Marshall advances with 95-81 victory over UTSA

Playing from behind all night, the UTSA Roadrunners rallied furiously to pull within five points of the Marshall Thundering Herd in the closing minutes of the second half.

From there, the Roadrunners twice had chances to hit shots and make it a one-possession game.

But fourth-seeded Marshall held No. 5 UTSA scoreless on both tries, turning the stops into a 95-81 victory in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.

The tournament is being played in Frisco, in the Ford Center at the Star.

With the victory, Marshall (22-10) moves on to play ninth-seeded Southern Miss in a semifinal game set for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Southern Miss (16-17) made the semis by shocking the top-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 71-68, in overtime.

For UTSA (19-14), its dream of a berth in the NCAA tournament has been dashed.

But an opportunity looms to play in another postseason event, perhaps the National Invitation Tournament, the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament.

Regardless, none of that was consolation to the Roadrunners, who put together their best season in six years, won the tournament opener Wednesday night against UTEP but then failed to sustain the momentum.

“Our guys are pretty disappointed in there, and I think that’s a good sign,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “They really believed we could come here and win a bunch of games and give ourselves a chance.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way. You know, we wouldn’t want guys to be in there content or coming over to this tournament not thinking we’re going to win it.

“So, they’re a little disappointed right now. Their heads are down.”

Henson told KTKR radio that “we’re kind of planning on playing in (another) tournament” early next week.

“So, we’ll have to bounce back real quickly,” he said. “You got to put this one behind you. The dream of the Big Dance (the NCAA tournament) is behind us now. We’ll go play some more good basketball.”

Guard C.J. Burks led Marshall with 29 points, hitting 9 of 16 from the field. Forward Ajdin Penava added 22 points.

On the glass, Penava dominated with 12 boards and Burks pulled down nine. Point guard Jon Elmore ran the show with 15 points and 11 assists.

“They’re a good team,” Henson said. “They just spread the floor so well. They made good plays.”

Getting off to a fast start, the Thundering Herd raced to an 18-point lead in the first half.

UTSA cut it to 11 at the intermission. But Marshall stepped on the gas again, building a 15-point margin seven minutes into the second half.

At that juncture, the Roadrunners started to play their best ball of the night. They rallied to within 74-69 when Giovanni De Nicolao hit a jumper.

But that was as close as it would get.

UTSA made a couple of stops, only to come up empty offensively when Deon Lyle missed a three, followed by De Nicolao having his runner blocked by Jannson Williams.

Williams followed his block with a free throw, and then a three-point shot, boosting Marshall into a nine-point lead. UTSA never got closer than six the rest of the way.

Playing without injured Jhivvan Jackson, the Roadrunners probably didn’t have enough weapons to win the tournament.

But forward Byron Frohnen had his second double-double in two nights with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Forward Nick Allen and guard George Willborn III also scored 16, with freshman Keaton Wallace coming off the bench for 13.

Lyle was held to 2-of-15 shooting and five points.

UTSA beats Southern Mississippi for its 16th victory

Nearly two years have passed since the UTSA men’s basketball program bottomed out with a 5-27 record.

Nick Allen was a part of that squad, and so he takes great pride in knowing that he has figured prominently in re-making a culture that prides itself on winning.

Allen produced a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds Thursday night, and UTSA won its 16th game with a 64-56, grind-it-out victory over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at the Convocation Center.

The 6-8 junior from Arizona was beaming when a reporter asked about the atmosphere in the locker room.

“I think we’ve won six out of the last seven, so that’s huge,” Allen said. “The locker room culture has definitely changed. I was part of the team that didn’t do too hot two years ago.

“And, it’s crazy how much the culture’s changed. We want to win. It’s a lot (more fun). Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be here. So, it’s definitely nice.”

With the victory, UTSA improved to 16-12 overall and 9-6 in Conference USA. Southern Miss fell to 13-16 and 6-10.

The Roadrunners remain on pace for their best record since the basketball program transitioned out of the Southland Conference six years ago.

UTSA finished 18-14 and 10-6 in conference in 2011-12, its last year in the SLC.

The nine conference victories are the most for any UTSA team in the past five years, since it played one year in the Western Athletic Conference and the past four in the C-USA.

With three games left in the regular season, plus the C-USA tournament, the possibility of reaching 19 or even 20 victories in coach Steve Henson’s second year as coach seems to be a distinct possibility.

“We’re proud of our guys,” said Henson, who finished 14-19 last year. “(But) we’re not talking about a win total right now. We’re talking about what we’re still playing for.

“The results tonight put us back in the hunt for that No. 4 seed, which is huge in the conference tournament.”

After losing 84-79 to Old Dominion, fourth-place Marshall (19-9, 10-5) now leads fifth-place UTSA by only a game.

A tie for fourth would go to UTSA since it beat Marshall 81-77 in San Antonio on Feb. 1.

The top four seeds gain a bye through the first round in the 12-team C-USA tournament.

UTSA’s defense forces a Southern Miss turnover, leading to a layup on the other end, during a key sequence in the second half.

After leading by 22 early, UTSA ducked into the dressing room at intermission with only a 37-28 advantage.

Southern Miss played well in final eight minutes, out-scoring the home team, 19-6.

Guard Tyree Griffin led the charge with seven points. Guard Domini Magee also produced a key sequence with a layup, a steal and another layup.

At one point, the Roadrunners held a 31-9 advantage when forward Deon Lyle nailed a three with 8:19 remaining.


Nick Allen scores on a fast break layup on an assist from Keaton Wallace early in the first half.

Stat leaders

UTSA: Nick Allen (18 points on 8 of 13 shooting, 11 rebounds); Deon Lyle (14 points, including four 3-pointers); Jhivvan Jackson (10 points, seven rebounds); Keaton Wallace (10 points, four assists).

Southern Miss: Tyree Griffin (17 points, two 3-pointers, four assists); Cortez Edwards (12 points, seven rebounds). 2 of UTSA’s first 14 points.

Coming up

Saturday: Louisiana Tech at UTSA, 7 p.m., Southern Miss at UTEP.

Tournament time

March 7-10: C-USA tournament at Frisco.

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.