Smart scores 22, North Texas holds on to beat UTSA, 72-71

The North Texas Mean Green, leading by eight points with seven minutes remaining, made just enough defensive plays to hold on for a dramatic, 72-71 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners Saturday night.

Playing at home in the Convocation Center, UTSA had a couple of chances to take the lead in the last 12 seconds but came up empty on two possessions.

First, North Texas center Shane Temara, shown in the video above, blocked a shot by UTSA’s Byron Frohnen.

On the other end, the Mean Green missed a free throw, which gave UTSA one last opportunity.

Roadrunners point guard Giovanni De Nicolao rushed it up court on the left side, angled to his right and stretched out to attempt a sweeping layup, which skipped off the front of the rim.

Nick Allen had a chance to follow it, but his tap was too strong, and it went over the goal.

The buzzer sounded as the teams battled for possession under the basket (see video below).

Guard Roosevelt Smart led North Texas with 22 points. Ryan Woolridge scored 18 points and A.J. Lawson added 14.

The victory gave North Texas (9-6, 2-0) a sweep of two road games — both victories by one point — to start the Conference USA phase of its schedule.

The Mean Green also dealt the Roadrunners (8-7, 1-1) their first loss at home this year after 6-0 start.

Freshmen guards Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson scored 17 points apiece for UTSA.

“We had a bad stretch to start the second half,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Down the stretch, we did some things right, to give ourselves a chance after being down.

“Came out of a couple of timeouts with the right mindset defensively and offensively. Cut into that lead. Got a steal. Got a run out.

“Just didn’t seal it.

“(We) told our guys, ‘That’s the way conference games go. You know, the teams that finish in the top two or three spots find a way to win all those games. The teams that finish at the bottom lose all those games.”

The details

With UTSA playing well and gaining momentum at the outset, North Texas put a stop to it, getting back into the game in the closing minutes of the first half.

The Mean Green continued to battle through the first 13 minutes after intermission. Three times in that span, the visitors opened leads of eight points.

The Roadrunners rallied with a 12-4 run to tie the game, 70-70. In retaliation, the Mean Green called on A.J. Lawson to hit a jumper for what would be the deciding basket with 1:02 remaining.

Jhivvan Jackson hit a free throw for UTSA to pull the Roadrunners to within one, but the Roadrunners would be denied on their final two possessions.

Once, Temara got the block against Frohnen. On the last play, UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao drove and missed a contested layup.

A tip by Nick Allen was long as the buzzer sounded.

First half highlights

Freshman Keaton Wallace led the UTSA offense in the first half.

Playing in front of the home fans, the 6-foot-3 lefty scored 11 points and hit three 3-point shots before intermission.

The Roadrunners held the Mean Green to 35 percent shooting and, at one time, led 38-25.

Leading by 13 points with 4:41 left, UTSA suffered a defensive letdown.

North Texas closed with a 9-3 run, including this buzzer-beating, bank shot by Smart over Kendell Ramlal.

Second half

The Mean Green continued to play well after halftime. UTSA would make a run on the visiting team, but North Texas would counter with a run of its own.

In the video above, freshman center Zachary Simmons dunks in front of his appreciative teammates on the Mean Green bench.

The play, set up by a Simmons steal on the other end, gave North Texas an eight-point lead (64-56) with 9:16 remaining.

UTSA made some plays down the stretch. Just not enough. In the video above, De Nicolao misses a shot on a drive but Austin Karrer is trailing the play, cleaning up with a stick-back.

Young scores 39 as OU beats TCU 90-89 in Fort Worth

Amazing game in Fort Worth today. Oklahoma scored the first 11 points. TCU rebounded with authority, surging into what became a 13-point lead with 10 minutes left. But the Sooners rallied and knocked off the previously undefeated Frogs, 90-89, in the Big 12 opener for both teams. OU freshman Trae Young produced 39 points and 14 assists.

De Nicolao’s steady play triggers UTSA’s free-wheeling offense

UTSA point guard Giovanni De Nicolao drives to the bucket Thursday night in the first half against Rice. Video:

Giovanni De Nicolao admits that he faced a period of social adjustment when he first arrived in San Antonio in 2016.

Born and raised in Italy, he was a long way from home.

Giovanni De Nicolao

“Initially it was a little bit hard,” UTSA’s sophomore point guard said. “Everything is different, away from family. When I got here, I didn’t know anybody, but I adapt easily.

“Especially, with the coaches, they did a really good job. (Incoming players in) my class, my freshman class, we were just friends – on the basketball team and also outside (of the gym). That was kind of, last year, my family.”

If De Nicolao has ever been homesick, it’s been hard to tell based on his performance level on the court.

In a little more than two seasons with the Roadrunners, he has started every game.

At the moment, the 6-foot-3 guard from Padua, Italy, is sort of like the maestro of a finely-tuned orchestra.

With De Nicolao’s hands on the ball coming up court, free-wheeling UTSA (8-6, 1-0) ranks second in the conference in scoring at 86.6 points leading into tonight’s home game against North Texas (8-6, 1-0).

He leads a fast-improving program in assists (3.8) and steals (2.1) and is second in minutes played (25.3).

“He hasn’t had a bad day in a year and a half,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “He hasn’t had a bad practice. Every day, he walks in and he’s ready to practice. He’s all about the right things. He never takes a practice off.”

Henson traced that mindset to De Nicolao’s background in basketball.

“His dad is a coach,” Henson said. “He’s got an older brother that plays (professionally). He’s grown up the way a lot of kids in the states (did) 20 years ago (in) the way he thinks.”

De Nicolao is a pass-first guard, always looking for his teammates. He shoots only when the situation calls for it.

“The point guard position has changed so much,” said Henson, who once played the position at Kansas State. “So many of the elites, those guys they watch in the NBA, those guys are the leading scorers on their teams.

“He’s a little more of a throw-back guy. He’s about running the show and leading with his defense and penetration and assists.”

Last year, the Roadrunners struggled to shoot from the perimeter, meaning that De Nicolao often found himself forced to make a play when the shot clock was running down.

This year, with freshmen sharp-shooters Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace on the floor, the pressure is off the lead guard.

De Nicolao said it’s almost like a point guard’s dream to play on this team, with so many confident shooters.

“As you say, if someone miss one or two in a row, I’m going to find them again to get the third one, because I know they’re going to make it,” De Nicolao said. “Also, I don’t have to pass only to one guy. I can distribute the ball.

“I can get it to Kea(ton), Deon (Lyle), to Jhivvan, and I know they’re all going to make the shot. If they miss one, I know the next one is going to go in.”

De Nicolao acknowledged that he feels more at ease on the court this year, in part, because of his solid friendships and a growing familiarity with his surroundings.

“That definitely impact my game, because I feel more free, and secure,” he said.

Even so, De Nicolao said he talks regularly via FaceTime with members of his family back home.
He said he typically calls home following an afternoon practice, or, between 11 p.m. and midnight in Italy.

The conversations invariably turn to basketball.

“Both my brothers are both point guards,” De Nicolao said. “Also, my dad, he was a point guard. So, we have that point guard mentality.”

In San Antonio, he feels most at home with his closest friends, his teammates.

De Nicolao said after a Friday workout that he likes UTSA’s chances for continued success because of players’ unselfish attitude about the game.

“I think we have real good freshmen this year,” De Nicolao said. “Not only can they score. Not only can they make shots. But, they also pass the ball really well. Today I noticed (that) nobody forced a shot. We’re always trying to make an extra pass to get someone open.

“Whoever is going to shoot the ball, everyone is excited, because we know (it’s) going to go in.”

The ball moves quickly in UTSA’s offense, this time from Jhivvan Jackson on the left, to Giovanni De Nicolao in the middle. De Nicolao promptly executes a touch pass to Keaton Wallace for the three-pointer. Video:

Kansas hits 17 threes en route to 92-86 victory over Texas

The 11th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks buried 17 three-point shots and then held off Texas in the final minutes Friday night, beating the Longhorns 92-86 in Austin.

In the Big 12 opener for both teams, Kansas came out firing from long distance, making six threes in the first half and 11 after intermission.

Guard Devonte’ Graham scored 23 points for the Jayhawks, who are trying to win their 14th straight conference title.

He hit 6 three-pointers (in 12 attempts). Meanwhile, Lagerald Vick scored 21 points and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk added 20.

Both Vick and Mykhailiuk knocked downn 5 three-pointers.

Texas freshman forward Mo Bamba enjoyed the best game of his career as he finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Longhorns guard Andrew Jones scored five points off the bench in his return after sitting out four games with a hairline wrist fracture.

UTSA beats Rice in C-USA opener, stays undefeated at home

Most UTSA students have left campus for a holiday break between the fall and spring semesters.

In that regard, it rated as a mild surprise Thursday night to see a season-high crowd of 1,163 fans turn out for the men’s basketball team’s Conference USA opener against the Rice Owls.

What wasn’t surprising was that the Roadrunners played well again. That is getting to be a trend, especially at home, under second-year coach Steve Henson.

After UTSA beat Rice 79-66 and improved to 8-6 on the season, including 6-0 in the Convocation Center, the coach didn’t try to stamp out speculation that he is feeling a certain “mojo” working in his favor.

“I hope so,” Henson said, smiling. “I hope so. You know, we won a lot of ball games in here last year. Winning percentage is good. Our guys play with a lot of confidence at home.”

UTSA is now 17-3 at home under Henson since he took over in 2016.

“You walk out and see the band, hear the band, then see a good crowd and it gives us more energy,” the coach said. “I know our guys appreciate it, and I appreciate it.”

Fans are starting to appreciate the home team, as well. UTSA handled slumping Rice (3-11) with relative ease.

As the Roadrunners held the Owls to 39.2 percent shooting from the field, they also produced a balanced offense, with 11 players scoring.

Freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson led the way with 20 points.

For the fifth straight game, UTSA hit 10 or more 3-pointers. The Roadrunners sank 12 of them, including five by Jackson.

“It’s a fun team to watch,” Henson said. “People that haven’t seen it yet need to come check it out, because we’re going to play as fast as we can. Our guys are going to shoot threes.

“Our guys are going to play very, very free. We won’t play anybody all year that our game plan is to slow it down. That’s new to me in some regards. But we got the people to do it.

“We’re going to play fast. We’re going to shoot threes. I think we’re a fun team to watch.”

UTSA broke open a close game with a 17-3 outburst over a five-minute span early in the second half.

By the time the dust settled, Rice was down 21. The Owls, under first-year coach Scott Pera, never really recovered.

Only a hail of 3-pointers by the Owls in the last few minutes allowed the game to get as close as it did.

Jackson said UTSA needs to build on the defensive performance leading into Saturday’s home game against North Texas.

“We got to get better on the boards,” he said. “We just got to keep working on defense, like we did today, and grab rebounds.”

Employing a zone defense throughout, Rice succeeded in slowing down UTSA at times.

But the Roadrunners, averaging 87 points coming in, were never really fazed.

“They definitely slowed us in the first half, in the beginning, a little bit,” Jackson said.
“(They slowed us) until we got the groove and we started moving the ball, making extra passes.

“Then, after that, we just kept making the right plays.”

UTSA Notebook

Roosevelt Smart scored 29 points Thursday night as North Texas won its C-USA opener at UTEP, 63-62.

Smart hit 9 of 13 from the field for North Texas (8-6), while UTEP (5-8) was led by Keith Frazier with 13 points.

UTSA point guard Giovanni De Nicolao drives to the bucket Thursday night in the first half against Rice. Video:

McNeese State routs Incarnate Word in SLC opener

Junior forward Quatarrius Wilson produced 20 points and 10 rebounds Thursday night for his third-straight double double, leading the McNeese State Cowboys to an easy victory over the University of the Incarnate Word, 85-62.

Playing at home in Lake Charles, La., the Cowboys (4-7) poured in 44 points in the first half and led by 18 at intermmission.

The Cardinals (5-6) retaliated with a run early in the second half, pulling to within 13 when freshman Christian Peevy completed a three-point play with 12:46 remaining.

But UIW couldn’t sustain the momentum and allowed McNeese to take charge again, hiking the spread to as many as 29 points down the stretch.

UIW will try to break out of a three-game losing streak when it plays the back end of a two-game SLC road trip Saturday afternoon at Nicholls State.

On a night when starters for the Cardinals struggled to score, Peevy scored 18 and Sam Burmeister added 10 to lead the bench. Starting forward Charles Brown III scored 11 but was held to 5 of 14 shooting.

Forward Simi Socks, the team’s leading scorer, did not make a field goal (0-for-3). He finished with two points.

McNeese’s defense held UIW to a season-low 32.3 percent shooting from the field. The Cardinals hit only 4 of 22 on 3-point attempts.

UTSA knocks off Rice, 79-66, in C-USA opener

Freshman Jhivvan Jackson scored 20 points Thursday night, lifting UTSA to a 79-66 victory over the Rice Owls at the Convocation Center.

In the Conference USA-opener for both teams, UTSA (8-6) broke open a close game with a 17-3 outburst over a five-minute span early in the second half.

Rice (3-11) fell behind by 21 at the end of the Roadrunners’ scoring spree and never really recovered.

A season-high crowd of 1,163 watched as UTSA hit 12 3-point baskets, the fifth game in a row that the team has made 10 or more.

Rice at UTSA: Owls hope to snap three-game skid

The slumping Rice Owls open the Conference USA-phase of their men’s basketball schedule tonight at UTSA.

Scott Pera is in his first year as head coach of the Owls after spending the past three seasons as the program’s associate head coach.

UTSA (7-6) has constructed a winning record entering C-USA competition under second-year coach Steve Henson.

Playing against Rice (3-10), high-scoring UTSA will be presented with a great opportunity to start fast, as the Owls have lost three in a row and six of their last seven.

Fans should expect the Owls to try and limit the Roadrunners’ possessions.

Rice is tied for 312th out of 351 Division I programs with a scoring average of 66.9 points. UTSA averages 87.2 points, which ranks 17th in the nation.

Here’s a look at a few key players for the Owls:

Connor Cashaw

6-5 junior guard, averages 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals.

Ako Adams

6-2 sophomore guard, 8.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists

Robert Martin

6-6 sophomore forward, 8.2 points, 3.7 rebounds

Note: Rice’s Scott Pera has a connection to basketball royalty in Houston.

Pera coached Rockets’ star James Harden in high school in the Los Angeles area.

Here’s a story about Pera’s link to one of basketball’s greatest players.

Tim Carter says UTSA will be better than advertised

Former UTSA coach Tim Carter is in his first season as a radio analyst on Roadrunners basketball.

The UTSA Roadrunners are set to open Conference USA play at home Thursday night against the Rice Owls. Former UTSA coach Tim Carter, in his first year as a radio analyst, answered a few questions for us Wednesday afternoon on the state of the team.

Last year UTSA finished 8-10 in the conference for ninth place in the C-USA. This year, in the preseason, they were picked ninth, same as last year. Based on what you’ve seen, can they be better than that? What do you think?

I would be shocked, and again, I have not seen the Conference USA teams. But I would be shocked if they didn’t do better. Mainly because last year they shot the ball so poorly from the perimeter, from what (radio voice) Andy (Everett) tells me. Now it’s just the opposite. They’ve got tremendous shooters on the perimeter.

I tell you, when you’ve got guys who can put that ball in the hole, it covers up a whole lot of ills, and they can really shoot the ball. So, I’ll be very surprised if they end up where they’re being predicted to finish.

If you’re looking at tape of UTSA right now, what are you telling your players. What do you think we’re going to see from Conference USA defenses?

You cannot allow (Jhivvan) Jackson or (Keaton) Wallace to get going. Period. If I were defending them, to be honest, at times, I thought a triangle and two would be something a team would try to run against ‘em. Especially with those two guys on the floor at the same time.

But the other side of it is, with those two guys on the floor at the same time, you got to face guard ‘em … they can’t touch the basketball. Because they can flat shoot (it).

If you can cut down on their touches … it’s going to really help. That’s what I would (think we’ll) see. People will try to decrease the touches for Wallace and Jackson. (But) it’s hard to do, because they run great half-court offense.

For fans in San Antonio who haven’t seen the team play this year, how would you describe the offense that coach Steve Henson runs?

It’s very entertaining. He gives guys a lot of freedom in the offense. I like watching them play. I’ve never been a guy, you know … I hated slow-down basketball. I think it’s boring. Fans don’t come out and watch it. If I’m to describe coach Henson’s style of play, I’d say it’s entertaining. He does a really good job coaching.

That’s something I’ve really been impressed with. They don’t get out of what they’re doing very often. Most teams get out of rhythm two or three times a game. They don’t do it very often. That’s a sign of not only having good character on the team, but it’s guys who listen to what their coaches want to get done.

Notes: Carter, a San Antonio resident, coached the Roadrunners for 11 seasons from 1995-2006. He was 160-152 in his UTSA career. Carter led the program to the NCAA tournament in 1999 and 2004.

Listen to the UTSA basketball broadcast Thursday night on The Ticket, AM 760. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

Sampson’s Houston Cougars have passed early tests

The spotlight in NCAA Division I basketball always shines a little brighter this time of year when conference play commences. In the state of Texas, the TV cameras tend to follow the power programs at Texas A&M and Texas. But the competition also promises to be fierce among the schools outside the Big 12 and the SEC, as well. Here’s a breakdown on how 18 mid-majors in the state are faring leading into conference play:


University of Houston

Record: 10-2

RPI: 62

Top player: Guard Rob Gray (20.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday, at South Florida

The skinny: Coach Kelvin Sampson’s team has played well so far, knocking off power programs Wake Forest from the ACC and Arkansas from the SEC.


Record: 10-3

RPI: 67

Top player: Guard Shake Milton (17.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.8 apg)

Conference opener: Wednesday, at home, vs. Central Florida

The skinny: SMU probably isn’t as strong as last year’s 30-win team. But the Ponies have registered impressive victories over the Arizona Wildcats and the USC Trojans. The win over USC avenged a loss to the Trojans last spring in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64.



Record: 7-6

RPI: 242

Top player: Guard Jhivvan Jackson (17 ppg, 41 pct., 3-pt shooting)

Conference opener: Thursday at home vs. Rice

The skinny: Offense averages 87.2 ppg, but can the Roadrunners rebound and play defense? Jackson, Keaton Wallace, Deon Lyle and Nick Allen all have been shooting the ball well lately. UTSA lost by four at Tulsa, by 12 at Oklahoma and by 10 at Nebraska. If UTSA wins 10 conference games, fans would be happy. NCAA chances? Probably a long shot.


Record: 3-10

RPI: 304

Top player: Guard Connor Cashaw (16.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday at UTSA.

The skinny: It’s a new season for the Rice Owls, who open conference play this week. But Rice is in a tailspin, on a three-game losing streak, and needs to turn things around quickly. Could be a long season for first-year head coach Scott Pera.

North Texas

Record: 7-6

RPI: 192

Top player: Guard Roosevelt Smart (17.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday at UTEP

The skinny: First-year coach Grant McCasland led his team to three straight wins, including two in overtime, before losing at Georgetown 75-63 last week. Lost by 10 recently at Oklahoma and by 19 at Nebraska. Middle of the pack finish in C-USA would be considered a success after last year’s 2-16 record.


Record: 5-7

RPI: 273

Top player: Guard Keith Frazier (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday at home vs. North Texas

The skinny: Season took a bizarre turn on Nov. 28 when veteran coach Tim Floyd announced his retirement following a home loss to Lamar. Assistant Phil Johnson has moved up to interim head coach. Miners are 4-2 under Johnson. UTEP could make some noise in conference if healthy, but 7-foot center Matt Willms is battling a wrist injury.


Incarnate Word

Record: 5-5

RPI: 293

Top player: Forward Simi Socks (15 ppg, 51.5 pct FG, 5.5 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday, at McNeese State

The skinny: UIW has posted only a 1-5 record against Division I opponents. Turnovers have been a major problem lately in losses at UTEP and Florida. But the Cardinals have shot the ball much better than they did earlier at Houston and Gonzaga. Eligible to play in the Division I postseason for the first time, goal should be to finish top eight to qualify for SLC tournament.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Record: 3-7

RPI: 345

Top player: Guard Joseph Kilgore (16.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday, at Central Arkansas

The skinny: A&M-CC had a 24-12 record an reached the CIT tournament final a year ago. But this season has been a struggle, as the Islanders remained winless against Division I competition (0-7) with an 85-63 loss at Ole Miss last week. A&M-CC averages 66 ppg.

Stephen F. Austin

Record: 11-2

RPI: 61

Top player: Guard/forward Kevon Harris (19 ppg, 50 pct 3-pt shooting, 5.7 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday, at Southeastern Louisiana

The skinny: The Lumberjacks appear to be primed for an SLC title run. They have won close games at Louisiana Tech and at LSU, a power conference team in the SEC. They also lost by one point in SEC country at Missouri.


Record: 8-5

RPI: 191

Top player: Forward Colton Weisbrod (15 ppg, 9 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday at home vs. Houston Baptist

The skinny: Coming off a 19-win season last year, the Cardinals raced to an 8-1 start before losing their last four. In their latest games, the Cards lost close ones in Las Vegas to UC Davis and North Carolina A&T. Lamar played well early in the season with wins against Tulsa, Coastal Carolina and UTEP. Veteran coach Tic Price is in his fourth full season at Lamar.

Abilene Christian

Record: 8-5

RPI: 208

Top player: Guard Jaren Lewis (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.5 spg)

Conference opener: Thursday at the University of New Orleans.

The skinny: Like the UIW Cardinals, the Wildcats can play in the SLC tournament this year for the first time after completing a four-year transition to NCAA Division I. ACU looked good recently, winning four in a row, including victories over Bowling Green, Air Force and Texas State. But they have since lost two of their past three. Losses have been on the road at Lipscomb and at nationally-ranked Texas Tech.

Sam Houston State

Record: 6-7

RPI: 266

Top player: Forward Christopher Galbreath, Jr. (15.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg)

Conference opener: Saturday night at Abilene Christian.

The skinny: Coach Jason Hooten has registered winning records in five of his seven seasons at Sam Houston. The Bearkats have won 89 games over the past four. So, nobody should count them out just yet. But they are struggling, having lost four of its last five coming into SLC play.

Houston Baptist

Record: 4-9

RPI: 284

Top player: Forward Josh Ibarra (16 ppg, 10 rpg)

Conference opener: Thursday at Lamar.

The skinny: Houston Baptist’s fortunes took an unfortunate turn in San Antonio when forward Josh Ibarra went down with an injury. He has been out three games since. For the Huskies to contend in the SLC, they will need Ibarra’s double-double presence on the floor.


UT Arlington

Record: 9-4

RPI: 82

Top player: Forward Kevin Hervey (23.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg)

Conference opener: Friday at Coastal Carolina

The skinny: Hervey, who ranks sixth in the nation in scoring, has lived up to billing as the preseason choice for Sun Belt player of the year. The Mavs should contend for the title and an NCAA berth. Posted non-conference wins vs. BYU, Rice and North Texas. Dropped close games at Alabama, Northern Iowa.

Texas State

Record: 7-6

RPI: 334

Top player: Guard Nijal Pearson (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.2 spg).

Conference opener: Friday at Appalachian State

The skinny: An up and down non-conference performance by the Bobcats raises questions about their viability as an NCAA contender. But don’t count out Coach Danny Kaspar, who knows how to get the best out of his team when it counts.


Texas Southern

Record: 0-13

RPI: 164

Top player: Demontrae Jefferson (23.4 ppg, 3.4 apg)

Conference opener: Monday, at home, vs. Southern (La.)

The skinny: Despite being winless at this juncture in the season, coach Mike Davis’ Tigers should contend for the SWAC title and the conference’s NCAA automatic berth after playing a tough schedule, including road games at Gonzaga, Ohio State and Kansas.

Prairie View A&M

Record: 2-11

RPI: 167

Top player: Zachary Hamilton (18.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Next game, conference opener: Friday at home vs. Jarvis Christian; conference opener Monday at home vs. Alcorn State

The skinny: Prairie View is expected to challenge Texas Southern in the SWAC after playing close on the road at New Mexico State, Hawaii, Tulsa and New Mexico.


UT Rio Grande Valley

Record: 6-8

RPI: 276

Top player: Guard Nick Dixon (20.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

Next games: Non-conference home games Saturday vs. Hampton and next Tuesday vs. Our Lady of the Lake, followed by WAC opener Jan. 6 at Missouri-Kansas City.

The skinny: With New Mexico State, Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield looking strong, coach Lew Hill’s team is a long-shot to win the WAC title.