By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
For the past few seasons, center Elyssa Coleman has made a name for herself as one of the steadiest players on the UTSA Roadrunners, a reliable source of defense, blocked shots and rebounds.
On Saturday afternoon, the 6-foot-3 junior from Atascocita stepped it up, unleashing a dominant performance on both ends of the floor with career highs of 32 points and 19 rebounds. She also had three blocks.
As Coleman asserted herself, the Roadrunners made history by winning their first American Athletic Conference game, running away in the fourth quarter and downing the Wichita State Shockers 74-60 at the Convocation Center.
“It’s always a good thing to win, but getting our first American win is a big deal for us,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “A bigger deal is that we played with a lot more purpose, I guess is the best way I can describe it.
“I thought we were very good defensively in the first and the fourth. Which has kind of been a little bit of our personality, defensively, is to turn it back on and clamp down in the fourth, and I thought we did a good job with that.
“In particular, I thought our post players did a great job on theirs. Really it’s a team defensive concept when you’re trying to stop that high-low game that they play … Just excited to get a win.”
In UTSA’s first home game in 23 days, Coleman scored her career high in points on 14 of 20 shooting from the field. UTSA’s San Antonio-area backcourt of Sidney Love and Kyra White also played well for the Roadrunners.
While Love was notching 16 points and six assists, White showed up all over the stat sheet with 12 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Roadrunners (7-7, 1-2).
The Shockers (5-10, 1-2) couldn’t hit a shot early in the game and fell behind by 10. But they rallied to win the second and third quarters and made it competitive. Aniya Bell led Wichita State with 16 points. Daniela Abies had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
In UTSA’s first 13 games this season, Coleman averaged 10.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Her 14th outing was 14K golden, particularly the fourth quarter, when she scored 15 points on seven of 11 shooting.
“I think coach has been on us to just give it our all and really sell out,” Coleman said. “Me and my position coach (Cameron Miles) were talking yesterday about how I wasn’t playing my best and wasn’t putting out my full effort and (would) still get decent games, stat-wise.
“(We talked about) what would happen if I actually put my all into it. So, that’s what I tried to do.”
All sports at UTSA became members of the AAC last summer after 10 seasons in Conference USA. UTSA women’s basketball entered its season last fall without much fanfare, picked eighth in the 14-team league.
Though they played well in nonconference, going 6-5, they failed to gain traction when they entered AAC competition last weekend. In a pair of road games, they were humbled, once at Temple in Philadelphia and also at East Carolina, in Greenville, N.C.
Game 2 on the conference slate was particularly grim, as they lost to the Pirates by 28. As a result, they first tried for a little while to process the disappointment, and then they attacked workouts coming into the Wichita State game with intensity and resolve.
“I feel like we were definitely due for a win, especially on our home court,” Love said. “In a new conference, you just want to build on something. None of us wanted to go 0-3. We decided to play like we wanted to get a win, and we did that tonight.”
Wichita State 5-10, 1-2
UTSA 7-7, 1-2
UTSA at Florida Atlantic, Wednesday, 6 p.m.
UTSA’s schedule has been tilted toward road games — nine of 14 away — and yet the Roadrunners have come out of it at 7-7 in wins and losses. They are 3-2 at home and 4-5 on the road. Eight of their next 14 games will be at home.
Guard Aysia Proctor sat out her first game of the season at East Carolina with an injury. She bounced back to start and play 22 minutes against Wichita State. It wasn’t her best performance, but she contributed with six points, three rebounds and two assists.
Wichita State is led by first-year head coach Terry Nooner, who played guard for Roy Williams at Kansas from 1997-2001. It’s the first head-coaching job for Nooner, who worked for Karen Aston at Texas in 2019-20.
He has also served as an assistant at Kansas, Maryland, Alabama and Southern Illinois, as well as one season as a player development coach with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
Playing with defensive aggression early, the Roadrunners surged into an early lead of double digits and then held off the Shockers at the end of the half for a 33-30 advantage at intermission.
Love scored 10 points and Coleman produced nine and 11 rebounds for the Roadrunners. UTSA jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first five minutes and held Wichita State to eight points in the first quarter.
After that, the Shockers found their groove. They surged behind Abies and Bell in the second quarter to make it a one possession game in the final seconds of the half.
Bell found the range from long distance, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 to lead the team. Abies battled inside for nine points and seven rebounds. She was four-for-five from the field.