By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Not too long ago, it wasn’t all that cool to be a fan of women’s basketball at UTSA. After a long and frustrating string of losing seasons, the game had lost its luster. Not any more.
Thanks to second-year Coach Karen Aston and the resurgent Roadrunners, the lights seem brighter, the crowds bigger and the fans louder. The sizzle is definitely returning to the Convocation Center.
UTSA won its second game in a row and improved to 5-3 over its last eight outings on Thursday night, rolling to a 25-point lead in the opening minutes after halftime and then holding on in the fourth quarter to down the visiting FAU Owls, 77-61.
“Gosh, that’s about as good of a half of basketball as we’ve played all year long,” Aston said about her team’s opening 20 minutes. “The last two home games that we’ve played…I mean, Rice, I look back at that one and our first half is really good.
“I think we’re starting to get the gist of how to start a game. Obviously, I can hammer the third quarter (tonight), but I’d rather just skip over that and say that I thought we adjusted in the fourth and did the things that we needed to do.”
Conference USA Player of the Year candidate Jordyn Jenkins led the Roadrunners with 26 points on eight of 11 shooting from the field. Kyra White added a career-high 22 points, including 13 in the first half when the Roadrunners broke the game open.
“Terrific performance by Kyra,” Aston said. “You know, it just opens up a whole lot of things when we have guards who are aggressive. The last two games we’ve played, we’ve looked completely different because of our guard play. I could go back to the Rice game, also.
“I think we’re starting to get an understanding of complete basketball. I’m looking forward to continuing this.”
UTSA (9-18, 7-11 in C-USA) clearly has too many losses on the ledger to avoid another losing season.
But, with their inspired play over the past few weeks, which includes a victory over the first-place Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders, the Roadrunners may be evolving into a group that opponents might not necessarily want to see in the first round of the C-USA tournament.
White was asked if she thought UTSA might be taking on that identity. “I would hope so,” she said. “I think we’re … I mean, I wouldn’t say an underdog, because I know what we’re capable of (doing).
“But I feel like in the realm of sports and just in the conference right now, I would consider us an underdog,” White said. “People know that we’re going to come in and play hard, so I would … I’m just going to say, ‘Yes.’ ”
FAU 12-14, 5-12
UTSA 9-18, 7-11
FIU at UTSA, Saturday, noon
Over UTSA’s last eight games, the Roadrunners own victories over Louisiana Tech (on the road), Middle Tennessee State and Rice (both at home), North Texas (on the road) and now the FAU Owls (at home). Middle Tennessee, Rice and LA Tech all figure to get byes past the first round and into the C-USA quarterfinals.
Jordyn Jenkins has scored 554 points this season, a total that is 29 shy of the school’s record of 583. Former UTSA guard Tammy Rogers established the UTSA single-season scoring record in the 1990-91 season. Jenkins leads the conference averaging 20.5 points a game. That, too, is close to the school record of 20.7 by Starlite Williams in 1986-87.
For UTSA, freshman guard Sidney Love scored 11 points, including two big shots to stem the FAU momentum in the fourth quarter.
After the Owls pulled to within nine, Love buried a 15-footer with 6:33 remaining. The Owls were still hanging around with under six minutes left when the former Steele High School standout did it again, banking in a 10 footer off the glass. That bucket pushed the UTSA lead to 13 with 5:32 left.
As usual, White’s energetic play allowed her to fill up the statistics sheet. Not only did she make eight of 15 from the floor and three of eight from 3-point range, but she also had five assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
For FAU, guard Aniya Hubbard scored 20 points on eight of 13 shooting from the field. Six-foot-two forward Amber Gaston had 13 on five of five shooting. Gaston scored seven in the third quarter when the momentum shifted back to the Owls. In addition, 6-foot guard Joiya Maddox also scored six of her 13 in the fourth period.
Led by White, the Roadrunners blasted the Owls with a 20-3 run over the final 8:33 of the second quarter to take a 35-17 lead at halftime.
White, a junior from Judson, produced 13 points and three assists. In one of her better halves of the season, the transfer from Southern Cal hit five of 10 shots from the field and three of six from the 3-point arc.
Jenkins, who scored a career-high 40 points in a Monday night victory at North Texas, had a quiet eight points in the first half.
Conference USA women’s basketball programs promoted Black History Month, with both UTSA and Florida Atlantic wearing themed T-shirts during warmups.