UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros put an end to UTSA’s 10-game winning streak

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA’s 10-game winning streak came to an end on a windy Tuesday night in Edinburg.

Pitcher J.C. Ariza beat the Roadrunners for the second time in two seasons, throwing five innings to help the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros stop their own five-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory.

Last May, Ariza worked six innings in San Antonio and emerged as the winning pitcher as UTRGV downed UTSA 12-1 at Roadrunner Field.

This time, he came up big again, holding the Roadrunners to five hits and two runs. The 6-foot-5 righthander walked none and struck out four.

With timely hitting, UTRGV scored three times in the second inning off Drake Smith and twice in the fourth against Robbie Maldonado for a 5-0 lead.

UTSA pulled to within 5-2 in the fifth on solo homers by Caleb Hill and Taylor Smith. After that, the UTRGV bullpen stopped the momentum and saved the game for the home team.

In the ninth inning, UTSA put a scare into the home team when Antonio Valdez led off with a solo home run against Sebastian Mejia. Mejia, eventually, would get out of the jam. With a base runner at first, he struck out Garrett Poston for the last out.

UTSA’s winning streak was two shy of the school record. In 1994, the Roadrunners in only their third year as a program won 12 straight under coach Jimmy Shankle.


UTSA 18-4
UTRGV 10-10

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Friday, 3 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.

UTSA capitalizes on a Florida Atlantic bat infraction to win its 10th straight game

UTSA junior Ulises Quiroga remained undefeated by working 6 and 1/3 innings to earn the victory in the first game Sunday, setting up a doubleheader sweep of the FAU Owls.

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Pitching, hitting and playing defense aren’t the only things that that aid in the winning cause in baseball.

Sometimes, just being alert can be crucial to team success.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark cited catcher Sammy Diaz for picking up on a subtle rules infraction by the opposing team, helping the Roadrunners complete a Conference USA doubleheader sweep against the Florida Atlantic University Owls, 7-2 and 5-3, on Sunday afternoon at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched two scoreless innings. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller ran his record to 5-0 with 2 and 2/3 innings of work in the second game – File photo by Joe Alexander

As a result, the Roadrunners won all three games against the Owls in their C-USA opening series, extending their winning streak to 10 games, the second-longest in school history.

How did Diaz’ awareness aid the UTSA cause? Well, it’s a bit complicated. But, during Game 1 Sunday morning, he noticed that a few FAU hitters came to the plate with a bat that didn’t meet regulations.

“There’s bat testing in NCAA baseball now,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark explained. “Every bat has to pass a test on Thursday and have a new sticker, a present-year sticker, and Sammy noticed in Game 1 that they had a bat that didn’t have an orange sticker on it.”

As soon as the Roadrunners became aware of it, they employed a strategy, to call attention to the infraction only when the Owls used a bat without an orange sticker to score a run.

It happened in the top of the first inning in Game 2. With a runner on base via a walk, UTSA pitcher Ryan Beaird threw a fastball that FAU offensive star Nolan Schanuel smashed over the left field wall for an apparent two-run homer.

“At no point in the first game did that bat do any damage (to us),” Hallmark said. “They used the bat again in the second game, and that was the bat he hit the home run with.”

That’s precisely when the issue blew up on the Owls. As Schanuel was rounding the bases, UTSA’s second-game catcher Josh Killeen picked up the bat to bring it to everyone’s attention, and a discussion among umpires ensued.

Then, with Schanuel already seated in the dugout and the scoreboard showing FAU with a 2-0 lead, one of the umpires in the conference at home plate looked up and motioned with his fist, giving the “out” signal.

Two runs, ultimately, were erased from the scorebook.

“I saw J.K. pick up the bat, and I didn’t know what was going on,” recalled UTSA relief pitcher Daniel Shafer, who was in the bullpen in left field at the time. “I kind of assumed it was an illegal bat or something was up with it. Then I saw him called out and I just said, ‘OK. I’ll take it.’

“That’s a great hitter over there, Schanuel. He puts good swings on the ball.”

Does he ever. Schanuel leads Conference USA with a .441 batting average. He’s also got eight home runs.

FAU coaches and players objected to the ruling on what would have been his ninth jack of the season, but the discussion didn’t last too long after the home plate umpire issued a warning to the bench.

“I think they were showing them some stickers that looked like last year’s stickers,” Hallmark said. “They’re not orange anymore. So, that’s what happened.”

The first C-USA series of the season for UTSA started on Friday with the Roadrunners beating the Owls 8-2 on a cold and blustery night. By Saturday, the weather worsened, with rain washing out what had been scheduled as an afternoon game.

Because of the rainout, the teams played two seven-inning games Sunday, with the first starting at 9:30 a.m. By the time the doubleheader was complete, the Roadrunners were answering questions about a C-USA series sweep and a 10-game win streak.

“Ten wins in a row is great, but it’s still a long season,” said Shafer, who closed out both ends in the doubleheader. “It’s still really early. I mean, we’ve got a lot to work on. In all phases of the game. It’s great, but a lot of season is left.”

Nevertheless, it helps the Roadrunners immensely to forge such a solid start in conference play, going 3-0 against a team that came in with its own five-game win streak.

Offensively, UTSA pounded out 14 hits in Friday’s opener, including four of them for extra bases. On Sunday, there were fewer balls hit into the gaps, and there were only 16 UTSA hits in the two games combined.

But there was quite a bit more pop in the balls they did hit, with four going for home runs, including three of them in the second game — one each by Leyton Barry, Matt King and Isaiah Walker.

On the pitching side, UTSA was impressive all weekend, as usual. The Owls, hitting .292 as a team entering the series, scored only seven runs on 19 hits in the three games. In the two played on Sunday, Roadrunners’ pitching scattered 12 hits.

With such a deep reservoir of talent on the mound, Roadrunners coaches had the luxury in the second game Sunday to bring in ace reliever Simon Miller in an early high-leverage situation. In the top of the third, with UTSA leading 2-0, FAU had runners at first and second with one out.

In came Miller, who got Schanuel on a ground ball force play for the first out, before he retired the side against cleanup hitter Jackson Ross. The move allowed UTSA to get through the meat of the Owls’ batting order for the second straight time without harm.

“We’re deep,” Hallmark said. “People don’t realize, guys like Ruger (Riojas) and Fischer (Kingsbery) who are throwing a bullpen (session) right now, allow us go to Simon so early in the game. (Pitching) Simon that early in the game is a little odd, to most people.”

In the move to Miller, Hallmark elected to take out Daniel Garza, one of his best bullpen arms.

“But with two guys on, and one out, and the best hitter in the country coming up to bat, to me, the game is on the line, even though it’s only the third inning …

“It could be the moment of truth, and Simon is our best pitcher … and the only way you do that is to have a deep pitching staff.”

Miller, the winning pitcher in Game 2 after working 2 and 2/3 innings, has responded in key situations all season.

The junior righthander from Canton has made nine appearances and has fashioned a 5-0 record with an 0.38 earned run average. His five victories lead the C-USA.

Hallmark is also high on Shafer, who has made nine appearances and notched three saves, with a 2.70 ERA.

“He wants the ball,” the coach said. “Shafer’s mad when I put Simon in, because he wants to go out there. So, today, it worked out. He got to go out there when he wanted.

“We’re lucky to have as many as what we call ‘Junk Yard Dogs’ on that pitching staff. They want the ball, and they want it in the leverage innings.”


Florida Atlantic 12-9, 0-3
UTSA 18-3, 3-0

Coming up

UTSA at UT-Rio Grande Valley, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Friday, 3 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.


UTSA’s winning streak started on March 4, with an 11-5 victory over Utah.

UTSA beat Utah twice to close out a home series against the Utes and then won a mid-week game at Texas State. UTSA returned home to win three straight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. From there, they traveled to Nacogdoches to beat Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday. After taking three straight from Florida Atlantic, the Roadrunners’ streak is 10.

Unofficially, based on a quick review of the UTSA baseball record book, the longest streak in program history appears to be 12 games.

It was a streak put together in the 1994 season under coach Jimmy Shankle. That year, UTSA was in only its third year of baseball. Regardless, Shankle’s Roadrunners went on to win a school record 39 games and advanced to the NCAA Central Regional at Austin.

UTSA has had three other eight-game streaks since then — in 2006, 2008 and 2010 — all under coach Sherman Corbett.

The Roadrunners won six straight twice last season under Hallmark.

Quiroga’s big day

Junior Ulises Quiroga pitched 6 and a third innings to earn the victory in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, striking out nine batters while allowing two runs on five hits.

He gave up a hit and a walk in the seventh and was lifted with one out and runners at first and second. Shafer entered and walked the first man he faced, before Schanuel hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the second run of the game for the Owls. Shafer fanned Ross for the third out to end the game.

After the game, Quiroga said UTSA players aren’t dwelling on the winning streak, calling Sunday “just another day at the ballpark. Worried about the next one.”

Quiroga (4-0, 3.62 on the season) said he felt good about the way he was throwing the ball. “Command was there, and then the offense just opened up,” he said. “That helped me out big time, for sure.”

What was working best for him? “I was able to throw the breaker in there when I needed it.”

Quiroga always has been a fastball-oriented pitcher. It’s his best pitch. But in some respects, the junior from Baytown has altered his style this season, ditching the slider he used last year and replacing it with a curve.

“It’s a spike curve ball,” he said. “Fingers on top and throw it like a fastball.”

Western Kentucky names S.A. native Steve Lutz as head coach

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

San Antonio native Steve Lutz on Saturday was named head basketball coach at Western Kentucky University.

A&M-Corpus Christi coach Steve Lutz at the UTSA Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Lutz led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to a 47-23 record and two NCAA tournament appearances in the past two years. — File photo by Joe Alexander.

WKU director of athletics Todd Stewart made the announcement in a release posted on the school’s athletics website. Lutz is a 1991 East Central High School graduate.

He played basketball at East Central for Stan Bonewitz, Sr., and at Texas Lutheran University before embarking on a college coaching career, which has included stops as an assistant at the University of the Incarnate Word, Stephen F. Austin, SMU, Creighton and Purdue.

Lutz has been the head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the past two seasons.

“We are excited to name Steve Lutz as our next head coach,” Stewart said. “He is a proven winner and a respected coach with a track record of consistent success in recruiting, player development, academics, and community involvement.”

In his only two years as a head coach, Lutz led the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders to NCAA tournament appearances following the 2021-22 and ’22-23 seasons.

Both years, the Islanders won the postseason tournament title in the Southland Conference.

This year, he won both the SLC regular-season and the postseason crowns en route to the NCAA tournament.

On Tuesday night, the Islanders beat the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 75-71, in Dayton, Ohio, in the NCAA First Four. His team was eliminated Thursday in Birmingham, falling 96-75 to the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide.

“I am very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to be the next head coach at Western Kentucky,” Lutz said. “This is a storied program with a rich history of success. Our teams will wear the WKU uniform with pride and represent the Hilltopper Nation in everything we do.”

Arkansas eliminates defending NCAA champion Kansas, 72-71

The season has come to an end for the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks. For the Arkansas Razorbacks, they have advanced, and they’re heading to Las Vegas with their loyal fans for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

It all unfolded Saturday, when the eighth-seeded Razorbacks rallied to knock off the No. 1 Jayhawks 72-71 in a West region round of 32 game at Des Moines, Iowa.

With Davonte Davis scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half and Ricky Council IV hitting clutch free throws in the final minutes, the Razorbacks knocked out the Jayhawks, who became the second top-seed in the tournament to lose in 24 hours.

On Friday night, Farleigh Dickinson shook the basketball landscape by becoming only the second No. 16 seed in 38 years to beat a No. 1, as the Knights eliminated the Purdue Boilermakers in the East region, and now Kansas has gone down, as well.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, celebrating with the Razorbacks’ fans, ripped off his shirt at courtside in the moments after the victory and had to put it back on for his televised post-game interview.

“I mean, that’s such an unbelievable win,” Musselman said on the CBS telecast. “I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better this time of year. I’m so, I’ve never been prouder of a team like tonight.”

Asked how his team could come back from an eight-point halftime deficit against the regular-season champions in the Big 12, Musselman acknowledged that it had a lot to do with Davis, a 6-4 junior guard from Jacksonville, Ark.

“I love this kid so much,” the coach said.

Davis was in tears as he tried to explain how he met his coach’s challenge to become a leader on the team.

“I don’t know,” Davis said, bending over and pausing to compose himself. “It’s crazy. I feel real glad we came out with the win.”

Asked about the tears, Davis replied, “Putting in the work. This team has struggled, and we figured it out, and I’m glad we did at the right time. And I hope we continue to do it.”

The Razorbacks will advance to play next week against the winner between the UConn Huskies and Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Gaels, who will play Sunday in Albany, N.Y.

Despite the absence of veteran head coach Bill Self, Kansas pushed out to an early lead and held it for most of the game. Led by Davis, Arkansas gradually cut into the lead throughout the second half and eventually took over the game in the final minutes.

Self had a heart procedure and was hospitalized last week during the Big 12 tournament. He didn’t coach in the conference title game against Texas last Saturday, and then was released from the hospital on Sunday.

The coach was with the team in Des Moines but wasn’t on the bench for either Thursday’s victory over Howard or in the loss to Arkansas. Assistant coach Norm Roberts worked all three games for the Jayhawks.

Forward Jalen Wilson scored 20 points for Kansas and center K.J. Adams added 14. Guards Kevin McCullar, Jr. and Dajuan Harris., added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

McCullar left the Texas Tech Red Raiders after last season and transferred to play as a senior at Kansas. He formerly was one of the best players in San Antonio for the Wagner High School Thunderbirds.

Midwest Region
Round of 32

No. 2 seed Texas 71, No. 8 Arkansas 66, at Des Moines
No. 1 seed Houston 81, No. 9 Auburn 64, at Birmingham

TCU’s dramatic victory over Arizona State boosts Big 12 to 5-2 in the NCAA tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

I’m still undecided on whether to buy into the concept that the Big 12 Conference is the best league in men’s college basketball this year.

I know the Big 12 has had more teams jammed into the Top 25 rankings than anyone.

But, I just haven’t seen enough of their games to know for sure.

So far, teams from the conference are doing a pretty fair job of living up to the hype in the NCAA tournament.

The Big 12 has won five and lost two in the tournament’s round of 64, capped late Friday night by the TCU Horned Frogs’ dramatic 72-70 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils.

With the game tied and the clock ticking under 10 seconds to play, Arizona State double-teamed TCU star Mike Miles Jr., who passed across the top of the three-point circle to JaKobe Coles.

Coles dribbled past a defender and lofted a 5-foot runner over the outstretched arm of forward Desmond Cambridge Jr. It swished for the game-winner with three seconds remaining.

Winners out of the Big 12 in the first round of the tournament included West region No. 1 seed Kansas, Midwest No. 2 Texas, South No. 3 Baylor, East No. 3 Kansas State and TCU, the No. 6 seed in the West.

Losers were Midwest No. 6 Iowa State and South No. 9 seed West Virginia. Here’s a glance at how Big 12 teams have fared thus far:

Thursday’s results
Round of 64
South: 8) Maryland beat 9) West Virginia, 67-65
West: 1) Kansas beat 16) Howard, 96-68
Midwest: 2) Texas beat 15) Colgate, 81-61

Friday’s results
Round of 64
South: 3) Baylor beat 14) UC Santa Barbara, 74-56
Midwest: 11) Pittsburgh beat 6) Iowa State, 59-41
West: 6) TCU beat 11) Arizona State, 72-70
East: 3) Kansas State beat 14) Montana State, 77-65.

Saturday’s games
Round of 32
West: 1) Kansas vs. 8) Arkansas, 4:15 p.m., CBS
Midwest: 2) Texas vs. 10) Penn State, 6:45 p.m., CBS

Sunday’s games
Round of 32
East: 3) Kansas State vs. 6) Kentucky, 1:40 p.m., CBS
South: 3) Baylor vs. 6) Creighton, 6:10 p.m., TBS
West: 6) TCU vs. 3) Gonzaga, 8:40 p.m., TBS


Next season, in 2023-24, the Big 12 is shaping up to be a men’s basketball juggernaut.

In July, the Houston Cougars will transition into the league along with Cincinnati and Central Florida from the American Athletic Conference. In addition, BYU will also join. Meanwhile, Texas and Oklahoma will compete in the league for the last time before they bolt to the Southeastern Conference.

So, how many top four seeds will that give the conference in the 2024 NCAA men’s tournament? I’m guessing four or five, at least.

McCullar returns to the lineup as top-seeded Kansas routs Howard

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Kansas coach Bill Self wasn’t in the arena for an NCAA tournament opener at Des Moines, Iowa, but guard Kevin McCullar, Jr. was.

With San Antonio’s McCullar returning to the lineup after sitting out a Big 12 title-game loss to Texas, the top-seeded Jayhawks stormed to a 96-68 victory over the Howard University Bison Thursday in a round-of-64 West region game.

The victory allowed the top-seeded Jayhawks to advance to play the No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks in the round of 32 on Saturday. Arkansas downed ninth-seeded Illinois, 73-63.

Self’s status for the next round remains in question following a heart procedure and hospitalization last week.

The setback caused him to miss last Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, a 76-56 loss to Texas in Kansas City.

Though he was released from a Kansas City-area hospital on Sunday, the two-time NCAA championship coach wasn’t on the bench for the Jayhawks as they took the floor in Des Moines for the tournament opener.

Led by assistant coach Norm Roberts, the Jayhawks steadied themselves after a shaky start, shot 52 percent from the field in a fast-paced game and blew out the Bison. Jalen Wilson scored 20 points and freshman Gradey Dick added 19 points and 11 rebounds for Kansas.

McCullar, a former standout at San Antonio’s Wagner High School, enjoyed a solid game across the board with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. It was McCullar’s first NCAA tournament game with the Jayhawks after an offseason transfer from Texas Tech.

In his first season at Kansas, he was named to the Big 12’s all-defensive team and helped the Jayhawks to the conference’s regular-season title. Kansas finished 13-5 in conference, a game ahead of Texas and two games in front of Kansas State and Baylor.

Islanders ousted

A spirited run by the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders ended Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide, backed by a home-state crowd, blew out the Islanders 96-75 in the South region round of 64.

Islanders coach Steve Lutz, an East Central High School graduate, led his team to a 24-11 record and the first NCAA victory in school history.

Point guard Jalen Jackson, from Wagner, scored 22 on Tuesday night in a round-of-68 victory over the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks at Dayton, Ohio. Jackson couldn’t get it going against the Crimson Tide, finishing with four points and three assists.

Jackson-led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi wins first NCAA tournament game

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders overcame the loss of one of their top players Tuesday night and won the first NCAA tournament game in school history, holding off the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 75-71, in Dayton, Ohio.

Playing in the NCAA First Four for the second year in a row, the Islanders utilized the speed and attacking style of senior point guard Jalen Jackson, who scored a career-high 22 points. Jackson is a familiar face in San Antonio, as he led the Wagner Thunderbirds to the state finals in 2019.

Jackson, a 5-10 guard who started his college career at North Texas, scored 18 in the second half for the Islanders. After Jackson made two free throws to give his team a three-point lead, drama unfolded in the final seconds.

Southeast Missouri guard Phillip Russell came down and missed an open three with two seconds remaining. Isaac Mushila gathered the defensive rebound, got fouled and hit a free throw on the other end for the game’s final point.

With the victory, the Islanders (24-10) will move on to play the Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5) in the tournament’s round of 64 on Thursday night. The Tide are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA South region.

The Islanders were one-and-done in two previous trips to the NCAA tournament.

In 2007, they opened as a 15th seed in the round of 64 at Chicago and lost to Wisconsin, 76-63, Last season, in a round-of-68 game at Dayton, they were matched against the Texas Southern Tigers and bowed out, 76-67.

Islanders guard Terrion Murdix started against Texas Southern a year ago and produced 10 points and six assists. Murdix, one of the team’s key players, was unavailable to play against SEMO with a knee injury.

Chris Harris scored 23 points to lead the Redhawks (19-17), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by winning four games in four days for the Ohio Valley Conference postseason title.

Mushila, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Islanders, who won the regular-season and postseason titles in the Southland Conference. Guard Ross Williams had 13 points off the bench and Trevian Tennyson added 12.

San Antonio’s Lutz, Jackson return to NCAA tournament with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Islanders coach Steve Lutz. A&M-Corpus Christi beat UTSA 77-58 on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Islanders coach Steve Lutz, a 1991 East Central High School graduate, has notched NCAA tournament berths in each of his first two seasons as a college head coach. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders are returning to the NCAA tournament.

Looking for the first NCAA victory in program history, Steve Lutz-coached A&M-Corpus Christi will play in one of the First Four games at Dayton, Ohio. The Islanders (23-10) will take on the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (19-16) at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on truTV.

A&M-Corpus Christi guard Jalen Jackson playing at the UTSA Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Jalen Jackson played in San Antonio at Wagner High School and led the Thunderbirds to the 2019 Class 5A state title game. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Lutz, a San Antonian and a 1991 East Central High School graduate, is two-for-two in his head coaching career, leading the Islanders to back-to-back postseason titles in the Southland Conference.

After claiming the SLC trophies, he has also earned automatic bids to the NCAA tournament each time.

Last week, San Antonio’s Jalen Jackson emerged as the SLC tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Jackson, a senior point guard from Wagner High School, had 17 points and six assists in the title-game victory over Northwestern State (La.).

The rise of the Islanders under Lutz has been impressive. A&M-Corpus Christi had lost 73 games over four seasons before the school hired Lutz, a former player at East Central and Texas Lutheran and an assistant coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.

In 2021-22, his first team at A&M-Corpus Christi finished 23-12. They finished fourth in the SLC regular season and then won three games in three days for the postseason crown. Going on to Dayton for an NCAA First-Four matchup against Texas Southern, a battle between No. 16 seeds, the Islanders lost 76-67.

This year, with essentially the same core of players — forward Isaac Mushila and guards Terrion Murdix, Trevian Tennyson and Jackson — A&M-Corpus Christi backed up last year’s strong finish with a 23-win season, and counting

In the SLC race, the Islanders went 14-4 to finish first in the conference, earning a double-bye though the tournament. In the tournament, at Katy, they defeated McNeese and Northwestern State to claim back-to-back bids to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Their only previous NCAA appearance came in 2007 when they swept to a postseason SLC crown and lost to Wisconsin, 76-63, in the round of 64.

This year, the Islanders hope to win their first NCAA game against a Southeast Missouri State program that finished the regular season with a 15-16 record, before reeling off four victories in four days for the Ohio Valley Conference postseason crown. The winner between SEMO and A&M-Corpus Christi will advance to play Alabama, the top seed in the NCAA South region and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, on Thursday night in Birmingham, Ala.

Lutz paid his dues in the profession to snag his first head coaching job in NCAA Division I. He worked as an assistant coach at UIW, Garden City Community College (Kan.), Stephen F. Austin, SMU, Creighton and Purdue.

At Creighton of the Big East, he worked on Greg McDermott’s staff and helped lead the BlueJays to four NCAA appearances.

At Purdue of the Big Ten, under Matt Painter, he coached in three more NCAAs including one run to the Elite Eight in 2019.

Jackson was a four-year starter at Wagner and, under coach Rodney Clark, the two helped propel the Thunderbirds to the 2019 Class 5A state championship game. In a heartbreaker, Wagner lost the state title match, 77-64, to Mansfield Timberview at the Alamodome.

Transitioning to college basketball, Jackson started his career at North Texas. He spent two years in the program and was part of the 2021 squad that won the Conference USA postseason title. The No. 13 seed Mean Green upset the fourth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers in the first round.

For the 2021-22 season, Lutz took the job at A&M-Corpus Christi and Jackson joined him. In their time together, the Islanders have posted a 46-22 record, with two NCAA berths. Now they have a chance to make a little more history Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

San Antonio-area players

In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament

Zach Clemence, Kansas, a 6-10 sophomore forward from Antonian HS, Findlay Prep (Nev.) and Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) Upcoming: Top-seeded Kansas plays Howard Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. Clemence played as a freshman at Antonian in the 2017-18 season before going to prep school. In two years with the Jayhawks, he has played 42 games, including 18 this season. This year, he averaged 1.4 points in 5.9 minutes.

Vincent Iwuchukwu, Southern Cal, a 7-foot-1 freshman center, formerly of Cole HS, La Lumiere, Ind., Montverde Academy, Fla., Southern California Academy. Upcoming: Tenth-seeded Southern Cal will play No. 7 Michigan State Friday in Columbus, Ohio. After suffering a medical scare last summer, Iwuchukwu returned in January to play 14 games for the Trojans, averaging 5.4 points. He hasn’t played in a few weeks because of a reported back injury.

Jalen Jackson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a 5-11 senior guard from Wagner HS, transfer from North Texas. Upcoming: A&M-Corpus plays Southeast Missouri State in a battle of 16 seeds on Tuesday in Dayton. The winner advances to play top-seeded Alabama on Thursday in a round-of-64 game at Birmingham, Ala. Jackson started at point guard and averaged 7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Langston Love, Baylor, a 6-5 redshirt freshman guard, formerly of Steele HS, Montverde Academy, Fla. Upcoming: Third-seeded Baylor plays UC Santa Barbara on Friday in Denver in an NCAA South region game. Utilized primarily off the bench, Love averaged 6 points and 2.2 rebounds in his first season after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. He hasn’t played since Feb. 27 with an eye injury.

Kevin McCullar, Jr., Kansas, a 6-6 senior guard, formerly of Wagner High School, a transfer from Texas Tech. Upcoming: Top-seeded Jayhawks plays the Howard University Bison Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, in the NCAA West region. In his first year on the team, McCullar has been one of the key players on the Jayhawks, averaging 10.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals. He sat out the Big 12 tournament final with back soreness.

Austin Nunez, Arizona State, a 6-2 freshman guard from Wagner HS. Upcoming: Arizona State will play as an 11-seed against Nevada in the First Four in Dayton on Wednesday. The winner advances to face six-seed TCU in Denver on Friday in the round of 64. Nunez played in 28 games for the Bobby Hurley-coached Sun Devils in his first year out of high school. He averaged 4.5 points in 16.3 minutes. Nunez has not played since Feb. 18 at home against Utah and has been out the last six games, including two in the Pac-12 tournament, with a concussion.

(Players with San Antonio roots who attended high school out of the area)

Micah Peavy, TCU, a 6-7 junior forward from Duncanville, transfer from Texas Tech). Upcoming: Six seed TCU will meet either Arizona State or Nevada on Friday in Denver in the round of 64. Peavy is the son of Duncanville coach David Peavy, an Alamo Heights HS grad who attended UTSA and graduated from Incarnate Word. Micah Peavy led Duncanville to a 6A state title in 2019 and in 2020 was the state’s player of the year. Now in his second year at TCU under Jamie Dixon, he’s averaging 7.3 points and 3.1 rebounds for the Horned Frogs.

Other SA-area players

On NCAA Division I rosters

Marco Anthony, Utah, a 6-6 senior guard from Holmes, formerly of Virginia and Utah State

Adam Benhayoune, LSU, a 6-5 sophomore guard from O’Connor HS

Trey Blackmore, Cal State-Fullerton, a 6-2 freshman guard from Cole HS

Marques Gates, Houston Christian, a 6-0 redshirt freshman guard from Clemens HS

Ja’Sean Jackson, Abilene Christian, a 6-0 sophomore guard from Wagner HS

Ellis Jefferson, Lamar, a 6-0 senior guard from Brandeis HS

Gerald Liddell, Detroit Mercy, a 6-8 senior forward from Steele HS; transfer from Texas, Alabama State

Carlton Linguard Jr., UTSA, a 7-foot junior center from Stevens HS, transfer from Temple JC and Kansas State

Silas Livingston, University of the Incarnate Word, a 5-9 freshman guard from Cole

Jayden Martinez, North Texas, a 6-7 senior forward from Steele; transfer from New Hampshire

Jordan Mason, Texas State, a 6-2 freshman guard from Clark

Ze’Rik Onyema, UTEP, a 6-8 sophomore forward from Jay HS

Dre Ray, Incarnate Word, a 5-9 freshman guard from Cole HS

Brendan Wenzel, Wyoming, a 6-7 guard from O’Connor HS; a transfer from Utah

Dalen Whitlock, Texas State, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Clark HS

Florida Atlantic men, Middle Tennessee State women win in C-USA tournaments

Top-seeded teams in both Conference USA basketball tournaments emerged Saturday as postseason champions, with both the Florida Atlantic University men and the Middle Tennessee State women claiming automatic bids into their respective NCAA tournaments. The C-USA’s tournaments were held at The Star in Frisco.

All UTSA sports teams will transition from the C-USA into the American Athletic Conference next season.

Men’s title game

The FAU Owls bolted to a 19-point halftime lead and cruised to the C-USA postseason title on Saturday night. Alijah Martin led the Owls with 30 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. UTSA entered the tournament as the No. 11 seed and lost in the first round last Wednesday against No. 6 Rice, 72-71. A potential game-winning shot by Japhet Medor was initially counted and then waved off because it was released after the buzzer.

Women’s title game

Top-ranked Middle Tennessee State defeated No. 2 Western Kentucky, 82-70, on Saturday for the C-USA postseason championship. Jalynn Gregory made 5 of 5 3-pointers and scored 24 points for the Lady Raiders. Sixth-seeded UTSA went 2-1 in the tournament. Karen Aston’s Roadrunners beat No. 11 Florida Atlantic 69-68 in the first round and No. 3 Rice 62-54 in the quarterfinals before bowing out of the semifinals Friday night, falling 70-55 to the Lady Toppers.

WKU eliminates UTSA from the C-USA women’s tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Western Kentucky Lady Toppers hit four three-point shots in a dominant third quarter Friday night, blowing open a close game and then rolling to a 70-55 victory to eliminate the UTSA Roadrunners in the semifinals of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.

A key sequence came when WKU’s Teresa Faustino hit one from long distance, followed moments later by two in a row from Karris Allen. After Allen’s long ball swished through the nets, the Lady Toppers had a 48-34 lead with 4:26 left in the period.

WKU widened the lead to as many as 21 points early in the fourth, and UTSA never recovered. As a result, the Lady Tops will move on to play for the title Saturday against the Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders.

UTSA will return home, its season ended on an off night when its star player couldn’t avoid foul trouble. Jordyn Jenkins, the C-USA Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, played only 19 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter with seven points and seven rebounds.

After the game, played at The Star in Frisco, second-year Roadrunners coach Karen Aston expressed some bittersweet feelings. She felt bad for her players, who were playing mostly on heart in their third game in three days.

But in another sense, she expressed pride that her team reached the semifinals of a postseason tournament, a level that the UTSA program hadn’t attained since the 2009 Southland Conference championship season.

“We ran into a better team today, for sure,” Aston said, in an interview with JJ Perez of InsideRunnerSports.com. “They probably had fresher legs, and we just ran into a buzz saw, to be honest with you.”

For the game, the Lady Tops hit 11 three-point shots as they raced to their fifth win in a row and their second in two days in Frisco.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm, when you run into a team like that, and you don’t have probably all the gas in your tank that you need,” Aston said. “I think this is also a learning experience for us, how to handle being in the third round. How to handle your emotions as you get through the tournament.

“This team hasn’t been here before (so) this is a tremendous amount of progress for this program. I hope we’ve gained some respect from some people, including you guys (in the media), and I hope that people will continue to follow our team.”

Entering the C-USA semifinal on a six-game winning streak, including two in the last two days at the tournament, the Roadrunners never got their game untracked. They shot 38 percent from the field and hit only one of 14 three-point attempts.

Moreover, they couldn’t sustain possessions, turning the ball over 20 times to offset their 47-27 rebounding advantage. Sidney Love was the only UTSA player in double figures with 13 points. Freshman forward Maya Linton finished with nine points and six boards.

Elyssa Coleman, in foul trouble in the first half, pulled down 10 rebounds for the game but scored only five points. Kyra White, a junior guard who transferred with Jenkins from Southern Cal to UTSA in the offseason, played 37 minutes and finished with two points and five rebounds.

Forward Jaylin Foster led the Lady Tops with 13 points, while guards Acacia Hayes and Hope Sivori scored 10 apiece.

In the first half, Jenkins was whistled for two offensive fouls in the first three and a half minutes of the game and went to the bench. In the second quarter, both Jenkins and Coleman were on the bench with two apiece as WKU maintained the lead in a close game.

Late in the third quarter, as WKU was surging, Jenkins was whistled for her third and fourth fouls only 47 seconds apart, forcing Roadrunners coach Karen Aston to take her out again.

Jenkins scored five points in the fourth period before getting called for her fifth, fouling out with 25 seconds remaining.

It was a tough way for the season to end for the 6-foot transfer from Southern Cal, who set the school’s single-season scoring record and led the C-USA with an average of 21 points per game.


WKU 19-12
UTSA 13-19

C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Saturday’s game

No. 1 Middle Tennessee State (27-4) vs. No. 2 WKU (19-12), 4:30 p.m.