UTEP uses second-half surge to run away from UTSA, 69-51

The UTSA Roadrunners will return to soul-searching mode next week after a poor performance in El Paso Saturday night. After the UTEP Miners recorded a 69-51 victory, the Roadrunners were left to ponder what to do about an 0-8 record on the road this season.

“Again, if we play the way we played tonight, we’re not going to beat anybody anywhere,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said in a zoom call. “We would have lost at home. We would have lost in the park. We would have lost in the Alamodome. It wouldn’t have mattered, if we played the way we did tonight.”

In one way, it could be argued that the Miners may have just had an edge in attitude and motivation, especially at the end of the game.

Setting the stage for what happened, UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 on Thursday night in San Antonio on the front end of a two-game set in Conference USA. In the first meeting, Roadrunners guard Jhivvan Jackson scored 32 points and Keaton Wallace had 19, to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. The UTSA offense hummed with precision during long stretches.

In the rematch, the Miners didn’t play all that great, but they held Jackson to a season-low seven points, and they also strung together enough plays on both ends to win in crunch time. With the game tied 44-all, the Miners outscored the Roadrunners 25-7 in the last 11 minutes to account for the final margin.

During that stretch, they held UTSA without a field goal for the final 8:17, and they also made their last seven shots from the field. The outcome underscored once again the Roadrunners’ problems on the road, where they have lost 11 straight dating back to February of last season.

“I don’t think it’s a mental block,” Henson said. “I mean, we’re not ignoring it. But, we got to play better. Shoot. We got to play better. I mean, this is a pretty good team. We can’t come in here and play as badly as we did and shoot whatever we shot (29.5 percent) and expect to win. You got to make plays.

“We continue to talk about competing offensively. We’re a pretty good offensive team when we get a few shots down early, and when it’s easy, when the momentum goes the right way. But, boy, when it gets a little tough, we have trouble understanding how to get the right kind of shots, and on the road, you have to get better shots. You have to take care of the ball.

“We’ll address some things early in the week and expect to play better next game on the road.”

Records

UTEP 8-8, 4-6
UTSA 8-9, 4-6

Coming up

UTSA at Florida International, Friday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m.
UTSA at Florida International, Saturday, Feb. 6, at 1 p.m.

Individually

UTEP — Souley Boum, 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting. Jamal Bieniemy, 16 points and 10 rebounds. Keonte Kennedy, 10 points and 14 rebounds. Bryson Williams, 7 points and 9 rebounds.

UTSA — Keaton Wallace, 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting. Jacob Germany, 11 points on 4 of 9. Jhivvan Jackson, 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting.

By the numbers

UTSA’s last win on the road came on Feb. 6, 2020, in an 85-81 victory over Old Dominion … Against UTEP, UTSA’s offense hit only 18 of 61 from the field, including 8 of 29 in the second half. The Roadrunners missed their last nine shot attempts in the game … Jackson hit the first shot of the game, a nice runner from 12 feet in the lane, and then he started to struggle. In the next few possessions, the Roadrunners’ all-conference guard missed two long three-point attempts. UTSA was up 8-2 on the scoreboard when he fouled a jump shooter. Then he committed his second foul a little more than six minutes into the game and had to come out. Jackson played only 12 minutes in the first half and scored four points. He finished with seven points, only his second game this season with less than 10.

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