Making history: UTSA women down Northern Colorado 80-62 in the WNIT first round

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins produced 27 points and seven rebounds as the UTSA Roadrunners routed the Northern Colorado Bears 80-62 in the first round of the Postseason WNIT. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA reached another milestone Thursday night during its best season of women’s basketball in 15 years. The Roadrunners hosted a postseason game in a national tournament and won it, both firsts program history.

With Jordyn Jenkins leading the way with 27 points, the Roadrunners took control against the Northern Colorado Bears in the second quarter and then finished them off in the fourth, claiming an 80-62 victory in the first round of the Postseason WNIT.

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s Roadrunners shot 47 percent from the field and scored 80 points in a game for the first time since Jan. 14 when they beat Charlotte 81-80 in double overtime. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A rowdy crowd at the Convocation Center (announced at 873) thoroughly enjoyed it at the end as the Roadrunners started to pull away into double-digit leads. With the win, UTSA improved to 18-14 and advanced to the second round against the Wyoming Cowgirls.

UTSA is scheduled to play on the road at Wyoming of the Mountain West Conference on Sunday at 2 p.m. Northern Colorado of the Big Sky finished its season at 15-16. Hannah Simental led the Bears with 18 points.

In the postgame press conference, UTSA coach Karen Aston said the team’s first postseason win (outside of a conference tournament) feels “amazing.”

“We talked about this before the game,” the coach said. “I didn’t even realize it until yesterday. They mentioned that we had never won a postseason game. So, just a little bit of motivation to give the girls.”

In 43 years of UTSA women’s basketball, the team had played in a national tournament only twice before, once in 2008 against Texas A&M (at Baton Rouge, La.) and once in 2009 against Baylor (at Lubbock).

The Roadrunners lost each game in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64.

This season, in Aston’s third year at the helm of the program, the Roadrunners fell short of the NCAA tourney, but they overcame adversity to secure a winning record for the first time since 2015.

Kyra White. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Senior guard Kyra White produced 10 points, nine assists and four rebounds.- Photo by Joe Alexander

Their 18 victories also represent a milestone, of sorts, as they are the most in a season for the Roadrunners since they won 24 in 2009.

Now, after experiencing heartache at the American Athletic Conference tournament, where they lost in the semifinals to bow out of NCAA contention, they have discovered in the WNIT a new path to travel on their road to respectability as a program.

Only three years ago, the Roadrunners won only two games. Two years ago, in Aston’s first season in San Antonio, they won seven. Then, last year, they boosted the victory total to 13 and made a run to the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

A year later, as a member of the American, they lost in the semis again but won enough games to earn an invitation to the 48-team WNIT, a second-tier tournament behind the 68-team NCAA and the 32-team WBIT.

“That’s really what we’ve been talking about all this time, is to try to set a new standard and do things that maybe haven’t been done before,” Aston said. “I couldn’t be happier for them.”

Jenkins started for the first time this season in only her 11th game back following a 10-month rehabilitation from knee surgery. She responded by hitting 11 of 16 shots from the field. Jenkins also augmented her prolific scoring with seven rebounds.

“Just finding gaps in the zone,” Jenkins said, “(and) getting easy buckets.”

Aysia Proctor. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Aysia Proctor supplied energy off the bench and 13 points on fve of six shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In addition, UTSA enjoyed solid performances among several others, an element that had been missing at times during the crunch of conference play in February and March.

Freshman Aysia Proctor, an energizer, came off the bench to score 13 points. Senior point guard Kyra White had 10 points, nine assists and four rebounds.

Sophomore guard Sidney Love, who became extremely aggressive on offense in the second half, had 10 points and five assists. Senior Hailey Atwood scored nine on four of six shooting from the field in only 16 minutes.

White, who played in high school in the San Antonio area at Judson, said it feels great to win in the postseason.

“Just super grateful and blessed that we have this opportunity to play in front of the home crowd,” White said. “I’m just glad we were able to go out there and get it done.”


Northern Colorado 15-16
UTSA 18-14

Coming up

WNIT second round: UTSA at Wyoming (16-14), Sunday, 2 p.m. (Central).


A moment of levity emerged late in the third quarter when the Roadrunners made a stop on the defensive end and threw a long pass that sailed high over Jenkins’ head and out of bounds. As Jenkins was running, she wasn’t looking at the passer and didn’t see the pass or the ball as it was flying high overhead. The crowd apparently tried to let her know it was coming, shouting as it was in the air. Jenkins could only smile when the ball bounced out of bounds.

Sidney Love. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore guard Sidney Love scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter when the Roadrunners rallied into the lead. – Photo by Joe Alexander


Jenkins grinned at the question in the postgame interviews and acknowledged that, yes, she was having a good time all night.

“We haven’t played in awhile,” she said. “It feels like a new season, and I’ve never had a postseason in my career. So, just the fact that it’s a new game and we’ve had a lot of days off.

“It was just funny because the crowd, honestly, like, (they) helped me out. Because I wouldn’t have known. I knew they were screaming. So, then I was like, ‘Ok, it’s somewhere up here.’ But, yeah, it was fun.”

First half

Moving without the ball and posting up aggressively, Jenkins scored eight points in the first quarter and seven in the second as the Roadrunners rallied for a 40-35 lead at intermission.

Initially, they struggled. They trailed most of the first quarter and fell behind by nine with a minute left. Trailing 23-19 entering the game’s second 10-minute segment, the Roadrunners started to click.

Hailey Atwood. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Hailey Atwood started and played 16 minutes, during which she scored nine points on four of six shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

They hit four 3-pointers in a rally that saw them come from behind and seize the momentum. A Jenkins triple gave them the lead at 28-26 with 6:45 remaining.

Love also figured prominently in the outburst, hitting two from beyond the arc in the last few minutes.

For the Bears, Simental enjoyed a productive half with 13 points. She knocked down four of eight from the field and three of three from distance.

With 1:52 remaining in the first quarter, the Bears held their largest lead of the game at 22-13 when Lilah Moore hit a pair of free throws.

Four straight points by Jenkins and a field goal by Cheyenne Rowe allowed the Roadrunners to get back into contention.

Third quarter

The Roadrunners continued to click in the moments after halftime. Elyssa Coleman nailed a three from the top of the circle on the first play of the third period. Jenkins followed with seven straight points in less than two minutes.

UTSA led 49-42 with 6:53 left.

For the Roadrunners, a positive sign emerged when Jenkins went to the bench for a rest. In her absence, UTSA perimeter players started to come alive.

First, Atwood took it to the basket for a two-pointer. Kyra White scored inside on a drive, and then Proctor nailed a three from the top. White followed with another bucket on a drive.

The Roadrunners, in an important stretch, were keeping pace with the Bears with their best player on the bench resting. When Jenkins returned, she scored, giving UTSA a seven-point lead. Aniah Hall finished the quarter with a bucket for the Bears.

UTSA led 60-55 going to the fourth.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins sank 11 of 16 shots from the field and even hit two of three from 3-point distance in scoring 27 points, two off her season high. – Photo by Joe Alexander

East Carolina pitching to test UTSA’s hot hitters this weekend

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA, playing its inaugural weekend series as a member of the American Athletic Conference, will face one of the top teams in the nation Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Roadrunner Field.

The Roadrunners (10-11) will host the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates (15-4) in a series that promises some intriguing matchups.

For the Pirates, they placed six players on the AAC’s preseason all-conference team, including three pitchers in junior Trey Yesavage, sophomore Zach Root and senior bullpen ace Danny Beal.

Those three players lead a staff that ranks first in the conference in ERA at 3.60. The Roadrunners will counter with the No. 1 squad in batting average.

Paced by Caleb Hill, Mason Lytle and Alex Olivo, UTSA was hitting .302 to lead the American before stroking 14 hits and four homers Tuesday night at Texas State.

Yesavage is rated as one of the top pitchers going into the 2024 draft. UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said Thursday that the 6-foot-4 righthander throws four pitches, including a 93-to-97 mph fastball.

“It’s every bit of 93 to 97 mph,” Hallmark said. “Four pitches. Two different breaking balls. He can throw the righthanders a lot of sliders. He’s going to throw the lefthanders a lot o changeups. He’ll mix in some curveballs to both sides.”

Yesavage, from Boyertown, Pa., could be one of the most highly-regarded prospects that UTSA fans have ever seen.

“He’s the real deal,” Hallmark said. “Everything I read and everything I see, he’s a first-round draft pick. If he stays healthy he’ll probably pitch in the big leagues one day.”

UTSA women reach for ‘re-set’ in the Postseason WNIT

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA beat Rice 60-52 in American Athletic Conference women's basketball on Tuesday, March 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Elyssa Coleman and the UTSA Roadrunners will host the Northern Colorado Bears tonight in the first round of the Postseason WNIT. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA women’s basketball players will try to hit the re-set button on their emotions Thursday night when they host the Northern Colorado Bears in the first round of the Postseason WNIT.

Last week, the Roadrunners had their hearts broken when they lost in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth.

After giving up an 11-point lead and losing by one to the East Carolina Pirates, their dreams of a trip to the NCAA tournament were crushed.

UTSA coach Karen Aston acknowledged Wednesday that her players still may be experiencing the disappointment of the near miss in Fort Worth.

In that regard, she suggested that they might need to “re-set” emotionally before tipoff against Northern Colorado.

“I think they’re excited about the opportunity to play in the postseason but also trying to figure how to get over a disappointing loss, and maybe a missed opportunity,” Aston said. “So, it’s been a bit of a process to be happy and excited — and proud — about what they’ve done and what kind of year they’ve had.”

The Roadrunners already have achieved a milestone in clinching their first winning season since 2015. They’ve already made their mark with the first national postseason appearance since 2009, when they reached the NCAA tournament.

Now, if they can beat the Bears of the Big Sky conference, they can notch the first national postseason victory in the 43-year history of the program.

“You know,” Aston said, “that’s a good thing in a lot of ways, (that) they weren’t OK with what happened (last week). I appreciate that about them, so, to answer your question, (we just need) to get our competitive juices going again and get back to being who we can be.”

On Monday afternoon, Aston stopped practice at one juncture and let the players have it verbally. In so many words, she said she was troubled by the lack of focus and that she didn’t feel like they were giving their best effort.

The players apparently have responded. Aston said the workouts have been better and better as the week progressed.

“Today was a good day,” the coach said. “I feel good about us being ready to play tomorrow.”

UTSA center Elyssa Coleman said her teammates are thankful and excited to get to play again, and they hope to push past whatever feelings they may have had about last week.

She said it was “weird” because in years past players knew that a loss in the conference tournament definitely meant that the season was over.

“So, once we lost … knowing that we could, maybe, be picked for postseason, it was kind of like, you go through heartbreak,” she said. “But then you may or may not have any games after that, especially for our seniors, it was just really weird and uneasy.

“Thankfully, we got this opportunity.”

Coming up

Postseason WNIT, first round, Northern Colorado at UTSA, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Winner plays Wyoming in the second round, site and date TBA


Northern Colorado 15-15, 10-8, tied for fourth, Big Sky Conference
UTSA 17-14, 10-8, tied for fourth, American Athletic Conference

Key players

UTSA averages, points/rebounds and other — Forward Jordyn Jenkins (15.1 / 7.3); Elyssa Coleman (10.9 / 7.7, 1.5 blocks); Kyra White (10.2 / 5.1, 4.7 assists); Aysia Proctor (10 / 4.9); Sidney Love (9.5 / 3.6, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals), Idara Udo (7.9 / 6.2).

Northern Colorado averages, points/rebounds and other — Forward Delaynie Byrne (13.6 / 8.0); guard Hannah Simental (12.4 / 3.6, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals); forward Aniah Hall (10.0 / 5.7) guard Seneca Hackley (9.0 / 3.0, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals); Tatum West (7.8 / 4.6).


UTSA — Karen Aston took a program that was 2-18 the year before her arrival and built steadily, going 7-23, 13-19 and 17-14. Under Aston, who made a name for herself as a head coach at the University of Texas, the Roadrunners have reached a national postseason event for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The winning record is UTSA’s first since 2014-15. The 17 wins is the most since the ’08-’09 team, an NCAA tournament entry, finished 24-9.

Northern Colorado — Kristen Mattio has strung together records of 15-16, 13-18 and 15-15 in three seasons at Northern Colorado, which is based in Greeley. In her first season, her team went 9-11 in the Big Sky and reached the tournament semifinals. Last year, she went 5-13 and bowed out in the quarters. This year’s 10-8 record in conference was her team’s best, but the Bears lost again in the quarters, falling 47-44 in overtime to Montana State.

Men’s basketball: Texas, Texas Tech open NCAA play today

North Texas coach Grant McCasland. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Grant McCasland’s Texas Tech Red Raiders open the NCAA tournament Thursday against North Carolina State. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Six teams from the state of Texas will tip off in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament over the next few days. Texas and Texas Tech will play Thursday, followed by Houston, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M on Friday. We’ll take a look at Thursday’s matchups:

Thursday’s games

Round of 64

Texas vs. Colorado State, 5:50 p.m. on TNT — The seventh-seeded Longhorns (20-12) open with 10 seed Colorado State (25-10) at Charlotte, N.C., in the Midwest Region. Winner will advance to play either 2 seed Tennessee or No. 15 Saint Peter’s in the R32. A scary matchup for Coach Rodney Terry’s Longhorns. The Rams, led by guard Nique Clifford and forward Joel Scott, scorched Virginia 67-42 in a First Four game Tuesday in Dayton. The Longhorns went 9-9, finished tied for seventh in the Big 12 and lost in the first round of the conference tournament.

Local angle: Texas junior Ze’Rik Onyema, a 6-8 forward from Jay HS, transfer from UTEP.

Texas Tech vs. North Carolina State, 8:40 p.m. on CBS — The sixth-seeded Red Raiders (23-10) take on No. 11 North Carolina State (22-14) at Pittsburgh in the South. The winner will move on to play either 3 seed Kentucky or No. 14 Oakland, Mich. First-year Tech coach Grant McCasland was riding high with four straight wins, including an 81-67 victory over BYU at the Big 12 tournament, before he ran into the Houston Cougars. UH throttled Tech 82-59 in the B12 semis. Tech guard Darrion Williams sat out the Houston game with an ankle injury he suffered against BYU. Injured seven-foot center Warren Washington has played in only one game since Feb. 12. The Wolfpack made a shocking five-wins-in-five-days run to the ACC tournament title.

Baseball: Roadrunners to open AAC play against the defending champion East Carolina Pirates

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Caleb Hill and the UTSA Roadrunners will test the nationally-ranked East Carolina Pirates in a three-game series starting Friday at Roadrunner Field. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Defeated 14-13 on the road at Texas State on Tuesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners will prepare in the next few days for their historic first game in the American Athletic Conference. They’ll play Friday night at home against the 11th-ranked East Carolina Pirates.

East Carolina (15-4) will arrive at Roadrunner Field for a three-game series as the most accomplished baseball program in the AAC. The Greenville, N.C.-based Pirates have won four straight AAC regular-season championships.

Led by 10th-year coach Cliff Godwin, East Carolina has qualified for five straight NCAA tournaments, playing in the national event every year since 2018. During their streak, they stayed home only in 2020 when most of the season and the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

In the final analysis, the Roadrunners will have their hands full as they play their inaugural AAC weekend series following 10 seasons in Conference USA. While the Pirates have won eight straight games, the Roadrunners (10-11) have struggled to find consistency.

Matched against certain teams, their pitching has been vulnerable. Texas State, for instance, sent 16 batters to the plate and scored nine runs in the first inning Tuesday night in San Marcos. Roadrunners pitching walked 11 batters against the Bobcats.

The Roadrunners’ offense, in turn, always seems to give them a chance. Trailing by five runs after the first inning and by six runs after the third against the Bobcats, they battled back with 14 hits, including four home runs.

Tye Odom, Caleb Hill and Matt King sent balls over the fence in the second inning and freshman Diego Diaz added another in the ninth. A two-run blast by Diaz pulled the Roadrunners to within one run before the Bobcats shut down the rally.

Hill leads with a .419 batting average and seven home runs. Lytle, a transfer from Oregon, has made a major impact in his first season. Outside of starting in center field and leading the team in stolen bases with nine, he ranks among the team’s leaders in average (.359), home runs (four) and RBIs (19).

As a team, they’re hitting .305.


East Carolina 15-4
UTSA 10-11


The Pirates are ranked 11th in the nation by D1 Baseball and 12th by Baseball America. Pirates pitcher Trey Yesavage is the No. 36 prospect for the 2024 MLB draft, according to This season, the 6-foot-4 righthander, a second-team All-American last year, is 4-0 with a 1.20 earned run average. He has struck out 49 and walked nine in 30 innings.

UTSA women set to host Northern Colorado in the Postseason WNIT

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Charlotte 81-80 in double overtime in American Athletic Conference women's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Third-year UTSA coach Karen Aston has guided the program to its first berth in a national tournament in 15 years.- File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

For the first time since 2009, the UTSA women’s basketball team will play in a national postseason tournament.

The Roadrunners learned Sunday that they had been accepted into the Postseason WNIT. By Monday afternoon, it came to light that they would tip off the tournament at home. They’ll host the Northern Colorado Bears on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

To put it in perspective, most of the Roadrunners were in grade school the last time the program played beyond a conference tournament.

“I think I was seven and on the playground,” center Elyssa Coleman said.

Division I women’s basketball programs all over the country start offseason workouts in the summer in hopes of earning a bid to the 68-team NCAA Tournament, the most prestigious of all postseason destinations.

Beyond that, the 32-team WBIT is considered the next best destination, followed by the 48-team WNIT. Programs need to post winning records to be eligible, and the Roadrunners qualified on that front at 17-14, including 10-8 in the American Athletic Conference.

Last week, in the AAC tournament at Fort Worth, the Roadrunners won in the quarterfinals against South Florida and then lost by one in the semifinals to the East Carolina Pirates.

Even though the loss knocked UTSA out of contention for the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAAs, UTSA coach Karen Aston says the WNIT invitation is “a huge step” for her program.

“The biggest reason that you play and you train, and (put in) all those hours starting in June is that you have a chance to experience postseason,” Aston said. “I know our players were a bit disappointed in how the conference tournament ended, a game that we thought we let get away, and it’s been kind of hard to get ’em out of that doldrum.

“But I think the excitement of knowing that they earned a chance to play in postseason is a big deal to them.”

It’s also a big deal for die-hard fans, who haven’t seen the Roadrunners in a national tournament in March since both the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Both years, UTSA lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, meaning the team has a chance to make history with a victory that would be the program’s first.

Aston applauded UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos for putting up the bid to host a game.

“You know, that’s why I came here,” she said. “Because I think Dr. Campos is extremely committed to the whole athletic program. I think she’s committed to basketball. I think that she wants us in our program to grow, and this is a growth step..

“I told the players yesterday, as disappointed as I know they were in the outcome of the conference tournament, this is a required step.

“It is a step where you hang a banner and we get to look at that banner all year next year and know that, you know, we’ll remember the reasons why we didn’t make the NCAA. Those are required (steps). Some of our freshmen, their seasons last year (in high school) ended in the first of February and mid-March.

“That’s a good month’s experience that you have to have so that you know what it feels like.”

For most of the past decade, the Roadrunners were a sub-.500 program, in one stretch registering single-digit victory totals for five straight years. In 2020-21, the Roadrunners finished 2-18 and 0-14 in Conference USA.

Aston took over in 2021-22 and guided the team to a 7-23 record. Last season, with Jordyn Jenkins and Kyra White transferring in from Southern Cal, UTSA improved to 13-19. This year’s 17-win total is the most for the program since the 2008-09 team won 24 games.

White, a UTSA senior from Judson, said “it means everything” to help raise the standard of play.

“It’s just a testament to everybody in this gym right now,” she said. “From last April until now, just putting in the work, grinding day in and day out, and honestly just not taking no for an answer.”

Coming up

First round: Northern Colorado at UTSA, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Second round: Northern Colorado-UTSA winner vs. Wyoming, date and site TBA


Northern Colorado 15-15
UTSA 17-14

UTSA basketball job ‘a dream come true’ for Austin Claunch

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The University of Alabama men’s basketball program has made a new fan in San Antonio. It’s Lisa Campos, the athletic director at UTSA.

As Campos on Sunday announced the hiring of 34-year-old Alabama assistant Austin Claunch as the next head coach of the Roadrunners, the plan for the coming weeks came into sharper focus.

Claunch will continue to work with the Crimson Tide for as long as they can stay alive in the NCAA tournament. Afterward, he will report to work in San Antonio.

Fourth-seeded Alabama opens play on Friday against No. 13 Charleston in an NCAA West Regional Round of 64 game at Spokane, Wash.

“There’s some positive pressure,” Campos said in a Zoom news conference. “We want him to go as far as he can with Alabama because that’s great for UTSA, as well. So we’ll be rooting. We’ll be Roll Tide fans here in the tournament.

“But, really, can’t wait for him to be in San Antonio, for ya’ll to meet him and feel his energy in person.”

Claunch, who talked to reporters on Zoom from Alabama, laid out some of his plans for the Roadrunners and admitted to feeling a rush of gratification.

“Honestly, what an incredible few days it’s been for me,” he said. “It truly is a dream come true.”

The whirlwind started last Thursday when it was announced that Steve Henson would not return as coach. That his contract, which expires on March 31, would not be renewed. That his eight-year tenure with a 110-144 record was over.

Campos said she started work on the search for the new coach almost immediately. In fact, she called Claunch later that day. It took basically 72 hours for the two sides to agree on a five-year deal worth $550,000 annually.

“Real excited for Austin,” Campos said. “He checks all the boxes that we’re looking for. He’s got Division I head coaching experience. He’s had success and has been around successful programs. He knows what (success) looks like.”

As evidenced by his first meeting with the San Antonio media, Claunch also showed off a personal touch that likely will go a long way in South Texas.

After each reporter announced their name and affiliation and then asked questions, the new UTSA coach addressed each one of them by their first names.

Claunch also revealed a disarming sense of humor.

In one give-and-take, the coach was asked what he most wanted to do after the tournament, after he arrived in San Antonio and settled into his new role. Claunch said he just wanted to meet his players, the athletic staff, the school administration.

Also, the students.

“I’m a big believer in being a team player,” he said. “You will see me at every other sporting event (on campus). You’ll see me just walking around campus, talking to people. You know, sometimes it’s hard for me to shut up. I love just getting to know people.”

Claunch, who was born in Argentina, grew up in Houston and attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. After playing basketball in high school, he moved on to play four years for Division III Emory University in Atlanta.

Almost immediately after he left school, his star started to rise in college basketball coaching circles. He worked at George Mason and at Clemson and then took an assistant’s job at Nicholls State in tiny Thibodaux, La., south and west of New Orleans.

At Nicholls, Claunch initially worked two years as Richie Riley’s assistant, once helping the Colonels win the 2018 Southland Conference regular-season title.

When Riley left for South Alabama after the season, the young assistant moved up and, at age 28, took over the Colonels’ program as head coach. He would win back-to-back Southland Conference regular-season titles (2021 and 2022) and would post a 90-61 record in five seasons.

Claunch traced his Nicholls teams’ success to relationships he built with his players, a task that may have been easier to accomplish because of his age.

“I really just want to get to know these guys and build authentic relationships with them, which is sort of my strength, building relationships,” he said. “As a young head coach, when I took the job (at Nicholls), I didn’t have a ton of experience. I believe we won because we built those true, trustworthy relationships.”

Claunch left Nicholls last spring to join Nate Oats’ staff at Alabama.

“Austin is one of the hardest working guys in the business,” Oats said in a statement. “His work as a head coach at Nicholls was unbelievable, with one of the lowest budgets in the country.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell, also in a statement, emphasized his former staffer’s communication skills and personal touch.

“People enjoy being around Austin,” Brownell said. “He’s a fun guy. He’s also very bright and knows how to get his message across if there’s work to be done. He can handle his business, but he’s also one of those guys that relates to people and enjoys people.”

Claunch’s interpersonal skills may be put to the test pretty soon.

Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker, the Roadrunners’ top two guards, have already announced that they will enter the transfer portal. For the fans, it’s an eerie feeling after 10 players left the team last fall.

Claunch said he only hopes the players with eligibility stay long enough to talk to him because he thinks they can become part of a championship foundation.

“I want to get down there and talk to our guys face to face,” he said. “Because, they committed to UTSA for a reason, and I still believe that they can be big parts of winning a championship in the American. So, I would tell them just to hang tight. I’ll be down there soon and look forward to talking to them in person.”

Austin Claunch named to lead the UTSA men’s basketball program

Editor’s note: Alabama assistant Austin Claunch has been hired as head coach of the UTSA men’s basketball program, it was announced Sunday afternoon. Here’s my story from yesterday:

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the UTSA Roadrunners are targeting University of Alabama assistant Austin Claunch to become their next head coach in men’s basketball.

Claunch, who has roots in Texas, has worked under Alabama head coach Nate Oats for one season.

The story was broken early Saturday afternoon by Alamo City Hoops. Officials in the Alabama men’s basketball program couldn’t be reached. A UTSA spokesman said in a text, “We have no news regarding our men’s basketball coaching search at this time.”

If a deal can be worked out, Claunch apparently would arrive at UTSA as the youngest men’s basketball head coach in school history (34) and only the third to take the job in their 30s, following Brooks Thompson who was 35 when he was hired in 2006 and Ken Burmeister (38) in 1986.

At the same time, Claunch would bring with him the most victories in Division I of any previous UTSA coach except for one. Stu Starner won 110 games at Montana State before he was hired at UTSA in 1990. Claunch won 90 games at Nicholls State from 2018-19 through 2022-23.

Claunch would become the only man hired for the UTSA job with as many as two Division I regular-season titles on his record. He won Southland Conference titles at Nicholls in 2021 and 2022. Starner won one Big Sky title at Montana State in 1987.

Born in Argentina, Claunch grew up in Texas and played basketball at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston. He also attended and played for Emory College in Atlanta.

In his coaching career, he has worked at George Mason (2012-13) and Clemson (2013-16) and Nicholls State (2016-23). In his first two years at Nicholls, he served as an assistant coach. He was promoted to head coach in 2018.

In five seasons, Claunch went 90-61 overall, including 58-28 in conference.

The UTSA job came open Thursday when coach Steve Henson was told his contract would not be renewed. Henson posted a record of 110-144 in eight years. Most recently, he had suffered three consecutive seasons with 20 or more losses.

Three Texas-based, mid majors vie for NCAA bids today

UTEP men's basketball coach Joe Golding at the Miners' game against UTSA at the Convocation Center on Feb. 11, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Joe Golding’s UTEP Miners rallied from a 14-point deficit in the last 13 minutes Friday to stun the top-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats in the Conference USA tournament. The Miners will play for the conference’s postseason title today against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Huntsville, Ala. — Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With Selection Sunday looming tomorrow for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the state of Texas is looking good with nine possible entries in the 68-team field.

Not to mention a San Antonio native who coaches an out-of-state program.

Three mid-majors from the state will play for automatic bids today, including the UTEP Miners in Conference USA, the Texas Southern Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the UT Arlington Mavericks in the Western Athletic Conference.

Coach Joe Golding’s Miners will take on the Steve Lutz-coached Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Huntsville, Ala., for the C-USA title at 7:30 tonight on the CBS Sports Network.

In Birmingham, at Bartow Arena, the SWAC title is up for grabs between Johnny Jones‘ Texas Southern Tigers and the Grambling State (La.) Tigers. Jones’ Tigers are looking for their fourth straight trip to the NCAA’s Big Dance. Tipoff is at 8:30 on ESPN Plus.

Later in the evening, in Las Vegas, the WAC championship will tip off at 10:30 p.m., matching a UT Arlington team coached by former Kentucky and Texas assistant KT Turner against the Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University Lopes at 10:30 p.m., also on ESPN Plus.

Other teams from the state expected to make the field of 68 include the Houston Cougars, the Baylor Bears, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Texas Longhorns and the TCU Horned Frogs — all from the Big 12 — and the Southeastern Conference’s Texas A&M Aggies.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. No. 5 seed Houston upset No. 1 seed Arizona 72-60 in the NCAA tournament South Region Sweet 16 on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at the AT&T Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Kelvin Sampson has led the Houston Cougars to a 30-3 record entering play today against the Iowa State Cyclones for the Big 12 title. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Led by coach Kelvin Sampson, the Big 12 regular-season champion Cougars are in good shape for an NCAA No. 1 regional seed going into today’s postseason conference title game against Iowa State.


Lutz is a San Antonio native who played at East Central High School and in college in Seguin at Texas Lutheran College, now Texas Lutheran University. He is in his first year at Western Kentucky after leading the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders to two straight NCAA appearances. His last two teams at A&M-Corpus Christi went 23-12 and 24-11.

Seeded third in the C-USA tournament, Lutz’s Hilltoppers (21-11) lost four in a row to close out the regular season before turning it all around in the postseason in Alabama, where they rebounded to win tournament games against the New Mexico State Aggies and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

On Friday, the Hilltoppers demolished the Blue Raiders 85-54 by locking down defensively and then shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 50 percent (11 of 22) from the three-point line.

The Miners, meanwhile, will take their own momentum into the championship match. UTEP (18-15) trailed in Friday’s semifinals by 14 points with 13 minutes remaining. At that point, they rallied to knock off the regular-season champion and No. 1-seeded Sam Houston Bearkats, 65-63.

In his third season in El Paso, Golding is looking to reach the NCAA tournament for the third time in six seasons, making it previously in 2019 and 2021 at Abilene Christian University. A highlight came in 2021 when the Wildcats won the Southland Conference postseason title en route to an NCAA upset of the third-seeded Texas Longhorns. A prominent member of Golding’s staff at UTEP is Jeremy Cox, a former assistant at UTSA.

The SWAC tournament finals features a Texas coaching legend in Jones, who recently won the 400th game in his 25-year career. Jones has also had head coaching stops at Memphis, North Texas and LSU. He led the Mean Green to NCAA appearances in 2007 and 2010. At LSU, he had one NCAA trip in 2015. The coach worked his postseason magic particularly well last spring, when his team rose up as the eighth seed and beat No. 1 Grambling, 61-58, in the SWAC finals.

This year, curiously, Texas Southern won on the road and lost at home for a 1-1 split against Grambling during the regular season.

For UT Arlington, coach Turner’s first season has been a wild ride. His Mavericks lost nine of their first 15 games before gaining some traction and momentum. Right now, they’re on a 14-4 run, and they’ll enter the title game against GCU with a record of 20-13. In a game that started late Friday night and finished early Saturday morning, Brandyn Talbot hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left to lift third-seeded Arlington to a 87-84 victory over No. 2 Tarleton State.

Turner has worked under the likes of Gregg Marshall (at Wichita State), Larry Brown and Tim Jankovic (SMU), Porter Moser (at Oklahoma), Shaka Smart (Texas) and John Calipari (Kentucky).

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

San Antonio native Steve Lutz, an East Central High School graduate, has a chance to reach the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. His Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are playing the UTEP Miners tonight in Alabama for the Conference USA crown and the NCAA automatic bid. – photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA opens search for a new basketball coach; Henson’s contract not renewed

UTSA announced Thursday that a national search for the next head coach of the men’s basketball program is underway.

Steve Henson. Temple beat UTSA 84-82 in the Roadrunners' final home game of the men's basketball season on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson is out as head coach of the UTSA men’s basketball program after eight seasons. Henson brought Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace to UTSA in the early years, but his last three teams lost 20 or more games. – File photo by Joe Alexander

The announcement came in a news release saying that eighth-year head coach Steve Henson would not return.

Henson’s contract expires on March 31 and Lisa Campos, vice president of intercollegiate athletics, said it would not be renewed.

Henson’s teams posted a record of 110-144.

“I want to thank Coach Henson for his commitment to UTSA basketball and to this university,” Campos said in the news release.

Campos described Henson as “a first-class representative” of the university.

“We wish coach Henson and his family the very best in the future,” Campos said.

Henson’s best year came in 2017-18 when the Roadrunners finished 20-15. Despite the loss of leading scorer Jhivvan Jackson to a knee injury at the end of the regular season, the Roadrunners reached the quarterfinals of both the Conference USA and tournaments.

He was named C-USA Coach of the Year.

Henson will be known as the coach who brought Jackson and Keaton Wallace to UTSA. Both joined the team as freshmen in the fall of 2017. When they departed after the spring of 2021, Jackson ranked as the No. 1 scorer in school history, with Wallace No. 2.

The Roadrunners struggled after Jackson and Wallace turned pro. Henson’s last three teams finished 10-22, 10-22 and 11-21.