She’s making plays on offense and defense #TheWord pic.twitter.com/IMXrmProR1
— UIW Women's Basketball (@UIWWBB) December 16, 2022
One of the smallest players on the floor stood tall Thursday night at the McDermott Convocation Center.
Five-foot-six Nina De Leon Negron scored 17 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals erased an eight-point deficit and downed their cross-town rival UTSA Roadrunners, 56-53.
Playing on their home court, the Cardinals trailed by 11 points late in the third quarter and then by a 40-32 score entering the fourth.
At that point, De Leon Negron, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, took control of the game with a relentless string of drives to the basket.
UTSA seemed to have enough to hold off UIW when forward Jordyn Jenkins, who led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 11 rebounds, scored on a left-handed scoop mid-way through the fourth period.
Jenkins’ skillful move to the basket stablized the Roadrunners and boosted them into a 44-37 lead with 6:10 remaining.
De Leon Negron, however, was just getting started.
First she drove to the hoop, scored and completed a three-point play. After a Queen Ulabo turnover on the dribble, UIW came down and De Leon Negron swished a three from the top, cutting the deficit to one.
Jenkins missed, setting up a Chloe Storer layup on the other end as the Cardinals surged into their first lead since the second quarter. Kyra White answered with a drive and a bucket to make it 46-45 for UTSA.
With White converting at the 4:19 mark, it would be the last lead for the Roadrunners. After that, De Leon Negron scored seven points over the next four minutes to put UTSA away.
Trailing by five with seven seconds left, the Roadrunners made it interesting to the final whistle.
After Deb Nwakamma’s long two out of the corner splashed, accounting for the final points of the game, UIW inbounded with one second left. The pass landed in the hands of UTSA’s Jenkins, who was standing outside the three-point line, but couldn’t get off a shot as the buzzer sounded.
It was a frustrating night for UTSA, which remained winless this season on the road (0-4).
The Roadrunners out-rebounded the Cardinals (37-28) and hit four more field goals (21-17) and, somehow, they still managed to lose. Problems centered around UTSA’s perimeter shooting (0-for-10 from three) and free-throw shooting.
While the Roadrunners hit only 11 of 20 from the line, the Cardinals made the most of their opportunities, knocking down 20 of 28.
De Leon hit eight of 14 from the field and one of two from 3-point territory. She put down eight of 12 at the free-throw line.
De Leon Negron has been hot and cold this season. In her last four games, she was held scoreless at TCU, had nine points at Texas Tech, 16 against Division III Schreiner and now a season-high 25 against UTSA.
With the victory, UIW improved to 2-1 against UTSA over the past three seasons. UTSA leads the overall series, 3-2.
UTSA, meanwhile fell to 0-6 away from home this season, including 0-4 on the road. Five of UTSA’s six losses have come by seven points or less.
Forward Elyssa Coleman had a good start to the game, scoring 13 points through three quarters. She was scoreless in the fourth and ended up fouling out.
UTSA plays its last non-conference game on Monday at the University of Houston. After that, the Roadrunners have a 10-day break before opening Conference USA play. The Roadrunners play at Louisiana Tech on Dec. 29 and at UAB on Dec. 31.
UIW, coming off an NCAA tournament appearance last season, plays at home on Sunday against Sul Ross. From there, the Cardinals are at SMU on Dec. 21. UIW opens Southland Conference play at Texas A&M-Commerce on Dec. 31.