most scouts seem to think he is still a first-round pick, as Sports Illustrated has reported, and first-round status still guarantees millions of dollars.

But you wonder after the Sooners’ late-season swoon whether he would consider returning to college, especially under a player’s coach like Lon Kruger.

We’ll see.

Stats leaders

Oklahoma: Trae Young, 28 points on 9 of 18 shooting, 3 of 9 from three. Also, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 6 turnovers.

Rhode Island: E.C. Matthews, 16 points, 5 rebounds.

Records

Rhode Island, 26-7. Oklahoma, 18-14.

Coming up

Rhode Island advances in the Midwest Region to face either No. 2 Duke or 15th-seeded Iona.

UTSA beats Lamar 76-69 in CIT playoff opener


Forward Nick Allen scores on a driving layup with 2:02 remaining to give UTSA an eight-point lead.

UTSA rallied in a home playoff game for its 20th victory of the season Wednesday night, claiming a 76-69 decision over Lamar in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

Playing in front of an announced 1,012 at the Convocation Center, the Roadrunners (20-14) fell behind by eight in the first half before they found a rhythm in their game.

By the second half, they started to roll, playing tough defense, moving the ball on offense and gradually wearing down the Cardinals (19-14) of the Southland Conference.

With the victory, UTSA claimed its first 20-win season in seven years. The team also earned another CIT game at home.

Officials announced that the Roadrunners from Conference USA would play in the tournament’s quarterfinals at the Convocation Center on March 22. The opponent will be announced in coming days.

“It feels really good, really good,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “I’m happy for our guys. They earned the right to play in this event, and they came out and fought really hard.

“You know, it wasn’t easy in the first half. Just hangin’ and hangin,’ trying to stay in there, and they did.

“They’re just a good team. Lamar is tough and physical. It wasn’t easy but we hung in there and popped it open a little bit in the second half.”


UTSA forward Deon Lyle hits a three late in the first half against Lamar.

Stat leaders

UTSA — Deon Lyle, 16 points, including four three-pointers, eight rebounds. Giovanni De Nicolao, 14 points, including 10 in the second half, six assists.

Nick Allen, 13 points, 11 in the second half. Byron Frohnen, 11 points, 5 of 6 shooting.

Lamar — Nick Garth, 16 points, four three-pointers. Josh Nzeakor, 13 points, nine rebounds. Joey Frenchwood, 13 points. Colton Weisbrod, 12 points, 11 rebounds.

First-half struggles

Visiting Lamar held UTSA to 38 percent shooting in seizing a 33-31 lead at intermission.

Meanwhile, Lyle scored 14 points to keep the Roadrunners in contention, hitting four three-pointers in the half.

Lamar featured a more balanced attack with Garth, Nzeakor and Weisbrod scoring six points apiece.

Playing man-to-man defense primarily, Lamar limited UTSA to only 17 points in the first 15 minutes.

A three-pointer by Cardinals guard Frenchwood lifted the visitors to a 25-17 lead with 5:20 remaining.

A turning point

From there, Lyle sparked a UTSA rally.

He scored 11 points, including three shots from beyond the arc, lifting UTSA back into contention.

“It’s not the first time he’s done that on the year,” Henson said. “You know, there’s times we’re going along and don’t have much going on the offensive end and he just jumps up and knocks down a couple of threes.

“We needed those, for sure.”


UTSA’s defense picks up intensity early in the second half as forward Nick Allen switches off his man to contest a jumper.

Shooting stars

UTSA emerged in the second half shooting the ball well, connecting on five of its first 11 attempts.

The Roadrunners took a 45-44 lead on De Nicolao’s three from the top of the key with 13:03 remaining.

Moments later, Garth tied the game at the free throw line.

But UTSA retaliated with Frohnen and De Nicolao scoring inside, and then Keaton Wallace connected on a long three for a 7-0 run over 65 seconds.

As a result, the crowd was in a roar as the Roadrunners led 53-46 with 11 minutes to play.

Lamar answered with a 12-7 run of its own that included two threes by Garth, and with 4:23 remaining, the Cardinals were within two at 60-58.

But De Nicolao banked in a three and Allen scored in the paint to push the Roadrunners ahead by seven.

Lamar got no closer than five the rest of the way.


UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao sets up the offense in the first half, passing to the wing for George Willborn III, who drives hard and dishes to Byron Frohnen for the layup.

Notes

UTSA, in its 37th year of basketball, registered only its second win in a postseason setting outside of conference tournament play.

The first such victory came in 2010-11, when the Roadrunners defeated Alabama State in the NCAA tournament’s round of 68.

UTSA won its 12th home game of the season and its 23rd in two years under Henson.

The dream scenario

De Nicolao, a sophomore point guard from Italy, said he thinks the Convocation Center needs to be re-decorated.

With a championship banner.

“We want to win this tournament right now, because, honestly, we want to have a (banner) somewhere — right there,” said De Nicolao, pointing to the arena rafters. “I’ve always said that.

“This year is an opportunity, and next year, I think, we’re going to have a bigger one.”