By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The UTSA women’s basketball team will open a critical late-season stretch of three games in five days starting Thursday night at home against the Rice Owls.
After tonight, the Roadrunners will hit the road for two, one on Saturday in Alabama against the UAB Blazers and another on Monday in Denton against the North Texas Mean Green.
In facing the Owls, the Roadrunners will try to make amends for a game that they let get away from them on Jan. 16 in Houston.
UTSA built an eight-point lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 10 before Rice, now in fourth place in Conference USA, engineered a second-half rally to win, 78-76.
The Roadrunners, sitting in 10th place in the 11-team standings, have been and up-and-down team lately.
Against the Owls, they’ll try to keep alive a sense that they are making steady progress and can present a danger to any team that comes into their home arena at the Convocation Center.
In their last game at home, all C-USA candidate Jordyn Jenkins and the Roadrunners knocked off the first-place Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 58-53.
Jenkins, a 6-foot junior, had 20 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 4 as UTSA registered an upset victory over Middle Tennessee — the No. 21-ranked team in the nation at the time.
The Lady Raiders, who are trying to nail down the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament with a little more than two weeks remaining on the schedule, became the highest-ranked upset victim by a Roadrunners’ women’s basketball team in 42 years.
UTSA, coming off the signature victory, had a week after the game to prepare for its next outing and couldn’t capitalize.
In a game played at El Paso last Saturday, the Roadrunners stayed close against the UTEP Miners, trailing by three at halftime. Subsequently, UTEP blew it open, outscoring UTSA 29-7 in the third quarter en route to a 79-52 victory.
Given that the Rice game is the first of three in less than a week for UTSA, it’s importance is magnified, in the sense that only six games remain in the regular season.
After the season, all 11 teams — women and men — will gather in Frisco for the C-USA’s annual postseason event, which is set for March 8-11 at The Star. The winners will earn automatic bids to their respective NCAA tournaments.
The top five teams in the C-USA standings will have an advantage in that they will have a first-round bye, meaning that they will only need to win three games in three days to secure the postseason crown and the coveted NCAA berth.
The others, seeded six through 11, will need to win four games in four days. All that is why the game tonight is critical for Rice, currently in fourth place in the C-USA, with a one-game lead on Louisiana Tech and Charlotte.
Though UTSA isn’t out of contention for one of the top five spots, it would likely need win most — if not all — of its final six games to get one.
Rice 17-6, 8-6
UTSA 6-17, 4-10
Rice at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UTSA at UAB, Saturday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at North Texas, Monday, 6:30 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at UTSA, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
Florida International at UTSA, Feb. 25, noon
UTSA at Charlotte, March 2, 5 p.m.
Tonight, UTSA athletics is hosting its first Pride Night, which will include special giveaways to fans and also recognition of various groups, including the San Antonio Pride Committee, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Governors of Human Rights Campaign Board and Pride San Antonio.