Deja vu? Not quite, as UTSA rolls late to beat UTEP, 86-70

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

Forward Atem Bior produced a career-high 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Roadrunners improved their record in Conference USA to 3-3. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson was grinning slightly as he walked around the perimeter of a media scrum and moved into position for his post-game interview session Saturday afternoon.

Before taking a single question, he had one declaration to make.

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

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it felt good to make enough plays at the end to beat the UTEP Miners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Fire away,” Henson said. “A dollar for the first one that says, ‘Was that (game) just like Wednesday?’ Yes.”

True enough.

The teams were the same — the UTEP Miners against Henson’s Roadrunners. The flow of the game was also about the same, with the Miners executing a thrilling second-half rally for the second time in four days.

But, with all due respect, this one was different in an important way.

The Roadrunners won this one, even though they did fritter away most of a 23-point lead before steadying themselves at the end to nail down an 86-70 victory over the Miners.

With the decision, the Roadrunners improved to 8-1 at home and gained a measure of redemption after blowing a 24-point lead and then losing 80-77 to the Miners in overtime at El Paso.

After the game in West Texas, the Roadrunners returned to San Antonio in a funk, having squandered their second golden opportunity in two weeks to win on the road in Conference USA.

Coming home, they knew they had to make amends.

“Just glad our guys bounced back the way they did,” Henson said. “Had two good days of preparation. Weren’t real long practices, but we worked real hard on keeping our legs fresh and making a few adjustments.

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

Freshman center Jacob Germany went 4 for 4 from the field, including a highlight-reel dunk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Came out and re-established what we’d established in the first half (in El Paso).”

In the first half at El Paso, UTSA looked very good.

After that, everything unraveled, as the Miners roared from behind with separate runs of 17-0 and 8-0 en route to the biggest comeback in school history and the biggest in NCAA Division I this season.

Less than 72 hours later, both teams tipped off in San Antonio, and a season-high crowd of 1,684 fans watched curiously as deja vu started to set in.

With 61 percent shooting, the Roadrunners bolted to a 48-31 halftime lead, and then they emerged from the dressing room after intermission with equal intensity.

They continued to apply pressure on the Miners, hiking the advantage to 62-39 when Atem Bior scored on a bucket in the paint.

At that point, just as they did a few nights ago, the Roadrunners got careless with the ball, started turning it over at an alarming rate and allowed the Miners to rally.

Nevil Shed was at Saturday's UTSA vs. UTEP men's basketball game. Shed is a basketball legend in both San Antonio and El Paso.

Texas basketball legend Nevil Shed takes in Saturday’s game at the Bird Cage. He played for the 1966 NCAA champion Miners of Texas Western College (now UTEP) and later became an assistant coach and an administrator at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTEP capitalized on five turnovers, blitzing the home team with a stunning 19-2 run over the next five minutes.

All of a sudden, in a game that looked lost, the Miners had life — down by six with 7:25 remaining.

“To be honest, it felt worse tonight, than it did on Wednesday,” Henson said of the UTEP comeback. “On Wednesday, it wasn’t like we totally lost our composure.

“Tonight, it was. We were throwing that ball around, making weak plays. It was very, very similar.

“…What happened (in El Paso) was in our minds a little bit. So, yeah, the wheels came off. But, we regrouped and finished the game better.”

Aided by big plays from Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace, Luka Barisic and Makani Whiteside, the Roadrunners constructed a 17-6 run to put the game away.

A couple of Jackson free throws with 1:54 remaining capped the streak and widened the lead to 81-64.

Records

UTEP 11-8, 2-4
UTSA 9-10, 3-3

Coming up

Winless on the road in the C-USA at 0-3, UTSA plays next at North Texas (on Thursday) and at Rice (next Saturday.) Both with a tip off at 7 p.m.

By the numbers

UTEP — Bryson Williams produced 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting, 7 rebounds. He had 34 points Wednesday night. Souley Boum scored 18 points. Not counting Williams, the Miners hit only 16 of 53 shots from the field (30.1 percent). Guard Daryl Edwards, who hurt the Roadrunners in El Paso, scored only three on 1 of 10 shooting.

UTSA — It’s notable that the Roadrunners beat a good team on a day when they made only six three-point shots. Known for their long-distance artistry, they were 6 of 20 from three. They made up for it with strong play from big men Atem Bior (13 points, 7 rebounds), along with Jacob Germany and Luka Barisic (both with 9 points).

Jackson and Wallace

The highest-scoring tandem in Division I combined for 44 points. Jackson produced 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Wallace scored 21, and also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jackson was off the mark with his shooting touch (5 of 14), including a missed layup late in the game, but he sank 12 of 12 at the line. Wallace hit 8 of 18 from the field.

First-half recap

Wallace scored 16 points and Bior came up big with 11 points and five rebounds, leading the Roadrunners to a 48-31 advantage at the break. UTSA played strong defense, limiting the Miners to 35.3 percent shooting. UTSA also won the battle of the boards, 23-16. On the offensive end, the Roadrunners sizzled at 61.3 percent. UTSA hit eight of its last nine shots before intermission.

Second-half summary

After the Miners pulled to within six, Barisic stopped the run with a three-point play. Later, the Miners had it down to nine when Whiteside nailed a three from the arc to make it a 12-point game with 4:30 remaining. From there, UTSA never allowed UTEP to cut the lead under 10. Jackson made sure of it by hitting six of six at the free throw line in the last two minutes.

Roadrunners hope to even the score against the UTEP Miners

The UTSA Roadrunners will certainly know more about what to expect from forward Bryson Williams and the UTEP Miners Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson produced 29 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday in an overtime loss at UTEP. – photo by Joe Alexander

But just because they’re more familiar with the Miners’ personnel and game plan, it doesn’t mean that the rematch will be any easier to win than their first meeting of the season.

Behind Williams, UTEP rallied at home on Wednesday night, battling back from a 24-point deficit to knock off UTSA 80-77 in overtime in the first of two Conference USA games this week between the in-state rivals.

The Roadrunners will try to even the score when the teams meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

“It’s going to be a grind it out game,” UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson said. “It’s not going to be easy. They’re one of the top defensive teams in the nation. They going to make us work. But we going to make them work, as well.

“We want to make them take hard shots, just like they want us to take hard shots. That’s kind of … the game plan, just come in with a defensive mindset, and have the offense take care of itself.”

Leading 54-30 with 14 minutes remaining Wednesday night, the Roadrunners failed to close out the game.

They were left stunned when the Miners outscored them 38-14 to the regulation buzzer.

Emboldened by the comeback, UTEP took a two-point lead into the final minute of overtime and then forced 3-point misses from Jackson and Keaton Wallace in the final seconds.

Miners guard Daryl Edwards knocked down a free throw with one second remaining for the final margin.

For the Roadrunners, it was the second time in the first three weeks of the C-USA schedule that they have allowed road games to slip through their fingers.

It happened first in Miami two weeks ago when Florida International stole an inbounds pass and hit a buzzer beater to tie the game in regulation, and then stormed to a 90-83 victory in overtime.

It happened again in El Paso when Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward in his first season with the Miners, finished with a season-high 34 points and 10 rebounds.

After scoring a modest 10 points in the first half, the Fresno State transfer started to get hot.

He made several tough shots out of the low post after intermission on the Roadrunners, who lost in spite of solid games from Jackson (29 points, 13 rebounds) and Keaton Wallace (26 points).

Despite the mounting adversity, Jackson said UTSA’s attitude has been good.

“Everybody on this team knows we should have pulled that one out,” Jackson said. “There’s no doubt about that. But, all we can do from that is just learn as a team.

“We got to learn how to close out games. I think that’s been one of our weaknesses just lately.”

Records

UTSA 8-10, 2-3
UTEP 11-7, 2-3

Notable

Newcomer Eric Parrish practiced with the Roadrunners in five on five drills Friday afternoon, but it remains uncertain when — or if — he will be allowed to play this season.

Coach Steve Henson said that UTSA communicated with the NCAA on the matter earlier this week. But the coach said he hasn’t heard about any ruling yet.

Parrish is an athletic, 6-foot-6 guard-forward who could give the team an immediate boost.

He has played one season at Akron in NCAA Division I and one in junior college. After that, he spent part of last semester at Division I Nevada.

But because Nevada changed coaches last summer and because Parrish didn’t play in any games for the Wolf Pack this season, UTSA is asking if he can play immediately for the Roadrunners.

Most players transferring from one D-I program to another are required by NCAA rule to sit out a year.

Trailing by 24 points, UTEP rallies past UTSA in overtime, 80-77

Junior forward Bryson Williams exploded for 34 points, and the UTEP Miners rallied from 24 points down to beat the UTSA Roadrunners 80-77 in overtime Wednesday night in Conference USA basketball.

UTSA built a 42-28 lead at halftime, extended it to 54-30 with 14:43 remaining in regulation and then couldn’t hold on at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.

“There’s going to be so many things we’re going to look at, and second-guess every single decision we made there,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “We were up 24 … and started turning it over and couldn’t get stops.

“(Against Williams) we went zone and (we) liked that for a few possessions, and they kept pounding it into him regardless of what defense we were in. Yeah, it’s tough. Really tough.”

With the victory, UTEP snapped a five-game losing streak to UTSA in the series between C-USA rivals. It was the first victory for the Miners over the Roadrunners since Jan. 21, 2017.

The loss kept UTSA winless on the road in the C-USA (0-3) this year.

In two of the losses — at Florida International and at UTEP — the Roadrunners squandered perfectly good chances to win in regulation, only to collapse and then lose in the first overtime.

Scoring leaders

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson 29, Keaton Wallace 26.
UTEP — Bryson Williams 34, Daryl Edwards 18.

Records

UTEP 11-7, 2-3
UTSA 8-10, 2-3

Coming up

UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m. Saturday

First-half recap

The Roadrunners outscored the Miners 20-6 in the paint and forged a 22-17 lead on the boards en route to a commanding 42-28 advantage at intermission. Down by three points early, UTSA went on a 17-2 tear behind Jackson to take charge of the game. Later, UTEP rallied to within six. But Wallace exploded for the Roadrunners, who outscored the Miners 14-6 in the last six minutes

Second-half summary

Luka Barisic hit a bucket inside and knocked down two from three-point range as UTSA scored 12 of the first 14 points after intermission.

After that, the Miners slowly started to get back into it. With the Roadrunners committing a few unforced turnovers, Williams posted up on the other end and started hitting shots, even inside the zone. Williams scored 20 in the second half on 8 for 12 shooting from the field 4 for 4 at the line.

Both teams had a chance to win it in the final minute but couldn’t score. For UTSA, Wallace was called for a charge. On the other end for UTEP, Eric Vila misfired on a three and Nigel Hawkins couldn’t hit from close range.

Overtime

Jackson hit a jumper and connected on a pair of free throws as UTSA started fast and took a one-point lead. But Williams answered with a jumper to make it 75-74 with 2:21 remaining. The Miners scored on their next two possessions, and the Roadrunners never led again. With UTSA down by two, Jackson and Wallace both misfired on threes in the final seconds.

UTSA hits 15 three-pointers and downs Southern Miss, 80-70

Byron Frohnen. UTSA beat Southern Miss 80-70 on Saturday for the Roadrunners' second straight Conference USA victory at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Byron Frohnen enjoyed another strong performance with nine points and eight rebounds as UTSA improved its conference record to 2-2. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners followed up their best game of the season with a victory, but it wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy coach Steve Henson.

Henson knows his team can play better than it did in downing the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 80-70, Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southern Miss 80-70 on Saturday for the Roadrunners' second straight Conference USA victory at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 23 points on 7 of 18 shooting after shaking off a pre-game knee issue. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA buried 15 three-point shots to make up for other issues in a grind-it-out, tougher-than-expected performance against a struggling program.

“Well, to be honest, we didn’t feel great about our practice yesterday or our shoot-around today,” Henson said. “Wasn’t terrible. Wasn’t terrible. But, you can’t have one good game and feel like you’ve arrived.

“I don’t think our guys had conscious bad thoughts. But it was noticeably a little different. Didn’t jump ’em in practice or in the shoot around the way we maybe should have.

“But, you could tell, we just weren’t quite focused.”

On Thursday night, the Roadrunners played well for most of the game in rolling to an 89-73 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, a team that arrived in San Antonio with a NET national rating of No. 59.

Against the Golden Eagles, rated No. 309, the Roadrunners had to scramble to win by double digits after allowing the lead to be trimmed to three twice, the last time with 6:28 remaining.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, rated No. 209, they switched to a zone defense to thwart the Eagles at the end.

They also hit all eight free throws down the stretch, including six of six by Jhivvan Jackson, to put the visitors away.

Jackson, the second-leading scorer in the nation, produced 23 points and six rebounds to pace the Roadrunners. Keaton Wallace added 16 points and four assists.

As a team, the Roadrunners nailed 15 of 27 from behind the arc to give them 33 of 59 on the homestand.

Six players hit from deep, including little-used freshman Makani Whiteside, who made two of them in the second half.

Records

UTSA 8-9, 2-2
Southern Miss 4-13, 0-4

Coming up

UTSA travels to play at UTEP on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The two teams will play again in San Antonio next Saturday at 3 p.m.

Jackson’s adversity

Even with two victories in the past three days, Jackson endured a difficult week, in some respects.

In Thursday’s victory, he scored 37 points against the Bulldogs but tweaked his surgically-repaired knee on a fall in the second half.

Jackson said he was feeling it before the game against Southern Miss.

“My knee swelled up a little,” he said. “Other than that, once I step on that floor, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with me. I’m going to play.

“We got the best trainer (Josh Modica) in the country. He helped me get loose. That’s why I got out here (for warm-ups) a little late.”

If physical pain wasn’t enough of a worry, Jackson also was concerned about family in Puerto Rico, where a series of earthquakes have rocked the Caribbean Island.

The latest hit Saturday morning.

Jackson said his family is OK. “They didn’t have power for a couple of days, but they’re good now,” he said. “I mean, just taking it one day at a time.”

A freshman’s day

After a series of strong practices by Whiteside early this week, he was due for some additional playing time.

Though he did not get off the bench against Louisiana Tech, the 6-foot-4 guard from California logged eight productive minutes against Southern Miss.

He pleased the coach with his defense and with his shot-making, a 2-for-2 showing on three-pointers in the second half.

“Coming in I was expecting to play a little, so I just tried to stay ready,” he said.

Whiteside has moved up in the guard rotation in the wake of an injury to Adokiye Iyaye, who is out 6-8 weeks with a broken right thumb.

“First of all, I’d like to say, I’m praying for Doke,” he said. “But truth be told, there are minutes to be had.”

A painful birthday

UTSA had a scare early in the second half when starting point guard Erik Czumbel, celebrating his birthday, was hit in the face early in the second half.

He had to come out so that trainers could stop the bleeding. Diagnosed with a broken nose, Czumbel did return to the game wearing a protective mask and even hit a three-pointer out of the corner.

Henson said he should be able to continue to practice and play.

First-half recap

Playing patient basketball, the Roadrunners built a 35-31 first-half lead. But in many respects, it was an uninspired showing, with the Golden Eagles out-rebounding the Roadrunners 17-12. Of the 17 boards, the visitors pulled down five on the offensive end.

Wallace kept UTSA ahead on the scoreboard by nailing five shots, including four threes, to lead the Roadrunners with 14 points. Jackson had 12.

Second-half notes

The Roadrunners weren’t quite right in the second half, either, giving up 48 percent shooting from the field. They also were foul prone, allowing the Golden Eagles to hit 14 of 16 at the line. But on offense, UTSA had much better balance, with nine different players scoring and five players making threes. Whiteside and Czumbel made two each.

UTSA brings the intensity in preparation for Southern Miss

Luka Barisic. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech 89-73 in Conference USA on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Luka Barisic scored a career high 16 points Thursday night in UTSA’s 89-73 victory over Louisiana Tech. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A day after the UTSA Roadrunners played their best game of the season, they did not rest.

They came in to practice, focused and intense, in an afternoon workout at the Convocation Center.

Byron Frohnen. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech 89-73 in Conference USA on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Byron Frohnen had nine points and 10 rebounds against the Bulldogs. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It was good,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said Friday. “We had some bumps and bruises. Wanted to make sure we were real specific about what we did today (with) sessions very short and intense. I think we accomplished what we needed to.

“Hoping to come in here, feeling really fresh tomorrow.”

The Roadrunners (7-9, 1-2) hope to sweep a two-game Conference USA homestand when they host the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (4-12, 0-3) Saturday.

Tipoff is at 3 p.m.

Southern Miss, a program in transition under first-year coach Jay Ladner, has lost three straight and five of six.

UTSA also got off to a bumpy start in conference play, losing last week at both Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

But on Thursday night at the Convo, the Roadrunners finally started to look like the team that had been pegged for second place in the C-USA preseason poll.

They won easily against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, bagging an 89-73 victory.

Reporting to practice Friday, the players brought a business-like attitude.

“Again, I kept telling our guys, how good I think LA Tech is right now, prior to the game and a day afterward,” Henson said. “You know, it was one of the bigger wins we had, when you look at the analytics and the KenPom numbers and all that.

“LA Tech is playing at a very high level. So, we did some good things in the game. But our guys know, it’s just a home game. That’s all it is.

“Having given one away (at Florida International), you certainly can’t come in relaxed. You got to back it up with a good effort tomorrow.”

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech 89-73 in Conference USA on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace is averaging 16.7 points on the season. He’s also producing 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Against LA Tech, UTSA got a monster game from Jhivvan Jackson (37 points) and also solid complementary performances by Luka Barisic, Keaton Wallace and Byron Frohnen.

“It was a good game for us, because we were a little knocked down from those losses in Florida,” Barisic said. “So, it was a great win for us. A great feeling.”

Barisic, averaging 7.3 points for the season, scored a season-high 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Croatia hit a season-high four three-pointers in six attempts.

“I got open shots,” Barisic said. “I have to make those if we want to win.”

Jackson, a 6-foot junior from Puerto Rico, continues to enjoy a remarkable season with a consistent string of performances, which includes six scoring games in the 20s, six in the 30s and one in the 40s.

He’s averaging 26 points per game, which ranks second in the nation behind Markus Howard of Marquette (26.8.)

Jackson scores 37 as UTSA blasts Louisiana Tech, 89-73

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech 89-73 in Conference USA on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Louisiana Tech’s Mo Muhammed (at right) tries to stay with UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Facing the possibility of an 0-3 start in Conference USA, the UTSA Roadrunners showed equal parts fortitude and flair Thursday night, burying one of the C-USA’s better teams with a prolific, first-half shooting display.

Later, they hung on for a record-setting, 89-73 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in front of an announced 922 at the Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson had 37 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds to lead UTSA to an 89-73 conference victory over Louisiana Tech on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson had 37 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds to lead the Roadrunners. – photo by Joe Alexander

The difference, easily, was three-point shooting. UTSA made a school-record 18 and gave up only six. In a dizzying display, Roadrunners junior Jhivvan Jackson knocked down a career-high, tying eight by himself.

“It was a great win,” said Jackson, who scored 37 points. “Other than (making) the shots, we got the stops we needed in the first half. I mean, that was our main focus coming into the game. We got to get stops. The offense going to take care of itself.”

LA Tech showed up at the Convocation Center with the conference’s best rating (No. 59 nationally) in the NET standings.

UTSA, on the flip side, came in far down the list at No. 249 in the NCAA’s rating system of 353 Division I programs.

On a more personal level, UTSA players felt stung by starting conference play with two losses in Florida last week, including a game they virtually threw away at Florida International on Saturday night.

But in a nod to the craziness of college basketball, the Roadrunners built a commanding 26-point intermission lead on the Bulldogs, juiced it to 29 in the second half and then made enough plays down the stretch to keep the Bulldogs at arms length.

“We knew it would take a great effort (to win),” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “You know, we made shots. So, that might have skewed things a lot. But, shoot, we’ll take it.”

Records

UTSA 7-9, 1-2
Louisiana Tech 11-4, 2-1

By the numbers

UTSA — Jackson hit 11 of 23 from the floor, including 8 of 15 from three, and 7 of 8 free throws. He also had six assists and five rebounds. Forward Luka Barisic followed a 14-point outing at FIU with 16 against Louisiana Tech. The 6-foot-9 Croatian nailed 4 of 5 from three. Keaton Wallace played well defensively and also contributed 13 points and six rebounds. Byron Frohnen was major a factor with nine points and 10 rebounds.

LA Tech — UTSA held one of the conference’s better three-point shooting teams to 6 of 17. Long-distance sharp-shooters DaQuan Bracey and Amorie Archibald were a combined 0 for 3. Bracey and Kalob Ledoux scored 12 points apiece. LA Tech also failed to disrupt the UTSA offense as much as it would have liked. UTSA had trouble at times with 14 turnovers, but the errors weren’t consequential in the end. Coming in, the LA Tech defense had forced an average of 17.1 opponent turnovers per game.

First-half recap

The Roadrunners shot 55 percent from the field and tied a season-high for points in a half, racing to a 53-27 lead on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at intermission.

Initially, Jackson couldn’t get an open look with LA Tech swarming him with double teams.

At the same time, the strategy opened up the floor, and the Roadrunners’ complementary players started hitting from everywhere.

Once the Bulldogs stopped doubling on UTSA’s leading scorer, Jackson went off in a flourish, finishing the half with 18 points.

Freshman watch

Center Jacob Germany, a 6-11 freshman from Oklahoma, continued to raise eyebrows with his play in the first half. On one occasion, he raced ahead of the defense and caught a long pass for a layup. On another, he snared a lob in front of the rim and — facing away from the bucket — threw it down two-handed as a no-look dunk.

Special treat

San Antonio resident and former UTSA star Derrick Gervin attended the game. Wearing a cap with the school logo, he sat high in a section of bleachers behind the Roadrunners’ bench. Afterward, the 1980s-era power forward for the Roadrunners visited with reporters at press row.

‘Bad Bird’ call: Henson hopes fans turn out for LA Tech at UTSA

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson on Wednesday thanked the fans for their continued support even through a slow start. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Coming off a lost week in Florida and preparing to host the powerful Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, UTSA coach Steve Henson issued an appeal to the Roadrunners Nation.

He said Wednesday that he’d like to see as many UTSA supporters as possible attend Conference USA home games on Thursday night against Louisiana Tech and on Saturday afternoon against Southern Miss.

“It’s early on in the race,” Henson said, “but we know that if we want to do something special, we’ve got to win our home games.

“We feel like LA Tech is one of the best teams (in the C-USA) … If they’re not the best team, at least they’re playing at that level, so it’s a very, very important game for us, to get back home.

“Home court advantage is really, really helpful.

“When the band is here, when the students are here, we feed off that. Because of the size of our building, it doesn’t have to be 100 percent full. We get that lower bowl filled up over there, it’s good.”

UTSA ranks 12th in the 14-team, C-USA in attendance, averaging only 899 (announced) through six home games.

Henson thanked the fans for their support even though the team hasn’t played as well as expected to this point.

“The season-ticket holders, the fans that sit behind us, have been out in pretty good force for us early in the year, particularly, considering we haven’t had a great start,” he said. “But our loyal supporters have been here.

“The students, we know they’ll get here when school starts. But, you know, they can come even when school’s not in session.”

With the first day of classes set for Jan. 21, UTSA students are still on break.

Nevertheless, Henson said he’s counting on the “Bad Birds,” a boisterous student group that sits behind the media on press row and travels to games in the local area, to give the team a lift.

“The Bad Birds helped us out at Texas State, I know that,” Henson said. “We just need a bunch more Bad Birds.”

Coming up

LA Tech (11-3, 2-0) at UTSA (6-9, 0-2), 6 p.m. Thursday

UTSA update

UTSA opened its C-USA schedule with losses last Thursday at Florida Atlantic (79-64) and at Florida International (90-83, overtime) … The Roadrunners allowed a three-point lead to slip away in the final eight seconds of regulation at FIU on Saturday night …

It is the first time in seven seasons of C-USA competition that UTSA has started conference with an 0-2 record…the Roadrunners haven’t started 0-3 since their one and only season in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-13 …

Forward Eric Parrish practiced in team drills with the Roadrunners for the first time this week … UTSA is waiting on a ruling from the NCAA to determine whether he can play this season … Henson said guard Adokiye Iyaye is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken right thumb … Forward Phoenix Ford went home to Florida to attend a funeral but is expected to be available against LA Tech.

Louisiana Tech update

LA Tech extended its winning streak to five games by routing Southern Miss at home (80-49) and on the road (78-50) to open conference last week … McNeese State transfer Kalob Ledoux comes off the bench to lead the Bulldogs in scoring (13.1). Starters DaQuan Bracey (12.6) and Amorie Archibald (11.9) also average in double figures … The Bulldogs are No. 62 in the NCAA’s NET ratings, the highest rating for a C-USA team.

The series

LA Tech leads UTSA 12-5 in the all-time series. However, under Henson, the Roadrunners hold a 3-2 edge against the Bulldogs over the past three seasons. All five games have been decided by 10 points or less … Here’s a look:

Feb. 16, 2019, at Ruston — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 67. DaQuan Bracey scores 23, and lead changes hands 13 times, with nine ties.

Feb. 24, 2018, at San Antonio — UTSA 74, Louisiana Tech 64. Deon Lyle scores 11 of his team-high 17 in the second half.

Jan. 4, 2018, at Ruston — UTSA 78, Louisiana Tech 76. Giovanni De Nicolao hits game-winning layup with one second left.

Feb. 11, 2017, at San Antonio — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 66. Erik McCree produces 25 points, 9 rebounds and a block for the Bulldogs.

Jan. 7, 2017, at Ruston — UTSA 69, Louisiana Tech 68. Jeff Beverly scores 27 and Giovanni De Nicolao hits a three in the last minute for the Roadrunners.

FIU banks in a buzzer-beater in regulation, then wins 90-83 in OT

Holding a two-point lead with two seconds remaining in regulation Saturday night, the UTSA Roadrunners seemingly had wrapped up their first Conference USA victory of the season.

All they needed was a successful inbounds play to finish it off.

But in the end, Florida International junior forward Eric Lovett spoiled it, disrupting the pass, picking up a loose ball and then banking in a 15-foot shot at the buzzer for the tie.

From there, the Panthers exploded past the Roadrunners, 90-83, in overtime at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami.

Records

UTSA — 6-9, 0-2
FIU — 11-4, 2-0

A disappointing finish

The collapse at the end of regulation and overtime sullied an otherwise solid road performance for the Roadrunners.

They played well against an FIU team that had won seven of its last eight, including a 69-67 home victory over UTEP Thursday night in the C-USA opener.

In fact, it appeared as if UTSA would steal the victory in the final few minutes with a 6-0 run that included three straight defensive stops.

Two free throws by Keaton Wallace lifted the Roadrunners into a 77-74 lead with 7.9 seconds remaining.

On the other end, FIU senior guard Trejon Jacob was fouled and knocked down his first free throw. He missed the second one, but senior forward Osasumwe Osaghae snared the rebound.

Osaghae went to the line with 2.7 seconds left and missed the first one. At that point, FIU called time out.

When the Panthers returned to the floor for Osaghae’s second attempt, they were called for a lane violation, giving the Roadrunners possession and a 77-75 lead.

Senior Byron Frohnen tried to inbound to Jhivvan Jackson. But the ball was deflected, and Lovett picked it up, giving the Panthers one last chance.

He turned and hit the shot off the glass, fading away, for the tie.

Quotable

“Disappointed for our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio voice, Andy Everett, on The Ticket 760. “You know, we had a chance to rebound the free throw and didn’t get that done. Then we just had to inbound it one more time and we win the game.

“We didn’t have a time out left. I know you’re supposed to always have a time out left. I’ve been kicking myself in some of these other games where people are making runs and I haven’t been using those time outs to stop the runs. Trying to get a little more aggressive, using ’em earlier, and now I’m kicking myself for not having one there.

“But even then, we’ve got to execute a little better … we just didn’t complete the play, and it came back to haunt us.”

Notable

FIU came out with energy in overtime, and UTSA couldn’t match it. The Panthers opened with five quick points in an 11-2 streak for an 88-79 lead.

The Panthers converted during the run with an Isaiah Banks stick back and three-pointers from Lovett and Cameron Corcoran.

Forward Devon Andrews finished with 26 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.

The Roadrunners entered the game seeking redemption after losing 79-64 on Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.

Jackson had a rough night in Boca Raton, hitting only 3 of 18 from the field. He bounced back against FIU with 30 points on 11 of 24 shooting from the field, including 5 of 15 from three. Jackson also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Contributions from the big men

UTSA junior Luka Barisic, in his first year with the Roadrunners, had a season-high 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Bior, a senior, also had some good moments with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Coming up

Continuing with its conference schedule, UTSA is set to host Louisiana Tech next Thursday and Southern Miss on Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Louisiana Tech held the highest national rating among C-USA teams (65th) before its home victory Saturday night over Southern Miss.

The Bulldogs downed the Golden Eagles 78-50, improving their record to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference.

Florida Atlantic starts fast and routs cold-shooting UTSA, 79-64

The Florida Atlantic University Owls shut down high-scoring Jhivvan Jackson, raced to a 24-point lead in the second half and then held off the UTSA Roadrunners 79-64 Thursday night at home in Boca Raton.

In the Conference USA opener for both teams, the Owls held Jackson to a season-low eight points on 3 of 18 shooting.

Junior forward Jailyn Ingram led FAU with with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Keaton Wallace scored 27 for UTSA.

After trailing twice by 19 points in the first half, the Roadrunners made it an 11-point game at halftime and cut it to nine in the opening moments after intermission.

But after that, they suffered their worst shooting drought in weeks, missing 15 field goal attempts in a row.

Meanwhile, Richardson Maitre knocked down a pair of three-point shots mid-way through the half, boosting the FAU lead to 65-41.

The Roadrunners battled back to within 70-60 on a Wallace three with 1:21 left, but they couldn’t get any closer.

Records

UTSA 6-8, 0-1
FAU 9-5, 1-0

Coming up

UTSA at Florida International, in Miami, on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Notable

Jackson entered the game averaging 26.2 points, good for second in the nation. He hit his first shot of the game, a three, and then he misfired on his next seven field goal attempts. He closed the first half 2 of 12.

Quotable

UTSA coach Steve Henson, in his post-game radio interview on The Ticket, addressed Jackson’s early struggles. “A couple of those were forced. I thought he got fouled on one or two of ’em. I thought he was attacking. Driving and popping up. But he just couldn’t get it going.”

Notable

Florida Atlantic came out hitting shots from everywhere, at one time knocking down 15 of 21 in one stretch early in the first half.

Some of the 15-bucket barrage was a surprise, as backup center Aleksandar Zecevich sank three of them, and sub-40 percent shooters Everett Winchester and Jaylen Sebree hit two apiece.

Quotable

Henson: “They jumped right on us. We just couldn’t get shots to fall … They had some guys who normally don’t shoot perimeter jumpers (who) made some shots. Yeah, they jumped all over us. You could just see their confidence. Everyone was feeling good for them. We just couldn’t get it going.”

Jacob Germany continues to stir the discussion at UTSA

If you want to start a discussion at UTSA basketball practice, ask Coach Steve Henson about the upside potential of freshman center Jacob Germany.

Earlier this week, I pored over all the statistics, all my mental notes and a few videos of Germany, the high-rising, 6-foot-11 post from Oklahoma.

He’s not a starter yet.

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

Jacob Germany throws down a dunk against Prairie View A&M. – photo by Joe Alexander

But already, 13 games into his career, he’s become entrenched in the playing rotation, averaging 5.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Germany’s also shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

How is this happening?

In my mental notes, I recall how UTSA has started to exploit his presence by throwing long, lob passes — some from beyond the three-point arc — that have resulted in ringing dunks or layups.

I also recall some moments of indecision, when he seems to struggle with the intensity of Division I basketball.

Such as, a sequence in a recent home game when Germany could have easily grabbed a loose ball, only to see an opposing guard wrestle it out of his grasp.

Finally, I recall a moment in UTSA’s practice Tuesday afternoon when he long-armed a rebound, jumped back awkwardly and then flicked in a 12-footer.

With the freshman from Oklahoma falling away, the ball swished.

It made me wonder. In a year or two, will he be rebounding those misses, passing out to the perimeter and then re-setting his feet to demand a pass back into the post?

Could he be a go-to threat in a few years, a player who would touch the ball on most set plays?

Henson, whose Roadrunners play at Florida Atlantic today at 6 p.m., artfully dodged the question.

But he did say this:

“He’ll become a bigger factor (in the offense), for sure. The stuff he does offensively, he’s so natural. He’s got great touch. He’s shooting I think 61 percent in his last eight games.

“He already does give us (an inside threat). He’s in that dunker’s spot. He makes it harder for people to help on penetration … they can’t help off him onto our shooters because he’s a threat there.

Henson said Germany doesn’t have the strength yet to be a “back-to-the-basket” guy this season. In addition, the coach said he’s not quite ready to be a “constant” shooter on the perimeter.

“But he does have the confidence — which is a big part of it — and the touch to do that,” Henson said. “He’s made a pretty good percentage of 15-foot shots, even in games. He does it in practice every, single day. So, I expect that is something he will do.”

As UTSA forges ahead in conference play, the coach said he wants to get the ball to Germany when he’s on the move to take advantage of his quickness and finesse.

Power moves? It might be a year or two before fans will see any of that.

“It’ll be a big off-season for him,” Henson said.

What else might we see from Germany this fall?

Well, so far, he’s shown he isn’t shy about playing in big moments.

For instance, when then 15th-ranked Utah State was trying to pull away from UTSA in the first half of a Nov. 18 road game, Germany came into the game and briefly turned the momentum back into the Roadrunners’ favor.

Ja - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany hails from Kingston High School in Kingston, Oklahoma.

“He impacted the game with his shot-blocking on drives,” Henson said. “He lost a couple of battles against his own guy. Again, that’s an experience factor. But he impacted the game by challenging penetration from the guards, blocking some shots and changing some others.

“We talk about that in our coaches’ meetings. We say, ‘Yea, this might not be a great game for him.’ And then he’ll go in there and just make things happen. It’s because his instincts are good. He’s not scared … He’s not afraid of the big stage.”

With 18 C-USA games looming, such a presence could come in handy.

Coming up

UTSA (6-7) at Florida Atlantic (8-5), 6 p.m. Livestream on ESPN Plus. Radio on The Ticket 760 AM.