UTSA beats South Florida, 58-56, advances to the AAC semifinals

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Karen Aston. Temple defeated UTSA 56-48 in American Athletic Conference women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners are two wins away from a conference championship after beating South Florida in the AAC quarterfinals on Monday. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by five points going into the fourth quarter, the fourth-seeded UTSA Roadrunners rallied late to down the No. 5 South Florida Bulls 58-56 Monday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference women’s postseason tournament.

With the win, UTSA will advance to play the East Carolina Pirates in the semifinals Tuesday in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena.

The Bulls, who lost by 23 to the Roadrunners in San Antonio in January, proved a much tougher opponent in the rematch. Guard Vittoria Blasigh scored 23 points. Forward Evelein Lutje Schipholt produced a double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, and forward Romy Levi scored 11.

In response, the Roadrunners played in the fourth quarter with urgency and pulled it out. Forward Jordyn Jenkins, in her ninth game back after missing most of the season following knee surgery, led UTSA with 20 points. Jenkins and sophomore guard Siena Guttadauro emerged in the clutch with some key plays.

Both scored six points in the last period.

“Siena was huge,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said on the team’s radio broadcast. “I mean, she kind of gave us a deep breath. Jordyn got going better in the second half but I thought the biggest thing was Siena opening some things up for us, hitting those (two) threes.”

Midway through the fourth, momentum started to shift in UTSA’s favor. First, Guttadauro hit a three. After a timeout, Jenkins found a gap in the zone and tossed in a left-handed hook. Finally, Idara Udo scored inside off a feed from Jenkins. UTSA had a 49-45 lead with five minutes left.

Undaunted, the Bulls rallied with four straight points to tie it, with Levy knotting the score on a pullup. Later, UTSA again went to Guttadauro, who nailed another three from the left side. The Roadrunners had a 54-51 lead with 2:51 left.

Forward Daniela Gonzalez emerged late as a scoring threat for the Bulls. She hit two free throws with 2:26 remaining and then she knocked down a three with 48 seconds left to pull South Florida to within two.

A key sequence unfolded on UTSA’s next possession, with guard Kyra White called for charging, a questionable call given the South Florida defender appeared to be on the move as White drove toward the bucket.

Regardless, the turnover gave the ball to the Bulls, who trailed by two with 16 seconds remaining.

UTSA ultimately stopped South Florida twice to close it out. First, Levy couldn’t get off a shot on the three-point line, so she passed to Schipolt, who misfired with an elbow jumper. On the rebound, the ball was batted out of bounds. After an officials’ review, the Bulls gained possession again with one-tenth of a second left.

On the inbounds pass, Jenkins got a hand on it to end the game.

“The first game (of a tournament) is really hard, especially when the other team has already played,” Aston said. “I mean, I thought we were nervous today in shootaround. I’m not surprised we didn’t have some anxiety with the game. But we toughed it out. I think we’ll play better tomorrow.”

Jenkins, who transferred from USC to UTSA before the 2022-23 season, suffered an ACL knee injury last April and didn’t return to play until February 11 this season.

“It’s extremely special,” Jenkins said as she was named Player of the Game by Fort Worth Sports. “I’ve had a long, long road. It’s been a long comeback and I’ve just been excited to get back on the court and win stuff for my team.”

First half

Blasigh started scoring early and kept finding open spaces to get off her shot. With her confidence soaring, she tallied nine of her 16 first-half points in the second quarter as the South Florida Bulls took a 27-25 lead on the UTSA Roadrunners.

The first quarter was played on mostly even terms between the fourth-seeded Roadrunners and the fifth-seeded Bulls. The Roadrunners received a boost from Jordyn Jenkins as she scored seven points in the period, including a three with about a minute remaining. Evelein Lutje Schipholt hit a ju,per for South Florida with three seconds left. UTSA took a 16-15 lead into the second period.

The flow of the game started to tilt toward South Florida. Not only were the Bulls controlling the glass, particularly on the offensive end, but Blasigh was coming alive with her shot. With 2:40 remaining in the half, the Roadrunners took a 24-20 lead as Jenkins scored. From there, the Bulls controlled the game. Blasigh scored seven straight points for South Florida heading into the halftime break.

Third quarter

Just after halftime, South Florida forward Romi Levy came alive. She stole a pass on one end and motored the length of the court to score. Levy added another bucket on a pullup jumper as the Bulls made it a 33-30 game in their favor.

For UTSA, the offense started to bog down a little at this juncture. One missed jumper by one of the Roadrunners’ starting guards led to another possession in which an entry pass was easily stolen. After Schipolt hit two free throws for a 35-33 South Florida lead, UTSA missed another shot and then turned it over. Schipolt knocked down two more free throws, making it a four-point game.

Late in the quarter, Levy heated up again. She swished a three-pointer and then knocked in a long two. The second bucket in that sequence came with 2:20 showing. It gave her nine points in the quarter and boosted the Bulls into a a 42-36 lead. Jenkins scored down low with 1:52 left to keep the Roadrunners in it.

Ultimately, South Florida took a 45-40 lead fourth quarter.


South Florida 19-14
UTSA 17-13

Coming up

UTSA plays ninth-seeded East Carolina Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the AAC semifinals. The winner will advance to the title game, which will be played at 6 p.m. Wednesday. All games at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

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