C-USA honors go to UTSA’s Jackson, Wallace, Ivy-Curry

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry finished the regular season fourth on the team in scoring at 7.1 points per game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Haunted by poor shooting through his first eight games in college basketball, UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry eventually re-discovered his touch.

As a result, Ivy-Curry started to flourish as an all-around player in his first year with the Roadrunners, and on Monday, he joined seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace in winning honors announced by Conference USA.

For the third year in a row, Jackson was named first-team all-conference. Also for the third straight year, Wallace was named to the second team. This time, they were joined by Ivy-Curry, who was named to the C-USA all-freshman team.

The Roadrunners, one of the hottest teams in the conference, were scheduled to practice in San Antonio for the last time Monday afternoon before boarding a bus bound for Frisco. They’ll work out again Tuesday in Frisco as the tournament opens at The Star with preliminary round games.

On Wednesday afternoon, they Roadrunners will play the Charlotte 49ers in a second-round game.

‘Juice’ makes his mark

In the first third of a 24-game season, Ivy-Curry had yet to live up to his reputation as a high-octane scorer. As a high school senior, he averaged more than 30 points a game at La Marque. But with the Roadrunners, his shot would not fall — at least, not initially.

In his first eight games, Ivy-Curry was playing off the bench and shooting a meager 32.6 from the field. From three-point range, he was way off the mark — 0-for-13. All that started to change on Jan. 2. ‘Juice’ hit a three out of the corner and finished 5 of 14 overall in a road loss at Rice. Coaches stayed with him, and he kept getting better.

For the season, he played in all 24 games, averaging 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes. He was also good in terms of moving the ball on offense and in defending the perimeter. Down the stretch, his three-point shooting touch returned. In his last 16 games, he hit 22 of 45 from distance for 48.9 percent.

Rodriguez improving

UTSA coach Steve Henson said in a zoom conference with reporters that junior forward Adrian Rodriguez has practiced well. “In another 2 or 3 days, hopefully he’ll be close to 100 percent,” the coach said.

Rodriguez hurt his knee on Feb. 6 in at Florida International and sat out the next three games. On Feb. 27, he played two minutes at home against the UAB Blazers. Last Thursday, Henson played him 16 minutes in UTSA’s tune-up against Southwestern Adventist. Rodriguez had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Trying to make history

For the Roadrunners to claim the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, they will need to win four games in four days in the pressure cooker of a single-elimination event.

UTSA has never executed such a four-in-four conference tournament run in its previous 39 seasons of basketball.

In 1988, a Ken Burmeister-coached UTSA squad claimed the school’s first NCAA berth when it won three games in three days to claim the Trans America Athletic Conference title at Daytona Beach, Fla.

In 1999, the first of two Tim Carter-coached NCAA teams won two games in two days for the Southland championship in Shreveport, La.

In 2004, Carter took his team to the NCAA dance once again as Southland titlists with three wins in five days. The Roadrunners won in San Antonio, in Hammond, La., and then in San Antonio again (against Stephen F. Austin).

In 2011, the Brooks Thompson-coached Roadrunners won three games in four days to win a Southland championship at the Merrell Center in Katy.

Coming up

Conference USA tournament. UTSA vs. Charlotte, Thursday at 5:30 p.m., at The Star in Frisco.

Records

UTSA 14-10, 9-7
Charlotte 9-15, 5-11

UTSA set to play Charlotte in C-USA championships

The UTSA Roadrunners will open play in the Conference USA basketball championships against the Charlotte 49ers, according to the bracket announced Saturday.

The 14-team men’s tournament starts Tuesday with a pair of first-round games at The Star in Frisco. As the No. 4 seed in the West, UTSA will open play in the second round on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against the 49ers, the No. 5 seed in the East.

UTSA enters tournament play having won nine of its last 11, while Charlotte has lost eight straight. The two teams were scheduled to play Feb. 19-20 in North Carolina, but the games were scrapped because of the winter storm in Texas.

If the Roadrunners beat the 49ers, they would advance to play in the third round Thursday against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the No. 1 seed in the East. UTSA will need to win four games in four days to secure the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Records

Charlotte 9-15, 5-11
UTSA 14-10, 9-7

Notable

Please click on the link for full details on the C-USA championships.

As tournament time looms, UTSA ramps up offensive execution

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson and the UTSA Roadrunners have started to click offensively — and just in time. The Conference USA tournament starts next week in Frisco. — Photo by Joe Alexander

In the past, when the UTSA Roadrunners have faltered, indecision has often haunted the offensive execution. On plays that required a split-second decision on whether to shoot, drive or pass, a glitch of some sort has materialized.

The play, in many cases, has suffered a timing-related break down. Lately, by contrast, the offense has flowed as freely as ever.

During the team’s past two games against the UAB Blazers and the Southwestern Adventist Knights, the Roadrunners have averaged 104.5 points on 61.4 percent shooting from the field. The team’s assist to turnovers ratio is an eye-popping 3-1, based on 51 assists and 17 turnovers in the two games combined.

Granted, the Knights were out-sized and out-matched athletically by the Roadrunners Thursday night, when the Roadrunners rolled, 123-43. At the same time, UTSA executed nearly as well on Feb. 27 against the Blazers, who rank among the best teams in Conference USA.

The groove, for UTSA’s offense, is unmistakable leading into next week’s C-USA tournament at Frisco.

“It’s such a good feeling, knowing that everybody can step up at any moment,” UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez said. “What I enjoy the most out of that, is that we all trust each other. You know, we trust each other to make that extra pass. To give the ball to the man that’s open. Whenever we need it. And everybody makes plays. The right plays. Especially recently. The most recent games.

“The ball movement is beautiful. With great shots. That shows that you can trust each other.”

UTSA’s offense hasn’t always been beautiful during the team’s 9-2 streak over the past seven weeks. Occasionally, an opponent’s heightened defensive effort will create a whole lot of ugly over a 40-minute stretch.

For example, the UTEP Miners clamped down on the Roadrunners on Jan. 30 in El Paso. The Roadrunners shot 29.5 percent from the field, while the ball movement disappeared, in a 69-51 loss.

The same thing happened to the Roadrunners at home on Feb. 26. The Blazers applied sort of a soft backcourt trap and caused all sorts of problems, leading to 19 UTSA turnovers and 38 percent shooting. UAB, predictably, won in a 64-57 battle.

Other than those two games, though, the Roadrunners’ offense has looked as formidable as it has in UTSA coach Steve Henson’s five-year tenure.

During the 11-game stretch, UTSA’s ball handling has produced seven games in which assists have out-numbered turnovers. Not coincidentally, the team went 7-0 in those games. When the ball movement produced double-figure assists, the Roadrunners were 8-1. Six times, all of them victories, UTSA shot 50 percent or better from the floor.

Given the extended track record, it seems to indicate that the Roadrunners have played well enough over time to inspire a belief that they can make a run, when the tournament opens next Wednesday, March 10, at The Star. UTSA coach Steve Henson expressed optimism leading into next week.

“We’ve been talking about that for several weeks,” Henson said. “We wanted to play that Charlotte weekend. We got those games snowed out. Didn’t play particularly well the first night against UAB. We played much better the second night. So I didn’t think there was any setback mentally, from where we were at, at that point.

“Again, we’ve had some good stretches in practice. The ball movement and the trust level is at the highest it’s been all year, in terms of trusting teammates to make plays. So, I like what we’re doing on the offensive end.”

Over the past few days, the coach talked to players about ramping up intensity on the defensive end.

“Just (in) doing the right things, talking,” he said. “Just a little more edge to it. We got three and a half (or) four more opportunities to do that. Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. So, I hope our guys will respond the right way in practice.”

UTSA races to a 123-43 victory over Southwestern Adventist

Adrian Rodriguez. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Adrian Rodriguez returned for the Roadrunners and contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.

Earlier this week, the UTSA Roadrunners made an 11th-hour scheduling adjustment, adding a home game against the Southwestern Adventist Knights.

The Roadrunners needed the contest to help them tune up for next week’s Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.

Mission accomplished.

The Roadrunners got what they needed out of the extra game Thursday night with an easy 123-43 victory over the Knights, a school affiliated with the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association.

UTSA’s career scoring leaders were efficient, with senior leaders Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace — the 2K Tandem — both scoring 23 points in 20 minutes.

Jackson hit 9 of 11 from the field and Wallace 9 of 15.

Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace both played efficiently in producing 23 points in 20 minutes. – photo by Joe Alexander

It was also a night for players who have not seen much floor time lately.

Forward Adrian Rodriguez, hobbled by a knee injury, played 16 minutes and produced 12 points and seven rebounds.

In addition, freshman Lachlan Bofinger scored a career-high in points with 14 and notched his first double-double with 14 rebounds. Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 11 on 5-for-5 shooting.

As a team, the Roadrunners connected on a season-high 64.8 percent from the field. They passed for 30 assists and committed only eight turnovers. On the defensive end, they held the Knights to 27.1 percent, including 21.9 percent in the second half.

T’Cory James led Southwestern Adventist, a program based in Keene, Texas, with 11 points. Southwestern Adventist came in without much hope to win. Most of the Knights were 6-foot-1 and under.

Records

UTSA 14-10
Southwestern Adventist 2-7

Coming up

Conference USA tournament, at Frisco, March 10-13.

Notable

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah scored seven points in UTSA’s regular-season finale. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s 80-point margin of victory was the largest in school history. The Roadrunners have won nine of 11 going into the tournament. Jackson is the leading active career scorer in NCAA Division I going into conference tournaments. With his performance against the Knights, he increased his points total to 2,528 and moved up to No. 60 on the all-time list, according to sports-reference.com. Wallace hiked his career total to 2,030 points. Jackson and Wallace are the first two players in 40 years of UTSA basketball to hit the 2,000-point plateau.

Quotable

Rodriguez said the team feels good about itself, noting, “We’re incredibly excited. You know, just use this game to get the feel of having a game.” As for his own health, he told the team’s radio broadcast, “I felt great. (Trainer) Josh (Modica) does a great job. He helps me out. Coach is very understanding. My well being was on the top of their mind. I really appreciate everything that they’ve done. We did all the right steps.” Rodriguez’s health will be a key as UTSA will need to win four games in four days to win the tournament. UTSA coach Steve Henson said he was happy to see everyone on the bench get to play, including walk-ons Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, Artan Jabbar and Jaja Sanni.

Lachlan Bofinger. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lachlan Bofinger notched a double double with 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench. — Photo by Joe Alexander

On Bofinger, Henson said, “He’s so active. He plays so hard. You know, people coming up to me a lot and ask about him. We have not lost confidence in him. We just play him at a position we’ve got some depth. Cedrick (Alley, Jr.) is playing great. But we love what (Bofinger) does. He’s going to have a great career for us.” Henson said he wanted to give Rodriguez a good test against the Knights. “He felt good. Felt really good. Played without his brace. He’d been wearing the brace in practice the last few days, so I was glad to see him play without that. We’ll handle the next few days the right way, hopefully, and get him ready to play next week.”

Halftime

With the offense humming, the Roadrunners shot 65.9 percent from the field and surged to a 67-23 lead on the Knights.
The Knights, in turn, were held to nine field goals and 33.7 percent by the Roadrunners.
Southwestern Adventist was in the game only for a few minutes, hitting two straight field goals to pull within 10-5. From there, UTSA started to roll. The Roadrunners scored 16 points in a row and never looked back.
Both Jackson and Wallace were sharp, hitting for 19 points apiece in the half for UTSA. Jackson made his first six shot attempts and finished the half at 7 of 9, including 5 of 6 from three. Wallace hit 3 of 6 from long distance during a half in which he knocked down 7 of 11 overall. For the Knights, guard Justin Lamb had eight points.

Roadrunners to host the NCCAA Southwestern Adventist Knights

The UTSA Roadrunners have added a game to their schedule. They’ll play at home Thursday at 6 p.m. against the Southwestern Adventist University Knights. Southwestern Adventist is a National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association program from Keene, Texas.

NCAA Division I UTSA made the move to give its players a competition experience during what originally had been a week left open to reschedule Covid-affected Conference USA games.

The Roadrunners made it through the C-USA schedule without having to postpone a game for Covid-related issues. But they did have two road games at Charlotte (Feb. 18-19) scrapped because of the winter storm in Texas. Ideally, UTSA could have made up the games with Charlotte this week, but the 49ers were already scheduled to travel to Marshall.

Now, the Roadrunners will play Southwestern Adventist at the Convocation Center Thursday night in preparation for the C-USA tournament, scheduled next week.

Winners of five of their last six games and eight of 10, UTSA has secured the No. 4 seed in the C-USA Western Division and will play on Wednesday, March 10, in the C-USA championships at The Star in Frisco. The opponent is undetermined.

The winner of the C-USA event next week, which runs through March 13, will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Wallace joins Jackson in a 2K tandem as UTSA rolls past UAB

UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace (left) joined Jhivvan Jackson in the 2,000-career point club on ‘Senior Day’ Saturday, when the Roadrunners rebounded from an ugly loss on Friday night to blow out the UAB Blazers. – photo by Joe Alexander

Leave it to UTSA senior guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. Only those two could light up a drafty, old gymnasium and turn an overcast Saturday afternoon into one for the memory banks.

First, Wallace eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career mid-way through the second half against the UAB Blazers.

A few minutes later, Jackson unleashed a flurry of buckets to climb past 2,500 points. In the end, the Roadrunners played perhaps their best game of the season in claiming a convincing 96-79 ‘Senior Day’ victory over a 19-win team.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace produced 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in what may have been his last home game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

If it was indeed the last time for Jackson and Wallace to grace the court at the UTSA Convocation Center, then it was done with appropriate style and flair, complete with a wave from the two of them to a Covid-19 restricted crowd of 394 as they walked off to the dressing room.

As fans cheered to hail UTSA’s newly-minted 2K tandem, UTSA coach Steve Henson offered his thanks, as well.

“We all know we got a lot of basketball left,” Henson said. “They’re going to have some emotional moments with their families right now. I was thanking them, and they were thanking me. Just appreciate everything they’ve done for this program.”

Jackson led the rout with 32 points, and Wallace added 22. As a team, the Roadrunners showed impressive resilience in bouncing back from a bad loss Friday to salvage a split in their two-game series with the Blazers.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson, held to 12 points in Friday’s loss to the Blazers, bounced back to score 32 on Saturday. — Photo by Joe Alexander.

“Pretty fitting for them to finish it off this way in the Convo (with) monster nights from both of them,” Henson said. “You know, they came in here four years ago and started making baskets and they just kept it going … There were a lot of nights when one or the other was clicking … But to have both of them have monster nights on Senior Day is very, very special.

“They have changed the perception, I think, of our program. You know, they allowed us to play fast, the way we said we were going to play. They’ve allowed us to shoot a lot of threes. They’ve allowed us to do a lot of things we said we were going to do when we recruited them four years ago. They’ve been great ambassadors.

“They’ve handled their business. They’ve both done a great job in the classroom. They’re great Roadrunners.”

Turning the tables

UTSA played one of its best stretches of the season against a quality opponent in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and rolling to a 42-33 intermission lead.

Spacing the floor and taking care of the ball, the Roadrunners hit 17 of 34 shots, including 5 of 9 from three. In one span of a little more than seven minutes, UTSA produced a 16-0 streak against the Blazers, the top defensive team in Conference USA.

All of a sudden, an eight-point deficit for UTSA turned into a 23-15 lead.

The Blazers never got closer than five the rest of the way. With the Roadrunners shooting 65.6 percent in the second half, they pushed the lead to as many as 22, quite the turnaround from Friday night, when the Blazers claimed a 64-57 victory on the same floor.

Records

UAB 19-6, 11-5
UTSA 13-10, 9-7

Coming up

The Roadrunners likely will not make up two games against Charlotte that were scratched last week because of the winter storm. But they could possibly schedule a non-conference game next week. Many C-USA teams will play make-ups next week for games that were lost to Covid-19 postponements. The C-USA is expected to announce next weekend the bracket for the tournament. All 14 teams — seven in each division — will be invited. The tournament is March 9-13 at Frisco.

For the record

When the Roadrunners came out in the second half, they unleashed a series of defensive plays that sparked a surge. First, the 6-foot Jackson soared high in an attempt to block a dunk attempt. Though he was called for a foul, the play clearly sent a message. On UAB’s next possession, 6-11 UTSA center Jacob Germany rejected UAB’s 7-foot Trey Jemison. Next time down, UAB’s Quan Jackson was rejected by UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr.

It all translated into a rush of momentum for the Roadrunners. With 12:08 remaining, Wallace hit a three that made him the 615th player in Division I basketball history to reach 2,000 points. Later, as Jackson connected on a long ball with 10:06 left, he simultaneously hit the 2,500 mark and moved into No. 1 in C-USA history in three-point makes. When the day was done, Jackson had totaled 2,505 points and Wallace 2,007.

Having the last word

Jackson finished his day’s work by hitting 13 of 21 from the field and six of 10 from three. He described a flood of emotions when he and Wallace came off the floor for the last time with 2:26 remaining.

“You know, I kind of wanted to finish the game out, just because they got us yesterday, and, beating us every single year, in the Conference USA,” he said. “But, man, I was grateful. I kind of took this game as just a regular game. I was kind of pissed about yesterday. We played the right way yesterday. We (just) had a little too many turnovers. If we make even half our shots, we win.

“So, our mentality today was just getting no turnovers. You know, we only got nine in the whole game (today) … And we just got stops. That’s the reason we won today. We were stopping them. We held (down) their best player (Tavin Lovan, to seven points). That just helped us. We were just the tougher team today.”

Wallace punctuated his 22 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. He hit 8 of 13 from the floor and 3 of 4 from distance. “It’s just a blessing to be able to make history at our school,” he said. “Just for two guys to score the ball like we do, in the same backcourt, is big time. It speaks volumes. I just appreciate all the support. All the love from the fans. The staff. My teammates. And my family. You know, Birds up.”

Notable

UTSA freshman guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 13 points on three 3-pointers. He also grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists over 23 minutes. Junior Eric Parrish had 10 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. Sophomore center Jacob Germany had a team-leading eight rebounds to go along with eight points.

Jalen Benjamin scored 21 points to lead the Blazers. Tyreek Scott-Grayson had 13 points, followed by Trey Jemison with 11 and Michael Ertel 10. Scott-Grayson and Tavin Lovan, both guards, have been key players on UAB teams that were 5-3 against UTSA over the past four seasons before Saturday. The Blazers have knocked the Roadrunners out of the C-USA tournament each of the past two seasons.

Blazers look for series sweep on UTSA’s ‘Senior Day’

On ‘Senior Day,’ Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace will face an all-too-familiar foe in what might be their last home game for the UTSA Roadrunners.

They’ll take on the UAB Blazers at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

Playing on the Roadrunners’ home court, the Blazers won 64-57 Friday night in the opener of a two-game Conference USA series to close the regular season.

With the victory, the Blazers improved to 5-3 in the past four seasons over the Jackson and Wallace-led Roadrunners.

When Jackson and Wallace were freshmen, in 2017-18, the Roadrunners went on the road to Birmingham, Ala., and scored an 82-70 victory over the Blazers. Since then, the Blazers for the most part have held the upper hand.

UAB produced a 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, and in both seasons, the Blazers eliminated UTSA from the C-USA tournament.

The Blazers have been tough on Jackson, in particular, in holding him to less than 33 percent shooting from the field over the teams’ last two meetings.

Last season in Frisco, UAB won 74-69 while limiting Jackson to 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting in the first round of the tournament. On Friday night in San Antonio, the Blazers held Jackson to 12 points again on 5 of 13 shooting.

Jackson had been playing and shooting the ball well leading into Friday night’s series opener. During an eight-game stretch in which the Roadrunners won seven, he hit 60 of 124 from the floor for 48.3 percent.

Coming up

Next week, it is possible that UTSA could add a game or two to its schedule. Otherwise, their next game will come March 9-13 in Frisco, at the C-USA tournament. The winner of the conference event advances to the NCAA tournament. UTSA hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Records

UAB 19-5, 11-4
UTSA 12-10, 8-7

Leading the way

Jackson has tallied 2,473 points in 111 games. Wallace has produced 1,985 points in 121 games. They are Nos. 1-2 on the UTSA all-time scoring list. Jackson ranks 83rd on the all-time Division I list and No. 2 in C-USA. Wallace is tied for seventh in C-USA.

Winning streak ends as UAB downs error-prone UTSA, 64-57

Keaton Wallace scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, but the Roadrunners failed to make enough plays down the stretch to beat the powerful UAB Blazers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

The UAB Blazers forced 19 turnovers and throttled the cold-shooting UTSA Roadrunners 64-57 Friday night in Conference USA basketball at the Convocation Center.

Quan Jackson scored 19 points for the Blazers, who snapped the Roadrunners’ four-game winning streak. UTSA entered the last C-USA series of the regular season having won seven of eight, but could not find a rhythm, shooting only 38.3 percent from the field.

Steve Henson. UAB beat UTSA 64-57 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Conference USA action at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson said the Roadrunners need to put the loss behind them and fight back on Saturday. — Photo by Joe Alexander

While Keaton Wallace scored 21 points to lead the Roadrunners, Jhivvan Jackson had a tough night, scoring 12 on 5 of 13 shooting.

The Blazers started both halves on 10-0 runs to stun the Roadrunners, forcing the home team to scramble.

“I feel we came out with the right mindset,” Wallace said. “They ended up hitting us in the mouth first, you know. And we had to fight back to get back in the game. We made a little adjustment. I felt like we weathered the storm early, and it was a back and forth game all the way to the end.”

UTSA doesn’t have much time to dwell on the setback as the second game of the final C-USA series of the regular season is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I think our guys will bounce back,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “They know, we got to fight harder defensively against the penetrations. Got to take care of the basketball. And then we missed — golly — we missed some great, wide, wide open threes. That’s the way this game is, you know?

“If we knock down three or four of those wide-open threes … we’d all be sitting here thinking we played pretty well, which, we didn’t. But, that’s the nature of it. We got to put it behind us and bounce back.”

Jackson, the all-time leading scorer in school history, suffered a tough night after carrying the Roadrunners during the winning streak.

In the early going, he had trouble with a trapping UAB defense, as the Blazers often sent multiple long-armed players at him. On one play early, he tried a hook pass that was intercepted in the backcourt and dunked immediately.

Later, foul problems caught up with him. Jackson was whistled for reaching in on Tyreek Scott-Grayson with 10:55 left in the game. The call sent him to the bench with his fourth foul.

By the time he returned to the floor three minutes later, he couldn’t catch a break. On his first touch, he slashed between defenders for what would have been a beautiful layup, only to see the ball glance off the rim.

Later, he turned it over on a long, cross-court pass for Wallace that was too high. Next, Jackson misfired on a three. Altogether, he finished the second half with seven points on three of seven shooting.

Henson acknowledged that it’s important for UTSA to play well Saturday with it possibly being their finale before the tournament.

“If we can bounce back and play well tomorrow and look back on this recent stretch of games, as opposed to just these 40 minutes, if we play well tomorrow, hopefully we’ll feel good going into the tournament,” Henson said.

First half

Despite 11 turnovers and at least two air balls, the Roadrunners cobbled together a 28-27 halftime lead.

UAB forced three early turnovers and converted the miscues into a 10-0 lead. Scott-Grayson and Jackson hit consecutive dunks in the burst for the Blazers. At the end of the spree, Scott-Grayson added a put-back for the final points, forcing a UTSA timeout.

In retaliation, the Roadrunners settled down the offense and constructed an 11-1 run. Cedrick Alley Jr. ended it with a three from the top of the circle to make it 11-11.

Both teams slogged through the rest of the half without much offensive finesse.

Trailing by two with 1:25 remaining, the Roadrunners got the best of it at the end, with Eric Parrish making a few plays.

First, he grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted for a Jacob Germany dunk. Next, he got ahead of the Blazers’ defense and was fouled, making one shot with 32 seconds left for the last point.

Records

UAB 19-5, 11-4
UTSA 12-10, 8-7

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Conference USA tournament, March 9-13, at Frisco

UTSA’s Jackson credits teammates, coaches for career scoring achievement

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson expressed surprise this week when he learned that he had become the leading career scorer in NCAA Division I among players born in Latin America. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Like any young man with dreams, record-setting UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson has faced challenges.

One of the biggest came when he was growing up in Puerto Rico, and he knew he wanted to move to the U.S. mainland to further his ambitions as a basketball player.

To make the move effectively, Jackson had to learn how to speak English.

“My parents already knew my dream was to play college basketball,” he said. “In P.R., the school that I was going to, for two or three grades I went to bilingual school so already all my classes were in English down there. The only class I was taking in Spanish was an actual Spanish class.

“My parents, they knew at one point I wanted to come out here. They kind of wanted me to, early on, learn English. Like I say, I went to that bilingual school for a couple of years, and that got me right. I watched a lot of TV, and then when I moved for seventh grade I already knew English. I wasn’t fluent. You know, I had a strong accent. But I understood it.”

Jackson made the move to Texas. He went on to attend Euless Trinity High, where he became one of the best ball players in the Dallas area.

“It was a little challenging, obviously, but after a couple years, after eighth grade, I was already good,” he said. “I’m good at learning language. Like I said, I already had schooling and knew how it was. It was all about writing it and taking the accent away a little bit. But, everything was smooth. Like I said, my dad helped me with that. He did it with me and my brother. That got us better.”

As a basketball player, Jackson continues to improve.

He entered UTSA as a freshman for the 2017-18 season with high hopes but no guarantees. In that time, he has led the Roadrunners to winning records in three of four seasons.

Jackson has also created a splash with his offensive production, averaging 18.4 points as a freshman, followed by seasons of 22.9 and 26.8. This year, he’s averaging 20.4 as UTSA continues its quest for an NCAA tournament bid.

An important step comes tonight when the Roadrunners host the UAB Blazers. The Blazers, with 18 wins on the season, remain as one of the best teams in Conference USA despite having lost three of their last four in conference play.

As usual, UTSA coach Steve Henson will call on Jackson and fellow senior standout Keaton Wallace to step up to meet the moment. The two had power knocked out in their apartment last week during the winter storm. But they’ll be ready. It’s perhaps their last weekend at home, so the expectation is that they’ll put some pressure on the Blazers. Quite a bit of pressure, probably.

Leroy Jackson, the ball player’s father, said basketball drives his son.

“He’s very dedicated toward it,” Jackson said. “Since he was a kid, he was always that way. Always. He loves working out. Basketball takes him away from everything that’s negative. That’s a sacred time for him.”

Ultimately, Jackson wants the NCAA tournament bid and he wants it badly.

Along the way, though, the spotlight will continue to shine on him because of his scoring prowess. Last year, he became the school’s all-time scoring leader. Two weeks ago, he moved into the Top 100 in all-time career scoring in NCAA Division I.

Earlier this week, he learned that he had become the top career scorer in Division I history among athletes who were born in Latin America. Jackson (with 2,461 points) has passed the likes of J.J. Barea, Greivis Vasquez, Luis Flores, Felipe Lopez, Khadeen Carrington and Rolando Blackman on the list.

Barea is a Puerto Rico native who played in college at Northeastern. Blackman came out of Panama and played years ago at Kansas State. Both enjoyed long NBA careers. Blackman, in fact, was an NBA all-star four times.

Jackson said it’s “crazy” to think about what he has accomplished.

“Some of those players are players I kind of look up to a little bit or have seen play growing up,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that I passed them. But, obviously, all the credit goes to my hard work, my teammates and my coaches. They really were the ones that trusted me and put me in those positions to be the player that I am right now.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
C-USA tournament, March 9-13, at Frisco

Records

UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6

Scoring honors

Here is the list of athletes born Latin America who have been identified in the top seven in Division I career scoring:

Jhivvan Jackson, born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, scored 2,461 points at UTSA, through 2021.

J.J. Barea, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 2,290, at Northeastern, through 2006.

Greivis Vasquez, Caracas, Venezuela, 2,171, at Maryland, through 2010.

Luis Flores, San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, 2,160, at Rutgers and Manhattan, through 2004.

Felipe Lopez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1,927, at St. John’s, through 1998.

Khadeen Carrington, Trinidad, 1,846, at Seton Hall, through 2018.

Rolando Blackman, Panama City, Panama, 1,844, at Kansas State, through 1981.

Wallace’s coach in high school recalls a fierce work ethic

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace has emerged as the No. 2 all-time scorer at UTSA leading into perhaps his last two home games this weekend. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Riding on a bus down a West Texas highway earlier this week, Abilene High School basketball coach Justin Reese and his team were en route to a playoff game in Fort Stockton against El Paso Eastwood.

As anyone who has traveled through that part of the state knows, Reese had some time on his hands to do some things, such as return a phone call.

There was a voice message left on his office phone back in Abilene, an inquiry from a reporter about one of his former players, Keaton Wallace. So Reese dialed the number and started to field a few questions.

At an earlier stage of his career, when he coached the Richardson High School Eagles, Reese had the good fortune to watch Wallace grow as a player, from middle school to high school varsity and, ultimately, to college prospect.

The experience left an impression on the coach, who remembers the days fondly. Asked to recount the best memories, Reese started to unwind a few of them, stories that evolved into a 20-minute call.

“Well I have a lot of great memories of Keaton and his whole family,” the coach said. “You know, Keaton is one of the really special kids that I’ve ever coached. He comes from a great family. Mike and Kim (Keaton’s father and mother) are great people. And his younger brother, Cason, I just think the world of them.”

Today, the prospect Reese coached as a high school senior in 2016-17 has fully realized his potential as a college athlete. Wallace, a UTSA senior, is preparing for what likely are his last two home games with the Roadrunners.

With UTSA set to play a pair of Conference USA contests against the UAB Blazers, one on Friday night and the finale on Saturday afternoon, the Roadrunners clearly have benefited in every way from Wallace’s presence.

He has scored more points (1,964) than any other player in the program’s 40-year history except for Jhivvan Jackson (2,461). With Jackson and Wallace in the same backcourt for the past four years, UTSA emerged as one of the most entertaining offensive shows in the C-USA.

UTSA coaches admit that the two have surpassed even their own expectations. But it was interesting to hear Reese say in a telephone interview that he was not surprised at Wallace’s progression. From his experience, it’s like he knows now that it’s better never to underestimate the one-time “scrawny” middle schooler.

“I can remember my first memory of Keaton,” Reese said. “You see him now and he’s this tall, lanky, 6-3, athletic shooter. But I remember Keaton in middle school. At the feeder middle school as a little scrawny 5-2, 110-pound eighth grader who was just tiny but could handle it. Could just shoot it and had great vision. And could just do anything you wanted with the basketball.

“He was 5-1, 5-2, 5-4 going into eighth and ninth grade but he was starting to get the long arms. You could see that if he ever grew, he was going to be really, really good,” Reese said. “For his whole life, he just had great skills. Great ball handling skills. And shooting. He had great vision. You know, I can remember, as a junior, he really took the next step for us in high school.

“He kind of hit his growth spurt and got his confidence.”

Looking back, Reese said he was fortunate to have both Wallace and Brandon Averette (now at BYU) in 2015-16. Averette was a senior that year, and Wallace was a fast-rising prospect as a junior.

“We really had two of the best guards in the state,” he said.

Once Averette graduated, Wallace took charge. It was as if Wallace would not be denied.

“He’d go through a two-hour practice with us and then he’d go home and get some strength training in,” Reese said. “Then he’d go to the gym with his cousin, Terrel Harris, and then go do workouts for an hour or an hour and a half. Just, work on shooting and ball handling. He would do that every day.

“So, that summer before his senior year, I would watch him every day in open gym, in the skill workouts, and I knew. Somebody was about to get a steal in college. Sure enough, he got some offers.”

One moment in Wallace’s senior year at Richardson stands out for Reese. In January of 2017, Richardson hosted what Reese remembered as a No. 1-ranked and undefeated Dallas Skyline team, with Kansas-bound guard Marcus Garrett. The game went to overtime and Richardson emerged with an overtime victory. With Garrett guarding him, Wallace scored 35.

“We just put the ball in Keaton’s hands all game, and we got out of the way, and we just let him make plays for us,” Reese said. “Over and over and over. That was Skyline’s only loss all season until they lost at the state tournament in San Antonio. That was a special, special memory for Keaton and our program. It just shows you what a competitor he was.”

A few months later, Wallace signed with the Roadrunners. Looking back, Reese had a feeling that Wallace would turn into a good college ball player. But, 2,000 points good?

“UTSA was a great fit for him,” Reese said. “But it’s all about Keaton and his work ethic. So, anything he does, anything he’s done at UTSA, doesn’t surprise me a bit.”