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.

Jackson, Wallace lead UTSA past Alabama-Birmingham, 82-70

Jhivvan Jackson scored 24 points and Keaton Wallace passed for a season-high 11 assists Saturday night as UTSA posted a surprisingly easy 82-70 road victory at Alabama-Birmingham.

The Blazers entered the game 11-1 at home this season in Bartow Arena, having lost only to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

But the Roadrunners didn’t seem to flinch at history or anything else on a night when they tied a season-high with 15 three-pointers and registered 24 assists on 32 baskets.

UTSA (11-11, 4-5) also out-rebounded the bigger home team, 36-34. UAB (14-8, 5-4) didn’t play up to par in either half.

Left on their heels early by the Roadrunners’ ball movement, shooting and rebounding, the Blazers trailed 42-26 at intermission.

They closed to within eight once early in the second half but couldn’t sustain the momentum against a UTSA offense that continued to click.

“Proud of our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “We needed a win. We needed to play like that, though. That’s the way you got to play.

“I hope people don’t look and say, ‘Well, we won because we made 15 three-pointers. I mean, certainly, that helped our cause. But they were better shots.”

Only two nights ago, UTSA’s offense had stagnated badly in a 75-51 loss at Middle Tennessee.

Even in a 65-61 home victory over UTEP last Saturday night, the ball didn’t always move as Henson wanted.

But UTSA had a good day of practice in Birmingham on Friday and came to the arena on game night with a positive outlook.

The Roadrunners got a steal off the opening tip and a layup by Jackson to set the tone.

“We were just active all game,”” Jackson said. “That really helped us. We played really good ‘D.’ We were patient on offense and we got the shot we wanted.”

It certainly aided the cause that most of the shots were going in.

The Roadrunners hit 48.5 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from long distance (15 of 28).


Fading away, Jackson hits a long three out of the corner against UAB.

UTSA had made 15 threes on three other occasions this year — at Tulsa, at home against NAIA Bethany, Kansas, and on the road at Nebraska.

Against UAB, Jackson, Giovanni De Nicolao and Deon Lyle all buried four. George Willborn III, Austin Karrer and Toby Van Ry all hit one apiece.

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 ends skid by rallying past UTEP, 65-61


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.

Smart scores 22, North Texas holds on to beat UTSA, 72-71

The North Texas Mean Green, leading by eight points with seven minutes remaining, made just enough defensive plays to hold on for a dramatic, 72-71 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners Saturday night.

Playing at home in the Convocation Center, UTSA had a couple of chances to take the lead in the last 12 seconds but came up empty on two possessions.

First, North Texas center Shane Temara, shown in the video above, blocked a shot by UTSA’s Byron Frohnen.

On the other end, the Mean Green missed a free throw, which gave UTSA one last opportunity.

Roadrunners point guard Giovanni De Nicolao rushed it up court on the left side, angled to his right and stretched out to attempt a sweeping layup, which skipped off the front of the rim.

Nick Allen had a chance to follow it, but his tap was too strong, and it went over the goal.

The buzzer sounded as the teams battled for possession under the basket (see video below).

Guard Roosevelt Smart led North Texas with 22 points. Ryan Woolridge scored 18 points and A.J. Lawson added 14.

The victory gave North Texas (9-6, 2-0) a sweep of two road games — both victories by one point — to start the Conference USA phase of its schedule.

The Mean Green also dealt the Roadrunners (8-7, 1-1) their first loss at home this year after 6-0 start.

Freshmen guards Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson scored 17 points apiece for UTSA.

“We had a bad stretch to start the second half,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Down the stretch, we did some things right, to give ourselves a chance after being down.

“Came out of a couple of timeouts with the right mindset defensively and offensively. Cut into that lead. Got a steal. Got a run out.

“Just didn’t seal it.

“(We) told our guys, ‘That’s the way conference games go. You know, the teams that finish in the top two or three spots find a way to win all those games. The teams that finish at the bottom lose all those games.”

The details

With UTSA playing well and gaining momentum at the outset, North Texas put a stop to it, getting back into the game in the closing minutes of the first half.

The Mean Green continued to battle through the first 13 minutes after intermission. Three times in that span, the visitors opened leads of eight points.

The Roadrunners rallied with a 12-4 run to tie the game, 70-70. In retaliation, the Mean Green called on A.J. Lawson to hit a jumper for what would be the deciding basket with 1:02 remaining.

Jhivvan Jackson hit a free throw for UTSA to pull the Roadrunners to within one, but the Roadrunners would be denied on their final two possessions.

Once, Temara got the block against Frohnen. On the last play, UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao drove and missed a contested layup.

A tip by Nick Allen was long as the buzzer sounded.

First half highlights

Freshman Keaton Wallace led the UTSA offense in the first half.

Playing in front of the home fans, the 6-foot-3 lefty scored 11 points and hit three 3-point shots before intermission.

The Roadrunners held the Mean Green to 35 percent shooting and, at one time, led 38-25.

Leading by 13 points with 4:41 left, UTSA suffered a defensive letdown.

North Texas closed with a 9-3 run, including this buzzer-beating, bank shot by Smart over Kendell Ramlal.

Second half

The Mean Green continued to play well after halftime. UTSA would make a run on the visiting team, but North Texas would counter with a run of its own.

In the video above, freshman center Zachary Simmons dunks in front of his appreciative teammates on the Mean Green bench.

The play, set up by a Simmons steal on the other end, gave North Texas an eight-point lead (64-56) with 9:16 remaining.

UTSA made some plays down the stretch. Just not enough. In the video above, De Nicolao misses a shot on a drive but Austin Karrer is trailing the play, cleaning up with a stick-back.

Wallace scores 24, UTSA beats Houston Baptist, 87-71

Freshman guard Keaton Wallace sparked a late offensive surge Saturday night, turning a close game into an 87-71 victory for the UTSA Roadrunners over the Houston Baptist Huskies.

The Huskies had rallied to within five points with 6:26 remaining when Wallace went to work, scoring 13 during a 19-7 streak by the Roadrunners.

When it was over, UTSA held an 83-66 lead with a little more than a minute remaining.

Wallace finished with a season-high 24 for the Roadrunners (6-5) as they snapped out of a two-game losing streak.

Byron Frohnen added 18, and Nick Allen and Deon Lyle produced 13 apiece.

Houston Baptist (3-7) played tough all night, even without starting center Josh Ibarra, who went to the bench two minutes into the game with an apparent ankle injury.

He did not return.

In his absence, freshman forward David Caraher filled the void nicely, producing career-highs of 30 points and 16 rebounds.

Coming off a road trip to New Jersey, where they played St. Peter’s on Wednesday night and then traveled most of the day Thursday, the Huskies forged a lead for 9:03 of the first half.

UTSA trailed by one when it constructed a 13-4 run in the final 3:42 leading into intermission. Frohnen scored six points in that stretch.

“It was kind of a choppy start,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Kind of a choppy game, really. No flow. Couldn’t get anything going. Didn’t shoot it well early and turned it over a lot early.

“But, yeah, we never got our normal flow going. Other than the first half down in the Bahamas, that was the most dis-jointed we’ve looked all year.”

Henson applauded the play of Caraher, who hit 10 of 16 from the field.

“Obviously their freshman player, he killed us,” Henson said. “He’s a good player. He gave us fits.”

Fortunately for Henson, he had an answer in Wallace, a talented freshman lefty who connected on 7 field goals, including 5 of 12 from long distance.

“It’s like he does most nights,” Henson said. “Good player. He’s consistent. Every time he shoots, I think it’s going in. Sometimes I play him when he’s not making shots thinking the next one’s going in.”

Wallace said the Roadrunners knew they were in a “dog fight” late in the game with the Huskies, who play in the Southland Conference.

As a result, the Roadrunners clamped down on the defensive end and then started executing their inside-out game on offense.

“We practice that a lot,” Wallace said. “It’s like, drive and kick. Get to the paint, kick, because, we got a lot of people that can shoot.”

UTSA sophomore Byron Frohnen drives to the bucket for an easy basket. Video: theJBreplay

Gates family reunion

Houston Baptist senior Will Gates, Jr., got off to a fast start with eight points in the first half.

But he was held to 12 for the game on 4 of 9 shooting.

Jalon Gates, his younger brother, came off the bench for the Huskies and was limited to just two points on 1 of 5 shooting.

Afterward, the two brothers and former standouts at Clemens High School met with family and friends in the foyer of the UTSA Convocation Center.

Will Gates, Sr., the players’ father, is a former Chicago playground basketball legend who was featured in the critically-acclaimed documentary, ‘Hoop Dreams.’

Will Gates, Sr., with sons Will, Jr., (left) and Jalon (right) after Saturday night’s game at UTSA. Photo: theJBreplay.com