West Virginia escapes with 75-73 victory at Oklahoma

The West Virginia Mountaineers stayed in the thick of the Big 12 title chase Monday night with a 75-73 victory at Oklahoma.

With the win, 19th-ranked West Virginia improved to 7-4 in conference and remained one game in the loss column behind Kansas and Texas Tech, both at 7-3.

No. 17 Oklahoma failed to hit a potential game-tying shot under the basket in the final seconds and lost its first game at home this season, falling to 6-5 in Big 12 play.

Lamont West led West Virginia with 17 points and center Sagaba Konate dominated down low, producing 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Forward Esa Ahmad also scored 14 for the Mountaineers, including seven points in the final 4:51.

National scoring leader Trae Young of Oklahoma produced a team-high 32 points on 10 of 20 shooting from the field.

Young also hit four three-point shots in the face of a physical West Virginia defense.

But the Mountaineers limited Young, also the national leader in assists, to only one.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter finished with 10 points, eight assists and six steals.

It was the fifth time this season that Carter has had at least five assists and five steals in the same game.

Records

West Virginia (18-6, 7-4)
Oklahoma (16-7, 6-5)


West Virginia’s Jevon Carter and OU’s Rashard Odomes face off in the final minutes of a Big 12 game in Norman, Okla.

Two teams from Cincinnati remain in top ten in AP poll

Xavier sharp-shooter Trevon Bluiett is averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game, while shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range.

For the third week in a row, two Cincinnati-based teams have been ranked among the top ten teams in the nation, according to the Associated Press Top 25 released on Monday.

This week, the Xavier Musketeers (21-3) and Cincinnati Bearcats (21-2) are ranked fifth and sixth.

On Jan. 22, the two schools hit the top ten together for the first time since 1958.

While Xavier plays in the Big East and Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference, the two share some commonalities.

Neither plays football at the Power Five level. Xavier doesn’t play football at all, having dropped the sport in 1973 because of cost concerns.

Cincinnati plays football at the FBS level in the American, which is considered a Group of Five conference along with Conference USA, the Sun Belt, the Mid-American and the Mountain West.

Both programs are well-funded and play in front of passionate fan bases.

Cincinnati is playing this season at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky, with the team set to return home to a refurbished Fifth Third Arena in 2018-19.

Fifth Third is slated to undergo an $87 million renovation, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Xavier plays at the 10,250-seat Cintas Center, which opened in 2000-01.

Both head coaches — Chis Mack at Xavier and Mick Cronin at Cincinnati — are well-respected nationally and paid in seven-figure salaries.

Last year, according to a USA Today survey, Cronin made $2.2 million. Mack made $1.4 million.

Cronin’s salary was listed 21st among coaches whose teams played in last year’s NCAA tournament. Mack’s was 33rd.

Passionate fan bases at both programs likely will feel some anxiety in March and April when jobs come open at schools playing in Power Five conferences.

Because Power Five schools bring in the most revenue in Division I, they’re always a threat to poach a coach from a top basketball program like Xavier or Cincinnati.

For the time being, though, fans of the Musketeers and Bearcats can sit back and enjoy some of the best basketball anywhere.

AP Top 25

1 Villanova 22-1 Big East
2 Virginia 22-1 ACC
3 Purdue 23-2 Big Ten
4 Michigan State 22-3 Big Ten
5 Xavier 21-3 Big East
6 Cincinnati 21-2 American
7 Texas Tech 19-4 Big 12
8 Auburn 21-2 SEC
9 Duke 19-4 ACC
10 Kansas 18-5 Big 12
11 Saint Mary’s 23-2 West Coast
12 Gonzaga 21-4 West Coast
13 Arizona 19-5 Pac-12
14 Ohio State 20-5 Big Ten
15 Tennessee 17-5 SEC
16 Clemson 19-4 ACC
17 Oklahoma 16-6 Big 12
18 Rhode Island 19-3 Atlantic 10
19 West Virginia 17-6 Big 12
20 Michigan 19-6 Big Ten
21 North Carolina 17-7 ACC
22 Wichita State 17-5 American
23 Nevada 20-4 Mountain West
24 Kentucky 17-6 SEC
25 Miami 17-5 ACC

Texas Tech gains tie for first with Kansas in the Big 12

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have moved into a tie for first in the Big 12 with perennial champion Kansas.

The race was deadlocked at the top after 10th-ranked Tech defeated TCU in Fort Worth, 83-71, and Oklahoma State beat No. 7 Kansas in Lawrence, 84-79.

It was the fourth straight win for the Red Raiders.

Big 12 leaders after Saturday night:

Texas Tech 7-3, 19-4
Kansas 7-3, 18-5
W. Virginia 6-4, 17-6
Oklahoma 6-4, 16-6
Kansas State 5-5, 16-7
Texas 5-5, 15-8

Other scores from around the conference:
Texas 79, Oklahoma 74
West Virginia 89, Kansas State 51
Baylor 81, Iowa State 67

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallies past UIW, 56-51

UIWs Shawn Johnson splits the defense on a drive against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallied in the final eight minutes Saturday afternoon to claim a 56-51 victory over the slumping University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

Trailing by three with 8:32 remaining at UIW’s Convocation Center, the Islanders surged behind Joe Kilgore and Deion Rhea down the stretch to win their fourth straight.

Kilgore and Kareem South each scored 11 points apiece for A&M-Corpus Christi (8-12, 5-5 Southland Conference).

UIW (5-15, 0-10) has lost 12 straight, its longest losing streak since it moved up to NCAA Division I and joined the SLC in 2013.

Shawn Johnson and Charles Brown III each produced 14 points for the Cardinals.

Johnson also had nine rebounds and two blocks, two assists and one steal while playing all 40 minutes.

Center Konstantin Kulikov had four blocks and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

With eight games to play in the regular season, UIW hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday.

UIW forward Charles Brown III takes it strong to the basket against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

UTSA rolls past second-place Western Kentucky, 74-63


UTSA forward Nick Allen hits a jumper off the baseline late in the game, courtesy of a drive into the paint and a slick pass from point guard Giovanni De Nicolao.

The UTSA Roadunners on Saturday soared to their third straight victory over a top-tier team in Conference USA, taking down the second-place Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 74-63, in front of 1,305 fans at the Convocation Center.

Freshman Jhivvan Jackson scored 22 points to lead the Roadrunners.

UTSA (13-11, 6-5) held Western Kentucky (16-7, 8-2) to 36.1 percent shooting, the worst shooting effort of the year for the Hilltoppers, who had won nine of their last 10.

Only nine days ago, the Roadrunners were blown out 75-51 on the road at first-place Middle Tennessee. It was their fourth loss in five games.

But since then, UTSA notched a victory at Alabama-Birmingham and followed at home this week with wins against Marshall and Western Kentucky.

Those teams are the fourth-, fifth- and second-place teams in the conference, respectively.

To view the upset in another context, Western Kentucky was 46th in the Ratings Percentage Index leading into the game. UTSA was 214th.

“Just shows that we can compete with anyone in this league,” Roadrunners forward Byron Frohnen said.


UTSA forward Byron Frohnen hits a follow shot off a miss from Toby Van Ry in the first half. Frohnen and Keaton Wallace led a UTSA rebounding onslaught with eight boards apiece.

Jackson scored 15 points and UTSA held Western Kentucky to 22.6 percent shooting in taking a 37-25 lead on the Hilltoppers at halftime.

In one of their best halves of the season, the Roadrunners alternated between man and zone defenses and limited the visitors to 7 of 31 shooting from the field.

Western Kentucky entered the game shooting 49.4 percent from the field in 22 games and 48.5 percent in nine conference games.


Emblematic of UTSA’s defensive prowess, Van Ry and guard George Willborn III (35) combine forces to protect the front of the rim on a Western Kentucky possession early in the first half.

Celebrating a victory

After the game, the worst kept secret of the day was confirmed, that UTSA players celebrated in the dressing room and that coach Steve Henson got right in the middle of it.

“Yeah, we had a little celebration,” Frohnen said. “It’s always good to get a big win, especially against one of the best teams in the conference. That just shows that we can compete with anyone in this league.”

From the outset, the Roadrunners just seemed to bring more energy than the Hilltoppers.

“We came out to play and they came out kind of asleep, to be honest,” Frohnen said. “So, definitely, getting on their backs right out of the gate was huge momentum for us.”

In 2015-16, the UTSA program had hit bottom with a 5-27 record, leading to the dismissal of the coaching staff and the hiring of Henson.

In the coach’s first year, the team was better, finishing 14-19 and 8-10 in the conference.

UTSA even won a game at the C-USA tournament, downing Western Kentucky before getting ousted by Middle Tennessee in the quarterfinals.

But over the last few weeks, it feels as if the entire program has executed another positive step forward.

“Our guys have practiced so well for three weeks in a row,” Henson said. “To see the progress and get the results, because of the practices, is what you want.

“The guys are figuring some things out. I think we’re getting better, which is very important at this point of the season, especially with young guys.

“You know, freshmen are sometimes hitting the wall. I don’t think our freshmen are doing that. They’re getting better every day. We’re in a good spot right now.”


UTSA freshman Jhivvan takes off on the dribble and passes to Deon Lyle for a layup in the first half.

Freshmen on the rise

Jackson and Wallace, arguably two of the best freshmen in school history, are both hitting their stride.

Jackson has scored 24, 23 and 22 points in his last three games, respectively.

Wallace had a career-high with 11 assists at UAB, and he has followed with double figures in scoring in each of the past two games.

Against Western Kentucky, he produced 11 points, a career-high eight rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Breaking it down: Western Kentucky at UTSA


UTSA players put up a few shots in advance of their game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Conference USA basketball

Western Kentucky (16-6, 8-1)
at
UTSA (12-11, 5-5)

Game time, 3:05 p.m.

Probable starters

UTSA
5 Giovanni De Nicolao G
2 Jhivvan Jackson G
35 George Willborn III G
3 Byron Frohnen G/F
25 Nick Allen F

Western Kentucky
1 Lamonte Bearden G
13 Taveion Hollingsworth G
15 Darius Thompson G
22 Dwight Coleby F
23 Justin Johnson F

Improving UTSA set to host powerful Western Kentucky


UTSA freshman Jhivvan Jackson is greeted with a hug from athletic director Lisa Campos after an 81-77 home victory Thursday over Marshall.

UTSA will have a fourth-straight opportunity to knock off an upper-echelon team in Conference USA with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in town for a 3 p.m. game Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Already, UTSA has won two of three in perhaps the toughest two-week stretch of its schedule.

Last week, the Roadrunners traveled to Middle Tennessee and got hammered, 75-51, by the C-USA’s first-place team.

Two nights later, they played perhaps their best game of the season in an 82-70 victory at Alabama-Birmingham.

The Roadrunners followed it up with an 81-77 victory Thursday night over the Marshall Thundering Herd, improving to 12-11 overall and 5-5 in conference.

“It just tells us we can come out here and beat anybody,” said UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson, the Roadrunners’ leading scorer.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said second-place Western Kentucky (16-6, 8-1) will be a different challenge than the Herd, who rely on a perimeter shooting attack.

Defending the Hilltoppers will be “a different deal altogether,” he said. “It’ll be a totally different feel. (With) two big guys, they’ll pound that ball inside and be physical.”

Western Kentucky has a balanced attack with two guards and two forwards all averaging in double figures.

But Henson knows UTSA will need to be prepared for the Hilltoppers’ big men, namely Justin Johnson (6-7, 245 pounds) and Kansas transfer Dwight Coleby (6-9, 245).

Defending the post

“Tonight we didn’t have to guard one post up,” Henson said Thursday night. “I take that back. (Marshall guard C.J.) Burks, (on the) first play, posted Jhivvan. But after that, there were no more post ups.

“Saturday there will be post up after post up (with) two of the biggest, strongest guys in the league down their working. They’re good. They’re effective.

“We’ll have to have a little different game plan.”

The Hilltoppers have won nine of their last 10 after beating UTEP on the road Thursday night.

Against the Roadrunners, the Hilltoppers are looking for their sixth straight road win and their fifth straight in C-USA.

But in UTSA, Western Kentucky will encounter a team that is playing much better than it had been only a few weeks ago on the tail end of a 1-4 skid.

The Roadrunners’ home losses to North Texas, Florida International and Florida Atlantic, Henson said, were “very concerning.”

“Last week’s road trip, on paper, was the toughest in the league,” Henson said. “(Middle Tennessee and UAB) those are two good teams.

“The two teams we got in here this week are good teams — top level.

“So, to get a win at UAB was fantastic. To protect home court against another top team (Marshall), those are terrific wins at this point in the season.”

Revamping its style

UTSA has revamped its style in a number of ways since the losing streak, primarily with a change in roles for the dynamic freshman duo of Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

Jackson, who played off the bench through the loss to Florida Atlantic, has started the last four games.

Wallace, a starter through the FAU loss, has been coming off the bench in the last four.

In the wake of the switch, Jackson continues to play at a high level.

He has led UTSA in scoring with 24 points at UAB and with 23 against Marshall.

Wallace has also been effective, passing for a team season-high of 11 assists at UAB.

He sparked the UTSA bench against Marshall with 12 points and five rebounds.

Point guard Giovanni De Nicolao hit four three-point shots in the win at UAB and then followed with another solid outing against Marshall, supplying clutch plays down the stretch.

On paper, it’s a modest win streak.

But two in a row against UAB and Marshall after the earlier struggles is a positive sign for the future.

“(It’s) a real credit to our guys,” Henson said. “You know, the home losses against mid-level teams didn’t discourage us. Didn’t set us back any. We just kept getting better.”


Western Kentucky guard Josh Anderson throws down a monster dunk during a Jan. 27 home game against Marshall.

Jackson scores 23 to lead UTSA past Marshall, 81-77


Guard Jhivvan Jackson out-races a defender en route to the game-clinching basket with 43 seconds left.

Guard Jhivvan Jackson scored 23 points Thursday night, and the UTSA Roadrunners held off the Marshall Thundering Herd 81-77 at the Convocation Center.

The big play on the defensive end for UTSA came with less than a minute remaining courtesy of Giovanni De Nicolao.

Trailing by one, Marshall had the ball and a chance to take the lead.

De Nicolao had other ideas. He made a steal on the baseline, and UTSA advanced the ball quickly.

Jackson, on the dribble, out-raced a Marshall defender to the rim and scored a layup with 43 seconds left for an 80-77 UTSA lead.

Marshall’s C.J. Burks and Jon Elmore misfired on threes on the next two possessions to end the threat.

UTSA’s Keaton Wallace hit a free throw with a second left for the final point, as the Roadrunners won their second in a row and their third in four tries.

Consecutive victories over UAB and Marshall have boosted UTSA’s confidence leading into a Saturday home game against Western Kentucky.

“It just tells us we can come out here and beat anybody,” Jackson said. “We just got to keep playing the way we are, keep getting better on defense every day, and it just going to come out.”

Records:
UTSA 12-11, 5-5, T7 in C-USA
Marshall 14-8, 5-4, T5 in C-USA

UTSA did a good job in keeping Burks under control, but Elmore was hard to handle.

Elmore produced 23 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for the Herd. He hit five three-point buckets.

Burks, on the other hand, was held in check with 16 points. He made only six of 16 shots and misfired on all six three-point tries.

“They’re a really good offensive team,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “I’m proud of the way our guys hung in there.”


UTSA forward Deon Lyle hits a three out of the corner late in the first half against Marshall.

Playing in El Paso, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defeated the UTEP Miners, 72-60.

Justin Johnson, a 6-7, 245-pound forward, had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers improved to 16-6 and 8-1 in conference, a half game behind Middle Tennessee.

UTSA’s Wallace states case as a play-making guard


UTSA’s Keaton Wallace shakes a defender to hit an 18-footer on Jan. 20 against UTEP.

UTSA freshman Keaton Wallace says he knows what to expect from the Marshall Thundering Herd.

“They like to play fast,” Wallace said. “They shoot a lot of threes, throw a lot of lobs.”

On the flip side, the Marshall coaching staff might not know exactly what to expect from Wallace and the Roadrunners when they meet tonight at 7 at the Convocation Center.

Is UTSA still the team that rushes the ball up the court and then allows one of its freshmen sharpshooters – Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson — to fire away from long distance?

Or, has UTSA’s fun-and-gun offense now been modified?

It’s hard to tell, after Wallace passed for a team season-high of 11 assists last Saturday in an eye-opening, 82-70 victory at Alabama-Birmingham.

As a team, the Roadrunners probably have never looked better in recent years than they did at UAB, when a crisp offense notched 24 assists on 32 field goals.

Wallace said it’s definitely the way he’d like to see the team play as it battles through the last month of the Conference USA schedule.

“That’s Roadrunner basketball,” Wallace said. “Moving the ball. Making open shots. Making plays for other teammates. Getting them open.”

But with powerful Marshall and Western Kentucky coming into San Antonio this week, can the Roadrunners keep it going?

“I feel like we’re locked in,” Wallace said. “We’re ready to play. I feel like we’re doing better things. We’re improving. We’re making better reads on offense and playing harder on defense, making the job easier for us.”

It’s certainly making the job easier for UTSA coach Steve Henson, who had been sweating a string of poor performances, particularly some poor offensive performances.

UTSA never looked worse this season than it did last Thursday in a 75-51 loss at Middle Tennessee State.

The Conference USA-leading Blue Raiders toyed with the Roadrunners, holding them to 34 percent shooting.

On the UTSA bench, Henson watched with some anxiety at the poor shot selection. So much so, that he spent all day last Friday trying to figure it out.

“You know, we kind of got tricked earlier in the year,” the coach said. “We had so many guys feeling good early, had so many guys shooting it well. You know, we just had easy shots.

“As the season went on, certain guys (weren’t) shooting it as well now as we were earlier, which affects everybody else.

“Defenses were getting better. Scouting reports were more specific. And we just (weren’t) running good offense.”

Shooting only 30.2 percent from the field in C-USA play, Wallace took the message to heart.

He emerged at UAB as a player intent on finding shots for his teammates.

In the first half alone, he passed for five assists, with four of them leading to three-point baskets.

How effective was he?

When Wallace entered the game, the Roadrunners led 4-1. When Henson took him out near the end of the half, they were up 37-22.

In the second half, the former backcourt standout at Richardson High School notched six more assists, with four resulting in layups.

As the team boarded the bus, they packed a few statistical oddities.

Giovanni De Nicolao, UTSA’s starting point guard and most consistent playmaker, had hit four three-pointers.

Wallace had only four points, but he had the most assists he’s ever had in a game in his life.

“Like I said, coach emphasized that we got to drive the ball more,” he said. “In previous games I’d been taking a lot of threes. So, he emphasized (that). He believes that I can drive the ball, that there’s more to my game than just shooting.

“I was driving it (against the Blazers), making the defense collapse and kicking it to my teammates. They were knocking down shots. So, credit to them.”

Wallace’s smooth shooting stroke from November and December still hasn’t re-emerged. He was only 2 for 7 against UAB. He took only one three pointer and missed it.

Henson, however, has hardly lost confidence in him.

The coach is staying with a player who has proven he can make a positive impact, one way or the other.

“When he locks in on trying to make shots for others, that helps him,” Henson said after Tuesday’s workout at UTSA. “He’s not going to lose his shooting ability. It’ll be big time when he gets all that stuff packaged together.

“Yeah, he’s got the ability to do what he did (at Birmingham). He did it today (in practice). He was really aggressive driving it.”

Wallace said, in a sense, the shooting slump has had its benefits in that it has sparked him in trying to improve in other phases.

“It forces you to adjust,” he said. “It forces me to think different. It forces me to do different things on the court.

“As far as not scoring as many points as I did before, now I have to think about getting a few more assists, a few more rebounds, so we can win those games.”

So, as his game evolves and the team faces a critical phase of its schedule, does he now consider himself more of a pass-first guard?

“Um, no,” Wallace said. “I wouldn’t say more of a pass-first guard. I would just say, making plays. A play-making guard.”


Freshman Keaton Wallace buries a three on Dec. 31 against North Texas.

Texas Tech beats Texas 73-71 at the buzzer in overtime

Keenan Evans hit an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer Wednesday night, lifting 10th-ranked Texas Tech to a 73-71 victory over Texas in an overtime thriller in Lubbock.

Kerwin Roach II made a 3-point shot with 12 seconds left to tie the game, setting up the dramatic final play.

Evans calmly brought the ball up and drained a shot over Roach from the top of the key.

“He made a tough step-back on me,” Roach told the team’s radio broadcast. “I guarded pretty well … but it was a tough shot by a good player.”

Evans led Texas Tech with a career-high 38 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field. Evans was also 2 of 4 on three-pointers and 18 of 20 from the free-throw line.

Roach scored 20 to lead Texas.

Records
Texas Tech 18-4, 6-3
Texas 14-8, 4-5