The Army Black Knights rebound a UTSA miss, break through pressure and finish with an Abe Johnson dunk to cap a 63-53 victory over the Roadrunners. Please see my story and Joe Alexander's photos. https://t.co/hyCDEtJChY, #AmericanHoops. pic.twitter.com/UqgB51PhUy
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) December 22, 2023
Center Abe Johnson punctuates Army’s victory at UTSA by rebounding a miss, leaking out to receive a long pass from Ryan Curry and then finishing with authority. – Video by Jerry Briggs
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The Army Black Knights traveled to San Antonio this week, hoping to discover that winning feeling going into their holiday break. Mission accomplished.
Holding a five-point lead at halftime, the Black Knights limited the UTSA Roadrunners to 24 percent shooting in the second half and rolled to a 63-53 victory at the Convocation Center.
Freshman Josh Scovens scored 25 points for the Black Knights, who improved to 3-9 on the season and to 1-5 on the road.
“We’ve got a very young team, very inexperienced,” Army coach Kevin Kuwik said. “(But) we are getting better. We’ve played some good teams on the road, toe-to-toe, and haven’t been able to finish in the last four minutes. For these guys to fight the whole way through, to build a lead and then to show some toughness at the end when it got tighter, and then find a way to come through — I couldn’t be prouder.”
The Roadrunners, who fell to 5-7, including 4-2 at home, have been a good team this season when the 3-point shots fall. On average, they make 10 of 28 from long distance every game. Both the makes and the attempts rank among the national leaders. Against Army, though, they were mystifyingly bad, connecting on only 5 of 30 from three.
Trailing by five points at intermission, they went out after the break and hit only 2 for 17 from long distance to underscore what surely was one of the most disappointing losses of the season.
“I was equally disappointed (with us) defensively as I was with our shooting,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Their defense is the type that, it’s always there. Pretty good contests. They’re a good help-and-recover team. They close out just short enough that you think you’ve got the shot, but yet there’s a hand up in the face. It wasn’t as if they were trying to chase us off the line entirely.
“They were just on a string,” Henson said. “I knew the shots would be a little more difficult than maybe they had been the last few ballgames.”
For the game, Army held UTSA to 31.1 percent shooting.
“I think we set the tone with some Army toughness,” Kuwik said. “I think that kind of surprised them a little bit. You look at us in the layup lines and we’re not the most athletic-looking bunch of dudes. We were 2-9 or whatever the heck we were. It’s easy to kind of let your guard down. And these guys are fighters, so I’m really proud.
“I think we surprised them, and once they figured it out, we didn’t let up.”
Scovens, a 6-foot-6 forward, was coming off a 31-point game on Sunday at home against the Stony Brook Seawolves in West Point, N.Y. He was as much of a handful as advertised against the Roadrunners, hitting eight of 16 from the field and seven of eight from the line. For good measure, Scovens was also two of five from three.
Together, Scovens and freshman point guard Ryan Curry (14 points) kept the Roadrunners from gaining any traction when they were trying to put a run together. Power forward Abe Johnson also had a big night with a double double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Johnson threw down a two-handed dunk near the end of the game when the Roadrunners were way down on the scoreboard and trying desperately to get back into it.
For UTSA, Christian Tucker, Trey Edmonds and Isaiah Wyatt all scored 10 points apiece to lead the Roadrunners. Jordan Ivy-Curry, in his first home game for the Roadrunners since the 2021-22 season, was held to two points and one assist in 21 minutes. He was one for seven from the field.
Adante’ Holiman and Isaiah Wyatt were a combined 4 for 13 from long distance. The rest of the team shot 1 for 17.
The performance by the Roadrunners likely came as something of a stunner to those close to the program who had seen the way they had played in a 66-65 loss on Sunday on the road at Oregon State. The Roadrunners also had good practices on Tuesday and Wednesday on their home floor.
Some at press row speculated that with a few days off for the holidays approaching, maybe the players’ focus wasn’t where it needed to be.
“We played like it,” Henson said. “No way of knowing, but it’s pretty disappointing. We had a good practice yesterday. Coaches said the warmup (on Thursday) was good. Our guys were locked in. But (after tipoff) we didn’t look like a team that was totally dialed in to win a game.”
Looking ahead, UTSA players will have a few days off for the holiday break before returning to practice on Dec. 26. In the last nonconference game on the schedule, the Roadrunners will host the Prairie View A&M Panthers Dec. 28.
The UAB Blazers will be in San Antonio on Jan. 2 to open the Roadrunners’ American Athletic Conference schedule.
Prairie View A&M at UTSA, Dec. 28, 7 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, American Athletic Conference opener, Jan. 2, 8 p.m.
The Roadrunners were throttled almost completely in the first 16 minutes of the second half, scoring only 15 points in that span. On a couple of occasions, their players would rise up on defense with five or six stops in a row, but with nobody hitting on the offensive end, they couldn’t mount any sort of a significant rally.
UTSA’s 53 points were a season low and the lowest number they had scored since they were held to 48 in a 59-48 home loss to North Texas on March 3, 2022. Previously this season, they had been limited to 62 twice, once in a 72-62 overtime road loss at Texas State and again in a 77-62 home loss to Jacksonville State (Ala).
Two freshmen led the Black Knights to a 35-30 lead at halftime. Josh Scovens scored 14 points and Ryan Curry added nine of his 12 in the last five minutes of the half.
Scovens, a 6-6 forward, hit four of eight from the field as Curry, a 6-foot guard, knocked down four of five. Both hit a couple of three-point shots to account for four of five makes for the Black Knights.
UTSA could not get its drive-and-kick offensive game in gear. The Roadrunners shot 37.5 percent from the field and made only three of 13 from three, for 23.1 percent.