The UTSA Roadrunners didn’t have much to celebrate in the wake of a 100-62 loss at Old Dominion on Thursday night.
It was the worst loss of the season for the Roadrunners.
Regardless, it’s worth noting that guard Jhivvan Jackson broke a 19-year-old school record for most points in a season by a freshman.
Jackson scored 22 against the Monarchs, hiking his season total to 488.
With his effort, the 6-foot Puerto Rico native surpassed the previous record of 483 points by Devin Brown, who did it in 1998-99.
Brown, from South San West Campus High School, went on to play in the NBA and claimed a championship ring with the Spurs.
Jackson was never aware that he ranked among the top freshmen scorers in the nation or that he could break the UTSA school record until it came up in media interviews last month.
At the time, he said, “It really just comes down to how much my teammates and my coaches trust me with the ball and give me the right to make plays. They trust me to do that.
“That’s really what I’m doing. Trying to win as many games as possible for this team. Just, making the right play and making everyone better.”
Jackson, averaging 18.8 points per game, ranks fifth among freshmen on the NCAA scoring list.
Ranking ahead of Jackson on the national list are Trae Young of Oklahoma (first overall in Division I at 29.1 ppg), Howard’s RJ Cole (24.3), Marvin Bagley III of Duke (21.2) and Arizona’s Deandre Ayton (19.7).
UTSA freshman scoring leaders
1. JHIVVAN JACKSON 2017-18 488 18.8
2. Devin Brown 1998-99 483 16.7
3. Jeromie Hill 2010-11 455 13.4
4. Devin Gibson 2007-08 396 14.1
5. Derrick Gervin 1982-83 347 13.9
6. KEATON WALLACE 2017-18 290 11.2
7. Byron Frohnen 2016-17 280 8.5
8. Giovanni De Nicolao 2016-17 272 8.2
9. Kurt Attaway 2003-04 245 7.4
10. McEverett Powers 1998-99 221 7.6
Winning record in sight
Despite the loss Thursday night, the Roadrunners still have plenty to play for.
They’ll take a 14-12 record and 7-6 mark in the C-USA into a road test Saturday night at Charlotte, the first of five games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
If they can win at least three down the stretch, they’d clinch their first winning record in six years, no matter what happens at the C-USA tournament.
UTSA coach Steve Henson looks forward to playing at last-place Charlotte on Saturday night and trying to find a spark.
Trying to start a new winning streak. Trying anything to forget about Thursday night in Norfolk, Virginia.
After B.J. Stith and the Old Dominion Monarchs dominated in a 100-62 victory, Henson seemed to have a hard time shaking the feeling of his team’s worst loss of the season.
“We can’t let this destroy what we’ve done the last few weeks,” Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “We’ve been doing good things. We just got man-handled tonight.
“It was grown men just taking us to school. We didn’t have much response to it.”
Stith produced a career-high 36 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Monarchs, who won their fourth in a row.
In winning their eighth game out of nine, Old Dominion improved to 20-5 overall and 11-2 in Conference USA.
Winners of four straight coming in, UTSA fell to 14-12 and 7-6.
The 38-point margin of defeat eclipsed a 24-point loss that UTSA suffered at Middle Tennessee on Jan. 25 as the worst of the season.
Stith made an early statement, hitting a three-pointer 20 seconds into the game and then scoring 28 by halftime.
By that time, the Monarchs were in charge, 52-36.
“He was just fantastic in the first half,” Henson said. “He was pretty good overall. He just had a real good rhythm going and got hot and made threes. Got to the free-throw line. Did a little bit of everything.”
Jackson breaks UTSA freshman record
UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson moved up to No. 1 in the UTSA record books for points scored by a freshman, surpassing Devin Brown.
Jackson pumped in 22, giving him 488 for the season.
Brown, who later played in the NBA and won a championship ring with the Spurs, scored 483 for the Roadrunners in 1998-99.
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.
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.”
With the victory, UTSA moved into a four-way tie for seventh in the conference race.
Middle Tennessee is first at 8-1, followed by Old Dominion and Western Kentucky, both 7-1. Marshall is 5-3. Then, UAB and North Texas at 5-4. Followed by Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, UTSA and Florida Atlantic, all 4-5.
UTSA plays at home next week, hosting Marshall on Thursday and Western Kentucky on Saturday.
UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson strips Omega Harris and races for a layup, giving the Roadrunners a three-point lead with 12 seconds left.
Freshman guard Keaton Wallace broke out of a scoring slump with 20 points, and the UTSA Roadrunners ended a three-game losing streak with a 65-61 victory Saturday night over the UTEP Miners.
The lead changed hands three times in the final minute of a tense contest played before a season-high crowd of 2,210 at the UTSA Convocation Center.
Forward forward Nick Allen hit a short runner in the lane with 24 seconds left as the Roadrunners took the lead for good, 62-61, with 24 seconds remaining.
On UTEP’s next possession, UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson picked up a steal and drove three quarters of the court for a layup, making it a three-point game.
In response, UTEP went to Isiah Osborne, who hit five three-pointers in the game.
But Osborne missed a three from the top of the key with four seconds left, effectively sealing UTSA’s first victory since Jan. 4.
UTSA made a free throw on the other end for the last point and then celebrated.
“It feels good,” UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao said. “It feels good, because we needed it. When we were minus one with two minutes (left), we were talking on the bench (saying) we got to win this.
“We can’t keep losing close games.”
UTSA junior forward Nick Allen weaves through traffic to hit a short runner as the Roadrunners take the lead, 62-61, with 24 seconds left.
With the Conference USA regular season a little more than a third of the way complete, UTSA (10-10, 3-4) tinkered with its rotation.
Coach Steve Henson elected to insert Jackson into the starting five for the first time and bring Wallace off the bench.
The Miners (7-12, 2-5) seemed to have the answers to anything Roadrunners threw at them early, jumping out to a 21-5 lead after the first eight minutes.
But when Wallace entered the game and teamed with Jackson and Deon Lyle to spread out the UTEP defense, the momentum shifted.
Wallace scored 12 in the first half as the Roadrunners rallied to make it a four-point game, with UTEP leading 42-38 at intermission.
The Miners surged again after intermission, scoring seven in a row to boost their lead to 49-40.
Not to be denied, UTSA answered by slugging it out in a slow, methodical push for a 14-4 run.
De Nicolao capped the streak with back-to-back driving layups that pushed the Roadrunners back out front, 54-53, including a nifty, go-ahead bucket when he sliced into the paint and twisted a reverse off the glass.
UTSA sophomore Giovanni De Nicolao seemingly made all the right moves down the stretch. Here, he twists a reverse layup off the glass to give UTSA a 54-53 lead.
The story of the game might have been Wallace, the talented lefty from Richardson who had shot 3 for 25 from the field over his last three games.
Extended back to his last six, he had been 16 of 60.
Wallace put all that behind him against the Miners, nailing 7 of 12 from the field and 3 of 7 from three.
UTSA freshman Keaton Wallace gets open and sinks a foul-line jumper in the first half against UTEP.
UTSA freshmen Jhivvan Jackson drives for two against Florida International
For nearly a week after Hurricane Maria pounded Jhivvan Jackson’s native Puerto Rico, he may have been one of the most stressed-out freshmen in the UTSA athletic department, if not on the entire campus.
Jhivvan Jackson (left) and his grandfather, veteran coach Flor Melendez
The first month of the fall semester in September is hectic for anyone in college. But for Jackson, a basketball prodigy who grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, it was nerve-wracking.
Back at home where he once spent carefree days shooting hoops on his grandfather’s backyard court, members of his family – including his mother and an older brother – did their best to hunker down and weather the Category 5 storm that hit the island on Sept. 20.
For five days after 150-mph wind and rain strafed the island, Jackson tried unsuccessfully to find out what had happened. Over and over again, he’d call and leave a message on voice mail.
“I couldn’t get through for about a week,” Jackson said, “because there was no (phone) service. I just believed. I just knew everything was going to be good.”
Finally, on the fifth day, his phone buzzed with the good news he was praying for. His mother was calling to tell him that everyone was OK.
“It just relieved all the stress I had,” Jackson said. “It was stressful.”
All of which makes Jackson’s ensuing rise in stature as one of the top freshmen in the nation this season all the more remarkable.
As UTSA prepares to play a 2 p.m. home game today against Florida Atlantic, Jackson has emerged as the seventh leading freshman scorer in NCAA Division I.
Only the likes of Trae Young at Oklahoma, Marvin Bagley III of Duke and Collin Sexton of Alabama rank ahead of Jackson, who leads the Roadrunners with 18.4 points per game.
A proud grandfather’s support
Veteran Puerto Rico basketball coach Flor Melendez, who is Jackson’s proud grandfather, said it isn’t a surprise to him that his grandson could set aside the family’s storm-related concerns to focus on school and basketball.
“It’s not a surprise for me,” Melendez said after a recent practice at the Convocation Center. “Jhivvan start to play at six years old. Practice. Practice. Six, seven, eight years old. Every day, working hard. Shot. Shot. Ball handling. Behind my house, on the court, I see him. Shot. Shot.”
Jackson’s grandfather has a long track record of success in the sport.
According to an online bio confirmed through the FIBA communications office, he played for the Puerto Rican national team in the 1968 Olympics.
Later, after a pro career, Melendez started coaching in the late 1970s and coached national teams for Puerto Rico, Argentina and Panama, along with pro teams in Spain and Venezuela.
In Spain, in the late 1980s, he said he coached former Spurs great George Gervin for TDK Manresa.
In 2004, Melendez served as an assistant coach for the Puerto Rican team that defeated the Tim Duncan-led U.S. squad at the Athens Olympics.
Jackson knows him more on a personal level, as the man who put up the basketball court behind his Bayamon home.
It became a haven where Jackson and his older brother, Jalen, would play for hours on end as kids.
Later, both brothers moved to the Dallas area to live with their father, Leroy Jackson, a Panamanian who played in the early 1990s at Oregon State.
Signing with UTSA
Jhivvan Jackson, a 6-foot combo guard, enjoyed a standout four-year career at Euless Trinity High School through 2017.
After a single recruiting visit, he signed with UTSA coach Steve Henson in early signing period at the start of his senior season.
“He just said he knew it’s where he wanted to be,” said his mother, Yanira Melendez.
By the next summer, Jackson reported to summer workouts at UTSA., ready to go to work.
Now, about halfway through his first season with the Roadrunners, he has notched two 30-point games and six others in the 20s, all while shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three-point range.
Henson said he is surprised with his young combo-guard’s efficiency.
“Big scorers (from high school) usually come in and struggle with their percentages,” Henson said. “They find a way to get it in the hole. But it takes more shots to do it. With Jhivvan, he’s hanging in there at a very high level.”
Jackson, who plays off the bench, said he didn’t know he was the No. 7 freshman scorer in the NCAA.
“It really just comes down to how much my teammates and my coaches trust me with the ball and give me the right to make plays” he said. “They trust me to do that.
“That’s really what I’m doing. Trying to win as many games as possible for this team. Just, making the right play and making everyone better.”
UTSA has lost two in a row, including a 79-76 setback at home Thursday night against Florida International.
Jackson likely won’t let it get him down for too long.
Weathering the storm
After all, he comes from a basketball family that knows how to fight through adversity.
Last fall, his brother and his grandfather braved the hurricane in Bayamon by wading into thigh-deep water in front of the house to unclog debris from the sewer drains in the road.
“They both had to be tied together with ropes so that the current wouldn’t get ‘em,” Jackson said. “The current (in the water), the wind, it was bad.”
How did they know to take such action?
“Just years of experience,” Jackson said, matter of factly. “There’s a lot of hurricanes that come through Puerto Rico.”
Only recently has electrical power been restored at his grandfather’s home after one of the most intense storms in history.
“In the center of the island, they probably won’t get power for six months,” Jackson said. “Maybe a year. It’s crazy.”
Asked if the delay in service makes him mad, he said it does.
“Of course, but you always got to believe in the man on top,” the UTSA freshman said. “(God), he got us. He looking over us. All we can do is pray and hope things get better. That’s how things are now.
“Things are getting better in Puerto Rico, and I’m happy for that. People are starting to get power, most people.”
Jhivvan Jackson hits a step-back three against FIU
UTSA missed seven of its first eight shots, fell behind by 10 points in the first six minutes and set the stage for a frustrating afternoon.
The home-team Southern Miss Golden Eagles took full advantage of the situation, rolling to a 93-83 victory over the Roadrunners Saturday at Reed Green Coliseum.
“We opened the game very poorly, almost sleep-walking out there,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “Their style of play has a little to do with that. There wasn’t much energy going either direction.”
Kevin Holland scored 23 points to lead the Golden Eagles (9-8, 2-2 in Conference USA) to a sweep of their two-game home stand.
The Roadrunners (9-8, 2-2) got 30 points from freshman Jhivvan Jackson and 21 from Deon Lyle, settling for a split of a two-game road trip.
UTSA defeated Louisiana Tech 78-76 Thursday night, winning the game on a buzzer-beater by Giovanni De Nicolao.
At Southern Miss, the Roadrunners couldn’t get anything going early, and it cost them dearly.
“We had some good looks,” Henson said. “Wide open three-pointers didn’t go down. It was almost as if they were daring us to shoot there for awhile. We’re usually a pretty aggressive team.
“We just got a little tentative (and) didn’t make aggressive plays.”
UTSA returns home for two games next week, against Florida International and Florida Atlantic.