By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
UTSA coach Karen Aston says it’s been amazing for her to watch the growth of her team over the last five weeks of the season. She says she’s excited about the “vibe” from the fans on campus.
Starting today in Frisco, Aston hopes to expand the interest even more when her sixth-seeded Roadrunners play the No. 11 Florida Atlantic University Owls in the first round of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.
Leading the way will be forward Jordyn Jenkins, who was named Tuesday as UTSA’s first Player of the Year in the C-USA, and former Judson High School standout Kyra White.
Both transferred from Southern Cal in the offseason to join Aston in a rebuild of a team that has been down for years.
“I really do believe word of mouth is getting out and that people are starting to believe in our program,” said Aston, in her second year at UTSA. “When you have a player like Jordyn, in particular, that chose to come here and take a chance on our vision … (and) you see Kyra White come home and take complete ownership of our program, it’s really fun to watch.”
The Roadrunners (11-18, 9-11) and the Owls (12-17, 5-15) will play today at 2 p.m. at The Star, the multi-purpose training site for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
If UTSA wins, it would advance to take on third-seeded Rice (22-7, 13-7) on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Friday night and the finals on Saturday afternoon, with the C-USA postseason champion earning an NCAA tournament berth.
Aston says she wants her players to believe they can win their way into the NCAAs.
“I want ’em to believe,” she said. “Absolutely. I think we’ve played well enough to believe. We’ve got to go out and do it, and we understand that, but I think we’ve played well enough. This isn’t a fluke, as far as how well we’re playing, and I think they need to believe that.”
Confidence built gradually over the past month for the Roadrunners, who posted a 7-3 record in the second half of the 20-game C-USA schedule. During the run, UTSA posted victories over three teams that finished in the top five in the standings, including No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State.
Today’s openers at Frisco
Women — (8) FIU vs. (9) Charlotte, 11 a.m.; (7) North Texas vs. (10) UAB, 1:30 p.m.; (6) UTSA vs. (11) FAU, 2 p.m.
Men — (8) Western Kentucky vs. (9) UTEP, 5:30 p.m.; (7) FIU vs. (10) Louisiana Tech, 8 p.m.; (6) Rice vs. (11) UTSA, 8:30 p.m.
Seedings in parentheses