UT Rio Grande Valley races to 81-64 victory over UTSA

Forward Sean Rhea and guard Uche Dibiamaka fueled a second-half surge Saturday as the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros scored an 81-64 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

The game was played in Edinburg at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.

Rhea produced 20 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots for the Vaqueros, who bounced back from a lopsided season-opening loss at Texas. Dibiamaka scored 15 and hit three 3-pointers.

UTSA’s offense never really got untracked against the Vaqueros’ defense, which employed a mix of pressure in the backcourt, along with alternating man-to-man and zone schemes.

A day after scoring a 97-71 victory at home against Division II UT Permian Basin, the Roadrunners shot 41.7 percent and turned it over 13 times.

Freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry came off the bench to lead the Roadrunners with 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting.

Senior Jhivvan Jackson, the second-leading scorer in the nation last year, also came off the bench in his first outing this season. He added 10 points.

Last year, Jackson and Keaton Wallace were the highest-scoring backcourt in the nation, averaging more than 45 points between them. Against UTRGV, they combined for 16.

Wallace, who handled the ball for much of the afternoon, produced six points, six rebounds and four assists. He also had five turnovers.


UTSA 1-1

Coming up

Sul Ross at UTSA, Friday, Dec. 4, 6 p.m.

Turning the tide

After a shaky first half, the Roadrunners came out after intermission, trailing only by five. Pretty soon, they were tied, 34-34, when center Jacob Germany scored in the paint.

At that point, the Vaqueros took charge, outscoring the visitors 46-25 over the next 15 minutes for an 80-59 lead with 2:48 remaining.


The game matched coaches Lew Hill of UTRGV against UTSA’s Steve Henson, two men who both worked together as assistants under Lon Kruger. UTRGV was pummeled 91-55 at Texas on Wednesday night. Also on Wednesday, UTSA was scheduled to open at Oklahoma and had traveled for the game, only to have it called off because of Covid-19 issues in the Sooners’ program.

In response, UTSA took an unscheduled bus ride back from Norman Wednesday night. The Roadrunners opened at home Friday afternoon, routing the Division II Falcons by 26 points, before boarding another bus bound for the Rio Grande Valley. UTSA was scheduled to bus back to San Antonio Saturday night.


“We didn’t feel like fatigue was a factor,” Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “We didn’t think the bus trips had anything to do with it. The bottom line is, they competed harder, and we didn’t make enough plays. We’re certainly not going to look for any of those excuses.”

Breaking it down

“They won a lot of individual battles,” Henson said. “We couldn’t stop ’em in the post. Lot of transition opportunities for them, and then they got going, knocking down the threes.”

Added Henson: “They just kind of dictated pretty much every facet of the game. But in transition, some of their individual offense got us. We just didn’t compete hard enough on that end of the floor …

“We talked a lot about handling their press. We didn’t turn it over a lot against the press. It just took us out of our rhythm.”

UTSA cruises past UT Permian Basin, 97-71, in season opener

Eric Parrish has 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in his UTSA debut as the Roadrunners beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 at the Convocation Center.

Eric Parrish scored 19 of his team-high 20 points in the first half in his first game for the UTSA Roadrunners. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard-forward Eric Parrish produced 20 points, four rebounds and four steals Friday in his UTSA debut, and the Roadrunners cruised to a 97-71 victory at home over the UT Permian Basin Falcons.

In addition, guard Keaton Wallace scored 19 points and center Jacob Germany 15 as the Roadrunners opened their 40th season as an NCAA Division I program.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UTSA beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in the men's basketball season opener at the Convocation Center.

Cedrick Alley Jr. made his debut by stuffing the stat sheet with seven points, five rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Center Malik Brikat had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Division II Falcons.

A few minutes into the game, the Roadrunners roared off on a 22-2 run to take charge. By the end of the streak, they were up 35-11. The Falcons never got closer than 16 for the remainder of the afternoon.

“I really liked the way we started the game,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “(It was) terrific to see Parrish and Cedric (Alley Jr.) get off to a good start. Those guys are going to be so important to our season. Didn’t really know how they’d respond in a game situation … certainly they responded very, very well.”

Both were making their UTSA debut. Parrish transferred to UTSA from Nevada last fall, and coaches hoped they could obtain a waiver that would have allowed him to play last spring. But it didn’t happen.

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Henson said. “The transfer, the waiver (request), the waiting and waiting and waiting. To finally get out there and play, I know he was excited and relieved.”

Keaton Wallace had 19 points and a team-high five assists in UTSA's season opener as the Roadrunners beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 at the Convocation Center.

Keaton Wallace had 19 points and a team-high five assists. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA won’t have much time to think about what went right and what went wrong against the Falcons. Game 2 looms in less than 24 hours.

The Roadrunners will play at 3 p.m. Saturday in Edinburg against Division I UT Rio Grande Valley.

“The game we just had is over,” Alley Jr. said. “It’s time to lock in on UTRGV and go down there and just handle business.”

Roadrunners star Jhivvan Jackson, the No. 2 scorer in the nation, is expected to play after sitting out against UTPB for violating team rules.

Nineteen seconds into the first game of the season, Parrish nailed a three pointer. He finished 7 of 11 from the field, including 2 of 4 from long distance.

Afterward, Parrish said he felt good about the team’s performance and tried to downplay his own contribution.

“I feel like I did some things well,” Parrish said. “Definitely a lot of things I’m going to look back on and see where I can improve and help my teammates. You know, it felt good to get this win. Now we’re looking forward to UTRGV.”

Parrish, a 6-foot-6 athlete with long arms, big hands and quickness, finished with 19 points and three steals at the half.

Alley, a 6-6, 230-pound transfer from Houston, hit three of his first four shots. Alley finished three of 11 from the field, but he filled the box with seven points, five rebounds and three assists, a blocked shot and a steal.

“If I could give myself a grade, I’d give myself a B minus,” he said. “I could have done a little bit more on the defensive end as far as rebounding. I don’t know how many offensive rebounds we gave up, a nice little amount, so I felt I could have brought a little more there.

“But, overall, I felt like I did a pretty good job.”

Playing off their defense, the Roadrunners rolled to a 57-29 halftime lead.

The Roadrunners held the Falcons to 31 percent shooting before intermission and cranked out an 18-2 advantage on fast-break points.

Even though UTSA star Jhivvan Jackson wasn’t playing, sitting out because of a violation of team rules, newcomers Parrish and Alley supplied energy and production from the very start.

Pandemic basketball

Not only was it UTSA’s first game of the season, it was also the team’s first during the Covid-19 pandemic, with attendance limited in the Convocation Center and with chairs on both benches separated to mitigate the risk of virus spread.

The setup present presented some unique challenges.

“You look down at the bench, and the bench is all spread out. (You) Look down to sub someone in and you got to find where they’re sitting,” Henson said. “One of the things we’re going to have to figure out, is how we can get a little more communication with the assistants.

“Usually I’m up quite a bit. Walking up and down. When I do sit, (the other) coaches are giving me some pretty good input. Now, that’s a little harder. They’re farther away. I would have liked to have communicated with them a little bit better … We’re missing that because we’re so spread out.”

Starting over

Because of the pandemic, UTSA’s schedule has already taken a hit.

The Roadrunners took a flight to Oklahoma Tuesday and found out Wednesday morning that their season-opening game that night had been postponed because of Covid-19 issues in the Sooners’ program. So, they boarded a bus Wednesday afternoon and traveled back to San Antonio.

“I feel like it took a lot out of us mentally because we were so well prepared,” Alley said. “But we couldn’t do nothing about it. It’s like a blessing from above because we could have (gone) out there and played (had) someone spread it to the team, and we’d have been out for two weeks. So it’s a blessing that we were able to come back and have a game today.”

Coming up

UTSA (1-0) at UT Rio Grande Valley (0-1), 3 p.m.

UTSA 97, UT Permian Basin 71: photo gallery

UTSA beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in the men's basketball season opener at the Convocation Center.

UTSA tipped off its 2020-21 men’s basketball season on Friday at the Convocation Center.

A day after UTSA had its scheduled season opener on the road cancelled, the Roadrunners opened the season at home on Friday against UT Permian Basin.

Five players made their UTSA debut including freshmen Jaja Sanni, Lachlan Bofinger and Jordan Ivy-Curry. Two new players were in the starting lineup: redshirt juniors Cedrick Alley Jr. and Eric Parrish.

UTSA returns home after postponement of season opener

The UTSA men’s basketball team was on an unscheduled bus trip from Norman, Okla., to San Antonio Wednesday afternoon.

The Roadrunners were in Norman, set to play the Oklahoma Sooners Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams. But the game was called off in the wake Covid-19 issues in the OU program.

A UTSA spokesman said in a text that the two coaching staffs would work to re-schedule the game in the next few months.

As a result, the Roadrunners were traveling back home.

UTSA is now scheduled to open at home against UT Permian Basin at 3 p.m. Friday. Afterward, UTSA will travel to Edinburg, where the team will meet UT Rio Grande Valley at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Before the team left for Oklahoma, UTSA announced that Jhivvan Jackson, the program’s all-time leading scorer, would not play the first two games of the season because of a violation of team rules. The statement said he would be eligible to return against UT Rio Grande Valley.

Now that the OU game has been scrapped, it’s uncertain when Jackson will see his first action of the season, whether it’s on Saturday against UTPB or on Dec. 4 in a home game against Sul Ross.

Armed with an improved Jacob Germany, UTSA to open at OU

Jacob Germany. UAB beat UTSA in CUSA on Thursday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Expectations are high for sophomore center Jacob Germany as UTSA opens the season Wednesday night at the University of Oklahoma. — Photo by Joe Alexander.

Who says a kid from a small town in Oklahoma can’t learn how to become a man of the world?

Jacob Germany is doing just that after spending only one year in the UTSA basketball program.

Jacob Germany. Prarie View A&M beat UTSA 79-72 on Saturday night at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA fans remember Jacob Germany’s attacks at the rim last season. He averaged 5.5 points as a freshman – Photo by Joe Alexander

“One of my roommates (Erik Czumbel) is actually from Italy,” Germany told a television reporter over the summer. “He’s teaching me Italian on the low. That’s fun.

“It’s crazy to see the different cultures on the team and see how basketball can bring other cultures together.”

Not only is Germany growing as a person, he’s made significant strides on the hardwood, as well.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore from Kingston, Okla., is emerging as the type of impact player in college that was expected of him after leading his high school to the Class 3A state title in 2018-19.

“Jacob’s doing great,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “He gained some weight. Gained some muscle. You know, he’s so talented. It’s amazing the things he can do that look so easy.

Ja - photo by Joe Alexander

Germany entered high school at 6-foot-5 but kept on growing into a lanky, 6-11 frame. After a year at UTSA, he’s gained almost 20 pounds, up to 234. — Photo by Joe Alexander

“We’re just trying to get him to go harder, play with energy, fly around. He’s literally the fastest guy on the team, on turf, in 20-yard sprints. He’s an amazing athlete.

“We’re just trying to get him to play hard every single possession.”

The Roadrunners open the season Wednesday night in Germany’s home state, at the University of Oklahoma.

Fans at OU will see a different athlete than the one that led Kingston to a 28-2 record a few years ago.

He’s packed on about 20 pounds, which, along with the 31 games he played last year, has added an entirely different dimension to his game.

Adding more to his game

“With Jacob, the big thing for him is experience,” UTSA assistant Scott Thompson said. “You know, playing at our level last year was so important for him.”

Reports out of the weight room suggest that he has also emerged as one of the strongest players on the team.

“He’s a guy that’s benefited so much from coach (Christian) Wood’s strength program,” Thompson said. “His body continues to change. He’s been up to 234, I think, at one point. For his length and height, to be able to run and move like he does, you know, is unbelievable.

“This offseason, he spent a lot of time working on his ball skills. I think you’re going to see him score a lot more in the paint. Facing up at 10 and 12 feet, he’s shooting his jumper so much more consistently.”

Germany averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, but he showed last week that he is capable of more, contributing 24 points in an intra-squad scrimmage at UTSA.

“The game is so easy for him,” UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez said. “He’s so big, so athletic, all you have to do is throw it up (for him). When he jumps, there’s not much else anybody can do.”

Becoming a prep star

Kingston coach Taylor Wiebener said it was “a lot of fun” to coach Germany in high school.

“To be able to put a 6-10 or 6-11 guy on the floor, you know, there’s not a lot of high schools around here able to do that,” he said Monday in a telephone interview. “Throw on top of that, (that) Jacob is very skilled for a big man (and) he moves around so well. So, that was kind of icing on the cake.

“We felt good having him on the floor, just protecting the rim, and (scoring), as well. I mean, Jacob was fun to coach.

“Early in his career, I made it basically my mission to try to make him tougher, because he had the tools … But,the one thing he was going to have to have, was some toughness.”

Basically, Wiebener tried to get maximum effort out of his lanky center.

‘In the gym constantly’

“That was kind of our goal,” Wiebener said. “He took care of a lot of the fundamental skills on his own. He was a gym rat. I mean, he was in the gym constantly, working on things. So that part, we didn’t have to worry about.”

Initially, Wiebener didn’t know what he had in Germany, who was about 6-foot-5 as a high school freshman.

“Honestly, he was a little awkward,” Wiebener said. “Like, eighth and ninth grade, he was tall (and) real skinny. Kind of awkward. So I said, ‘He’s fixing to stop growing pretty quick.’ But, every summer … I wouldn’t see him, (and when) he’d come back, it seemed like he’d grown another 2-3 inches.

“By the time he graduated, he was a legit 6-10 or 6-11.”

Coaching Germany at the high school level was an adventure in terms of trying to get him to add weight, Wiebener said.

“I remember his sophomore or junior year, we had been on him about it,” the coach said. “I told him, ‘Your dad is a chef. You’re the only kid I know that, your dad’s a chef, and you’re as skinny as you are.’ Once he hit that 200-pound mark, that was kind of a milestone for us.”

Winning a state title

As a junior, Germany used the added strength in leading Kingston to the state finals.

He also saw his name rise on the prospect lists. As a senior, Germany paced his team all the way to the title, producing 21 points and 12 rebounds in the 3A championship game.

Another challenge for him as he entered college last year came in adjusting to the speed of the game.

Because the Roadrunners play at a tempo that is rated as one of the fastest in NCAA Division I, Henson’s players need to have the ability to run well and run hard for sustained periods of time.

By the end of last season, Germany was picking it up on that front. He had gained a better feel for everything, really, and as a result, he was able to move into UTSA’s starting lineup.

Now, he wants to take another step as he starts his sophomore year.

“All around, really, I’ve been putting on some weight,” he said Monday on a Zoom conference call. “I’ve been working on my motor. Going (hard) all the time. Not taking plays off. Just being that energetic guy that the coaches want me to be.

“That’s really where I’ve stepped up.”

Growing as a person

Asked how his Italian language skills are coming along, he shrugged and said he’s made “very little” progress along those lines.

“It’s probably words I can’t say on camera,” Germany said, smiling.

During the offseason, Germany said he worked out at a gym at his church back home in Kingston, a town of about 1,700 people nestled near Lake Texoma, just to the north of the Red River in southern Oklahoma.

He worked on some moves on the court, but, mainly, he said he worked on his mental game.

“It was hard being a freshman and everyone expected me to do all this stuff,” he said. “Especially being from a small town, coming to this big, big city … Especially coming from a small school where there’s not so much competition.

“There was a lot of pressure on me last year. If I did anything bad, I would get really mad. I wouldn’t necessarily show it. But, like, I had real bad anger issues. Over quarantine I was able to grow mentally and mature a little bit.”

Earning a starting job

Germany, who started 10 games at the end of last season, is expected to start in the post for the Roadrunners against the Sooners.

Alongside Germany, the others in the first five are expected to include Cedrick Alley Jr. at a forward position, plus Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Eric Parrish at guards.

Jackson and Wallace formed the highest-scoring backcourt duo in the nation last year. Parrish and Alley are transfers playing in their first games for UTSA.

Henson said Germany has been “really, really good” in preseason workouts.

“Our expectations of him are so high, higher than he has of himself, even,” Henson said. “Every now and then, we’ll think, ‘He didn’t have the greatest practice.’ And then we’ll look and (we ask), ‘What did he look like a year ago? (The difference) is phenomenal, (in) the improvement he’s made.

“So, the sky’s the limit for him. He’s just barely scratching his potential.”

UTSA opens 40th season with three games next week

The UTSA Roadrunners open their 40th season in men’s basketball with three games next week, according to the schedule.

They play on Wednesday night at the University of Oklahoma and then return for a home opener against UT Permian Basin on Friday at 3 p.m. On Saturday, the Roadrunners will cap the week with a game at Edinburg against UT Rio Grande Valley.

Please click on the link for a revised schedule, including a Conference USA slate that starts Jan. 1-2 in Houston against Rice.

After the university opened its doors in the 1970s, UTSA played its first season in intercollegiate athletics in 1981-82. Initially, the Roadrunners were NCAA Division I independent before joining Division I conferences in the Trans America Athletic Conference and later the Southland Conference.

They’ve been members of the C-USA since 2013-14.

UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez is set for an expanded role

Adrian Rodriguez. Oklahoma beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Adrian Rodriguez (No. 15) says he feels like the UTSA Roadrunners ‘are taking the right steps’ in preseason practices to become a winning team. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Several months ago, UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez approached Steve Henson with a proposition. He told the Roadrunners’ fifth-year head coach that he wanted to lose some weight in attempt to maximize his physical conditioning for the upcoming college basketball season.

Rodriguez emphasized that if he ever failed to live up to his daily resolve, he wanted Henson to step in, to remind him of the promise he made. The pact seems to be paying dividends. With the season-opener scheduled for Wednesday night at Oklahoma, UTSA has a much-improved, front-court player on its hands.

Trimmed down to 240 pounds on a 6-foot-7 frame, he is feeling good, and moving well.

“Adrian Rodriguez has shown real, real positive signs in the … last five, six weeks,” Henson said. “He’s in probably the best shape of his life. Or, since he’s been here, post injury. He’s been really, really good, noticeably different with his conditioning, with his mindset.

“So we anticipate him playing quite a bit … We’ve been really, really pleased with him.”

Steve Henson. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says Adrian Rodriguez’s commitment to offseason conditioning has paid dividends. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In a telephone interview on Thursday morning, the UTSA redshirt junior from Tulsa (Okla.) Union High School talked about his humble roots as a player, about his high hopes for the team and about the genesis of his heart-to-heart talk with Henson.

“At some point at the beginning of summer,” Rodriguez said, “after (the start of) the quarantine, I just felt like I had to do something different. You know? Like, the first three years, (with) the injuries and things like that, it didn’t really go my way. I just felt like I had to do something different.

“So, I made it a point to lose weight and improve on the physical aspect. And so, I went in and talked to (the coach) to make sure he held me accountable, that I didn’t fall off.”

In some ways, UTSA fans haven’t seen the real Rodriguez yet even though he has been on the team for three years.

Rodriguez, a former all-state player in high school, hasn’t made many headlines at UTSA to this point. He has yet to show up on many highlight reels. To this point, he’s known mostly for his hard luck.

In 2017, Rodriguez blew out his knee in his first college game and was lost for the season. In the past two years, he has enjoyed his moments as an aggressive defensive player in the post. But he has come off the bench primarily, averaging 8.7 minutes and 11.4 minutes, respectively.

As dawn breaks on a new season, however, his frustrating nights on the bench could be coming to an end. Assistant coach Scott Thompson echoed Henson, predicting “a big role” for the player if he continues to work for it.

“The reason we went after Adrian so hard after we got the job (here) was because of his (high) IQ and feel for the game,” Thompson said. “He’s an incredible teammate. He’s a winner. You know, that knee injury for him was devastating for his career.

Getting in ‘peak condition’

“He’s just had to work really hard to get his conditioning back, and that’s always been the big thing with him. Being under-sized, as a front line guy, you just have to be in peak condition, and he’s worked hard to get back into shape.”

In the past few years, Rodriguez’s emotional fire has been evident. At practices, he will get so wrapped up in five-on-five drills that he sometimes shouts and slams his hands on the floor after a defensive stop.

In practices and in games, Rodriguez is always talking, trying to communicate to help his teammates. He’s sort of like former University of Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler, Thompson said. When OU reached the NCAA Final Four in 2015-16, Lon Kruger was the head coach and Buddy Hield was the scoring machine.

Henson and Thompson were on the Sooners’ staff, just before they both came to UTSA.

Adrian Rodriguez. Oklahoma beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Rodriguez averaged 11.4 minutes in 23 games last year. A screener on offense and a defensive specialist, he produced 1.7 points and 3.3 rebounds.

“The guy on that that team that didn’t get the credit he deserved was Ryan Spangler,” Thompson said. “He was our four-five man who kind of anchored our defense. Adrian kind of has that same feel. He’s able to call out actions … you know, to communicate to guys on how to guard ball screens.

“He’s advanced in his basketball IQ … He doesn’t need a ton of reps (with starters), and he picks up things very quickly.”

Born in El Paso to parents who grew up in Mexico, Rodriguez lived in Texas for awhile, moved to Colorado and then moved on to Tulsa when he was in fourth grade. He said he didn’t really follow basketball, let alone play it, until his eighth-grade year.

“And that was only because my brother played on varsity,” he said. “That year, I was horrible.”

Given his limitations, Rodriguez did start to show some resolve in learning the game. He started to pick the brain of his father, Abel Rodriguez, who once played collegiately in Mexico and for Mexico’s 19-and-under program.

Family roots in Mexico

“My dad used to play, back in his day, and he was always into the little things (in the game),” Adrian Rodriguez said. “Like, setting good screens. Setting screens, rolling and talking. He wasn’t the most skilled guy. But he was always on the floor because he would do everything right. With effort plays, things like that.

“So from the very beginning, everything I learned was (how) to do the little things.”

Pretty soon, the little things turned into big things.

Under coach Rudy Garcia, Rodriguez played on a high school team at Tulsa Union that won state when he was a freshman and then added regional titles every other year. As a senior, he was all-state while averaging 14.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks.

Now at UTSA, he’s getting ready to embark on his fourth season with the Roadrunners, all while making strides toward a degree in mechanical engineering. He’s got a 3.0 grade-point average and seems to be well on his way.

Sometimes, he wonders how it all happened.

‘How did I get here?’

“I have a little saying, like, ‘How did I get here?’ ” he said. “It’s all crazy. Until my junior year (in high school) I didn’t even think I was going to be able to play (in college). From that mindset to where I am now, it’s crazy.”

In his injury-scarred first season at UTSA, the Roadrunners won 20 games. In his second year, they won 17. Both seasons, UTSA finished 11-7 in Conference USA, competing with and beating some of the best teams in the league. Last year, the Roadrunners suffered a fall, with the team finishing 13-19 overall and 7-11.

Despite the pandemic, preseason workouts in the past few months have been productive, Rodriguez said, and an attitude adjustment may hold the key to it all.

“I think we look really good right now,” he said. “The chemistry is there. It seems like everybody is setting their egos aside and really playing for one thing, and that’s to win. Last year we had a chance to be really good and it didn’t go our way. I think this year, we’re taking the right steps to get where we need to be.”

In terms of his own situation, Rodriguez said it’s encouraging to hear that the head coach has noticed how hard he has worked personally to make it happen.

“It re-assures me that what I’ve done is the right thing,” he said. “I believe everything (in offseason conditioning) that I’ve been doing is not to benefit me — but to help the team. So if he sees that improvement, then, to me, it means we’re (on track) to win. And so, that’s the best part, for me.”

Efforts to improve defensively dominated UTSA’s offseason

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to Middle Tennessee on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson says he likes the way his players have embraced a commitment to improved play on the defensive end. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A year ago, optimism soared among followers of the UTSA basketball program. Coming off two straight winning seasons, and with a high-scoring backcourt duo returning, the Roadrunners were picked to finish second in Conference USA.

For a variety of reasons, the season didn’t work out the way the pundits thought it might, and it didn’t come close to what Coach Steve Henson wanted.

UTSA finished 13-19 overall and 7-11 in the C-USA. The Roadrunners, seeded 10th in the conference’s postseason tournament, lost on opening night in Frisco to the UAB Blazers.

On Tuesday morning, eight days before the season opener at Oklahoma, Henson reflected in a telephone interview on what went wrong last winter and what the program has done to address the shortcomings going into his fifth season on campus.

“Certainly the initial response, and the most glaring area, was the defensive end,” he said. “We talked about that in the post-game on many nights (last year).

“We just didn’t get where we needed to on the defensive end. We didn’t defend at a level high enough to win enough ball games. So, that was the talk — that was all the talk in the offseason.

“It was, ‘How do we change that? How do we change our approach?’ Certainly it starts with me and having more focus and more emphasis, more time (devoted to it) in our early workouts, and we’ve done that,” Henson said.

Led again on the offensive end by Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the Roadrunners will employ some new personnel to the rotation in hopes of improving on a defense that ranked in the lower half of C-USA in field goal and three-point percentage allowed.

“I think we’ve got a group that’ll be more committed on that end,” Henson said “They want to make improvements on that end of the floor, and they understand that we can’t reach our goals unless we defend at a high level.”

The Roadrunners are looking to a pair of transfers, Cedrick Alley, Jr. and Eric Parrish, to help make up for the loss of Byron Frohnen and Atem Bior. Both will play roles in the positions of small and power forward, Henson said.

In the C-USA’s latest preseason poll, the Roadrunners are pegged for ninth place. Quite a snub for a program that won 20 games in 2016-17 and 17 in 2017-18. Both years, the Roadrunners finished 11-7 in conference.

So far this fall, Henson said he likes what he has seen from his players, in terms of embracing the defensive mindset.

“Oh, very much so,” he said. “We’ve added some new faces and we think that will help. More importantly, it’s our … commitment and our focus.

“Again, that starts with me and our coaches, just making sure that that’s the priority. We’ve got talented guys offensively, and we assume we’ll be able to put the ball in the hole.

“Now, we weren’t great offensively. I don’t think we were anywhere near we needed to be offensively, either. But all the talk has been defense — (how to avoid) the breakdowns, how to simplify things schematically on the defensive end, mindset, effort.

“All those things go into it.”


UTSA home game attendance capped at 15 percent of capacity

UTSA freshman Jacob Germany throws down a dunk on Wednesday, Oct. 30. 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. The Roadrunners beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game. - photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA men are scheduled to open at home on Dec. 4. High-flying center Jacob Germany will return for his sophomore year. – photo by Joe Alexander

Announcing safety precautions related to the pandemic, UTSA athletics on Friday notified fans that attendance for home basketball games at the Convocation Center this season will capped at 612, or, 15 percent of capacity.

According to a release, no courtside or East side floor-level seats will be available for purchase this season.

The UTSA women’s basketball team will open its home schedule on Nov. 25, against Sul Ross State. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.

The men are scheduled to open on the road on Nov. 25 at Oklahoma. The home opener for the Roadrunners is set for Dec. 4, against an opponent to be determined.

According to a UTSA news release, the plan for home basketball games follows all state and local health directives and focuses on risk mitigation strategies that promote the safety of student-athletes and fans.

Since the situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the plan is subject to change based on emerging information as well as local and state health developments.


In the 40th season of UTSA basketball, both the UTSA women and men are picked to finish low in the 14-team Conference USA standings.

The women are picked 13th and the men are pegged for ninth.

Both teams open C-USA play against Rice. The Roadrunners women host the Owls for a two-game set on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. The men will play Rice at Houston, also on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.