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.

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