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.

North Texas cruises past UTSA, 80-62, to sweep season series

Roosevelt Smart and DJ Draper combined to hit 10 three-point baskets as the North Texas Mean Green rolled to an 80-62 victory Thursday night at Denton in Conference USA basketball.

With the victory, North Texas ended UTSA’s three-game winning streak.

The Mean Green also swept both games from the Roadrunners in the season series between the in-state rivals.

Smart led North Texas with 22 points, including four field goals from beyond the arc. Draper hit 6 of 7 from the field, all from three.

Playing its first game without injured freshman standout Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA was led by Deon Lyle with 15 points.

“We weren’t very good on either end of the floor,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “We were just out of sorts offensively.”

Jackson is out for the season with a knee injury that he suffered last Saturday night at home against Louisiana Tech.

Records
North Texas 15-15, 8-9
UTSA 17-13, 10-7

Coming up
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 7 p.m.

C-USA tournament
Despite the loss to North Texas, UTSA will have an opportunity on the last day of the regular season to secure the No. 4 seed and a bye in the first round of the C-USA tournament.

UTSA remained solidly in contention for the fourth seed when UAB defeated Marshall 91-77, in Birmingham. The loss dropped Marshall to 11-6 in conference, one game ahead of UTSA.

Marshall finishes its regular season Saturday at first-place Middle Tennessee.

To get the fourth seed, UTSA needs to defeat Rice and hope that Middle Tennessee beats Marshall.

The tiebreaker would favor the Roadrunners under that scenario because of their 81-77 victory over the Thundering Herd in San Antonio on Feb. 1.

Henson said it won’t be easy to beat the Owls on their Senior Night.

“We’ve got to play better basketball,” the coach said. “Their match-up defense, they’re doing some really good things with it. They’re playing (a) 3-2 (zone). It’ll be frustrating if we can’t get some better movement and knock down some shots.”

The tournament runs March 7-10 in Frisco.

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UTSA rallies to beat LA Tech, 74-64, after Jackson limps off


Known more for his jump shot, UTSA forward Deon Lyle weaves through traffic and double-clutches for a layup late in the game against Louisiana Tech.

UTSA shrugged off an injury to its leading scorer Saturday night and won its 17th game of the season, 74-64, over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Playing for most of the night without guard Jhivvan Jackson, who hurt his left knee early in the first half, the Roadrunners rallied with double-figure scoring from Deon Lyle, Giovanni De Nicolao, Keaton Wallace and Byron Frohnen.

“LA Tech’s a good team with a lot of good athletes, and they shoot the ball very, very well,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “We had to lock in and do it with our defense tonight. We did some good thing offensively, but I loved our fight and our effort on the defensive end.”

Lyle led the Roadrunners with 17 points and seven rebounds. He hit five 3-point baskets.

De Nicolao scored 11, including nine points in the final 5:28. Wallace contributed 10 points and eight assists, while Frohnen produced 10 points and nine rebounds.

Guard Jacobi Boykins scored 17, including a 3-pointer to pull the Bulldogs to within three with 3:42 left.

But Boykins was held without a point after that against UTSA’s stingy perimeter defense.

LA Tech forward Oliver Powell added 14 points and guard Exavian Christon came off the bench for 11.

With the win, the Roadrunners remained in fifth place in the Conference USA standings, one game out of fourth with two to play.

The top four in the C-USA get a bye through the first round of the tournament.

UTSA’s main concern looking forward is the status of Jackson, who is scheduled for an MRI early next week.

Diagnosis on Jackson termed ‘very concerning’

“It’s the type of play that looked bad,” Henson said. “The initial diagnosis is very concerning. We’ll just have to wait until we get more (information).”

Henson said he was proud of Jackson for displaying a positive attitude on the bench.

“It’s a very, very difficult thing,” the coach said. “The doctor told him it was serious. He could have sat over there and pouted but he stayed very involved.

“He was involved in the huddles. In the locker room at halftime, we could hear him talking to the players before we got in there.

“So, it’s hard to keep your head up in a situation like that. But he handled it very, very well.”


UTSA forward Nick Allen sees an opening on the baseline and takes it to the rim for a stuff against Louisiana Tech.

In the opening minutes of the game, Jackson appeared to be in good form. He hit two three pointers and was active defensively.

On the fateful play, he took off speeding down court on the dribble and drove hard, only to crumple to the court underneath the goal.

Staying on the floor until a trainer came out, the 6-foot guard from Puerto Rico was helped off without putting much weight on the leg.

Jackson was leading the team with an 18.9 average, the fifth best in the nation for freshmen.


UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao maneuvers into the lane and lofts a soft floater into the net for two points late.

Records

UTSA 17-12, 10-6
Louisiana Tech 16-14, 7-10

Seniors’ last hurrah

It was a sweet win for UTSA’s four outgoing seniors, Austin Karrer, Kendell Ramlal, James Ringholt and Kyle Massie, who waved to the crowd for the last time at the Convocation Center.

Karrer, from New Braunfels Canyon, had four points, three rebounds and an assist. Ramlal also scored four points, including a mighty, two-handed slam at the end for UTSA’s last field goal.

Karrer said he had “mixed emotions” playing for the last time at home, noting, “l love these guys. I’d spend four more years here if I had ’em.’ They all know that. They know I love ’em. I’d like to think they played a little harder for me. I’d like to think that, at least.”

Coming up

UTSA at North Texas, Thursday; UTSA at Rice, Saturday (end of regular season)

C-USA tournament, March 7-10, at Frisco

Middle Tennessee defense dominates UTSA, 75-51

Championship teams share a few common characteristics.

They play with consistent aggression and never allow an opponent to think they can win.

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders used that formula to dominate the UTSA Roadrunners 75-51 Thursday night in Conference USA men’s basketball.

In the game played at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Blue Raiders buried the Roadrunners with a 40-24 second half.

“They just took it right to us,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “They wore on us and wore on us and dominated the glass, and … we just couldn’t make…we just didn’t compete offensively.

“We just don’t compete enough. We just settle for shots. When it’s hard, we don’t know how to respond, and it was hard.”

After representing the C-USA at the NCAA tournament two years in a row, the Blue Raiders showed why they are projected to make it three straight.

Forwards Nick King and Brandon Walters had their way, with King scoring a game-high 22 points and Walters grabbing 14 rebounds.

Middle Tennessee (15-5, 7-1) also enjoyed a strong showing from guard Antwain Johnson, who scored 15.

Jhivvan Jackson scored 17, but nobody else hit double figures as UTSA (10-11, 3-5) recorded its fewest points in a game this season.

Henson said he liked how his players protected the ball in the first half, when they led briefly 14-11 and went into the dressing room down only 35-27.

“Other than that, offensively, you got to drive it down in there and expect to finish,” Henson said. “We’re taking jump shots. I think guys shooting ’em are expecting ’em to go in. It’s just easier to let it fly.

“We got to find a better balance between having some offensive freedom and taking bad shots. We got to drive it. We don’t get to the free throw line. We got to get on the attack. We got to … get in the paint and finish around the rim.”

UTSA hit 4 of its first 8 from 3-point range and then went cold, hitting only 3 of 16 the rest of the way.

The Blue Raiders held the Roadrunners to 21 of 61 from the field overall for 34 percent.

“I thought our guys started the game with a terrific mindset,” Henson said. “I thought we were fighting defensively. We did some really good things from the scouting report.

“We took away some of their strengths. We did a good job on (guard Giddy) Potts all night. We paid extra attention to him. But (with) their style, their toughness, just wore on us, just kept chipping away at us.

“Kind of shows us how far we’ve got to go to become a good ball club.”

UTSA will move on to play at Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday night. UAB broke a two-game losing streak by defeating UTEP 85-78 Thursday.

Lewis Sullivan scored 19 as the Blazers (14-7, 5-3) shot 55.2 percent from the field.

C-USA road test: UTSA takes on Middle Tennessee


UTSA forward Kendell Ramlal rises up to dunk off a pass from Byron Frohnen in last Saturday’s 65-61 victory over UTEP in San Antonio.

The UTSA Roadrunners have emerged with a few of their better performances this season on big stages.

They stayed with the Oklahoma Sooners well into the second half in Norman.

They battled the Nebraska Cornhuskers with explosive offense into the last few minutes.

The Roadrunners will need another strong effort Thursday night in a Conference USA test against the defending champion Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.

Middle Tennessee (14-5, 6-1) and UTSA (10-10, 3-4) are set to play at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Following back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the Kermit Davis-coached Blue Raiders are averaging 6,118 fans, second in the C-USA only to UTEP.

They’re stacked with talent again, as evidenced by victories against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in non-conference, not to mention a 66-62 victory last Saturday at Western Kentucky in conference play.

The Roadrunners will have their hands full with the C-USA co-leaders, who feature the likes of Nick King, Giddy Potts and Brandon Walters.


UTSA’s Keaton Wallace shakes a defender to hit a first-half three against UTEP.

UTSA needs to rediscover that winning feeling


UTSA guard Austin Karrer knocks down a three from the corner last Saturday against Florida Atlantic.

Whatever happened to the free-wheeling, fun-loving, high-scoring UTSA Roadrunners?

You know, the team that started the season 8-6 and 1-0 in Conference USA?

Well, that’s a good question, considering that UTSA (9-10, 2-4) now faces a pivotal home-game test Saturday night against the UTEP Miners.

It seems weird to call any game in mid-January as pivotal or critical.

But with UTSA slumping so badly, and with state-rival UTEP (7-11, 2-4) in the house threatening to pile on the misery, it certainly has that feel.

To recap recent events, UTSA has lost three in a row and four of five.

During that skid, the Roadrunners have also lost three straight at home by a combined total of eight points.

As UTSA coach Steve Henson said following the team’s last game, a 73-69 loss to Florida Atlantic, the Roadrunners need to find some answers fast “because it doesn’t get any easier.”

On Saturday, UTEP comes in with its own track record of adversity, having undergone a mid-season coaching change and a spate of injuries.

So, for those reasons alone, the Roadrunners can’t afford another letdown at home.

Especially against the Miners, who always show up at the Convocation Center with some of their own supportive fans.

This time, though, UTSA also needs to play well because of what comes next.

Namely, four straight games against teams regarded as the most talented in the conference.

Next week, the Roadrunners hit the road to play Middle Tennessee and Alabama-Birmingham.

After that, they return home to face Marshall and Western Kentucky.

By the time that set of challenges ends on Feb. 3, only seven games remain before the C-USA tournament.

Only two teams out of 14 in the C-USA do not make the tournament, which means it’s nearly inconceivable that UTSA would be left at home when the conference congregates in Frisco from March 7-10.

But the more games a team can win between now and then, obviously, the higher seed it can expect.

And with the higher seed comes an easier path, theoretically, to the tournament title.

Making a run for the C-USA trophy and the NCAA automatic bid, presumably, remains as the long-term goal for the Roadrunners.

All the more reason for UTSA to summon some urgency, to play well for the home fans, to rediscover that winning feeling.

A pivotal game in January?

In this case, I’d say, yes.


UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson hits from long distance against FAU. Jackson scored 28 on the Owls, boosting his scoring average to 18.9.

UTSA coach Steve Henson: ‘We’re searching’


Senior guard Gerdarius Troutman hits a three with nine seconds left to give Florida Atlantic the lead.

UTSA coach Steve Henson admitted Saturday afternoon that his team is searching for an answer in the wake of a 73-69 home loss to Florida Atlantic.

The Roadrunners have lost three in a row and four of their last five.

“We’re just not playing right,” the coach said. “We’re not playing well enough, not together enough. Not tough enough, the things that we’re always talking about.

“Not playing hard enough on the defensive end of the floor, and the ball’s not moving the way it was earlier in the year.

“We’re searching. We’re searching, and we got to figure it out fast because it doesn’t get any easier from here.”

Florida Alantic (8-9, 2-3 in Conference USA) beat UTSA at the end with a low-post offensive attack led by 7-foot center Ronald Delph.

With the game tied 61-61, the Roadrunners (9-10, 2-4) couldn’t stop Delph in the paint as he scored seven points in a key stretch.

Delph hit three free throws and two shots in close to give the Owls a 68-66 advantage with 1:33 remaining.

From there, UTSA regained the lead by one when freshman Jhivvan Jackson buried a three from the corner.

But in the final seconds, the Owls went up 71-69 when Gerdarius Troutman knocked down a wide-open trey from the wing, off an assist from Anthony Adger.

With time running out, UTSA point guard Giovanni De Nicolao turned it over on the dribble trying to take it to the basket, forcing the Roadrunners to foul.

Troutman hit two free throws with three seconds left for the final points. He led the Owls with 19 for the game.

Three other FAU players finished in double figures, including Delph (15), Justin Massey (14) and Jailyn Ingram (13).


UTSA sophomore forward Byron Frohnen works his way inside for a layup off a miss by George Willborn III.

What has happened to the UTSA offense?

In two games at home this week, the Roadrunners finished with sub-40 percent shooting from the field.

Against Florida Atlantic, the Roadrunners went cold in the second half with 32.1 percent shooting, finishing at 37.1 for the game.

Freshman guard Keaton Wallace and junior forward Deon Lyle, two mainstays of the Roadrunners’ attack, were off the mark against Florida Atlantic.

The two combined for 2 of 14 from the field.

After starting the season with three weekly honors as C-USA Freshman of the Week, Wallace has fallen into an extended slump.

The 6-foot-3 lefty hit 2 of 10 against the Owls to make him 16 of 60 over his last six games.

Freshman Jhivvan Jackson played one of his better games of the year in defeat.

He scored 28 points. Jackson knocked down 8 of 15 from the field, 4 of 8 from three and 8 of 9 from the line.

UTSA leads Florida Atlantic 36-33 at intermission Saturday afternoon.

The Roadrunners rallied at the end of the half by hitting five of their last seven shots.

UTSA’s last bucket was emblematic of how hard it had to work to get a shot against FAU’s defense.

Moving without the ball, Jhivvan Jackson (see No. 2 in the video above) finally gets an open look and buries it.

Guard George Willborn III is leading UTSA with 11 points at the break.

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