By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
In a signature victory for women’s basketball at UTSA, the Roadrunners won their fourth straight game in the American Athletic Conference Tuesday night, pulling away at the end for a dominant 65-42 decision over the South Florida Bulls at the Convocation Center.
After the victory, led offensively by guards Kyra White and Aysia Proctor, the Roadrunners improved to 10-7 overall and 4-2 in conference play. The loss dropped the AAC’s defending regular-season champions to 11-8 and 3-3.
White, a senior guard from Judson, put together a masterful performance against the preseason favorites in the conference. She produced 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Proctor, a freshman guard from Clemens, had 19 points and eight boards.
In rebounding, one of the team’s specialties, the Roadrunners sent everyone to the glass and beat the Bulls on the boards, 55-33, including 20-12 on the offensive end. Moreover, UTSA held South Florida to 21.1 percent shooting, with Romi Levy and Vittoria Blasigh both held to three of 16.
Levy finished with 12 points and Blasigh 11.
After the game, some around the AAC might have been wondering about a few things. First, how did UTSA dig down to summon the physical presence to beat two of the most highly-regarded teams in the conference in a span of three days?
Not only did the Roadrunners win in double overtime Sunday afternoon against the Charlotte 49ers, who were undefeated in conference when they arrived in San Antonio, but they also showed enough maturity not to let it get to their heads.
They set aside the emotions from a tense, 81-80 victory over Charlotte and focused on what they had to do against South Florida, a nine-time NCAA tournament team under Coach Jose Fernandez.
All of which begs the other question — where did that sort of take-no-prisoners mentality come from?
A proud third-year UTSA coach Karen Aston tried to explain, saying that her team is just “embracing playing together and working hard together.” She added that she doesn’t know if her players fully understand what they have done.
“This is a really huge win,” Aston said. “I have an unbelievable amount of respect for Jose (and) what he’s done in the American conference. You know, I think they’ve won conference the last three years. They are a perennial NCAA tournament team. He is a hell of a coach.
“…I thought just the maturity … (of) being able to play in a double-overtime game, and have it happen the way it happened, and then turn around (in two days) and focus — we’re growing. We’re growing up.”
As for the Roadrunners’ physical toughness on display, White echoed comments from her teammates that a rigorous summer offseason program has made a difference this season, and that it showed up again against both the 49ers and the Bulls.
“Right before the season, we had a little six-week boot camp,” White said. “It was one of the toughest things that I have accomplished in my life. And so, just being able to reflect back on that during the game — sometimes in the huddle people will bring it up (that) we’ve done all these (summer) runs for fourth quarters, for double overtimes.”
Back in the summer, the players would undergo sessions of weight lifting in the Roadrunner Athletic Center for Excellence, followed immediately by a series of sprints and assorted aerobic workouts on a field outside.
Recalled Proctor: “Man, it was hard. It was my first time. Some days I wanted to quit, but I had to fight through it and keep my head in it. It was a mental thing.” Now that the summer time has passed and the season has started and progressed to more than half the way through, does she feel it paying off now?
“For sure,” Proctor said. “For sure.”
South Florida 11-8, 3-3
UTSA 10-7, 4-2
UTSA at UAB, Sunday, 1 p.m.
After each UTSA victory, a player is awarded a gaudy, gold necklace, engraved with the phrase, “Cash In.” White was wearing the bling on Tuesday night. Hinting at heightened expectations now that the team has won four straight, White said “we want to hold up things bigger than this” after the season. A championship trophy, perhaps? Some around the program would likely be happy with just a winning record. UTSA hasn’t had one since 2015. Even with the team only three games over .500, the Roadrunners have started to turn the program in the right direction. Since late January of last season, UTSA is now 19-11.
The Roadrunners out-played the South Florida Bulls in every way — in rebounding, shooting, hustling for loose balls, you name it — as they surged into to a 20-7 lead after one quarter.
If fans at the Convocation Center thought the Roadrunners might be a little sluggish after playing a two-overtime game on Sunday, they were wrong.
They came out with high energy and out-played the Bulls at every turn, taking a 37-16 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
Former San Antonio area prep stars Kyra White and Aysia Proctor did the damage on the offensive end with a combined 24 points.
White had 13 on five of eight shooting, while Proctor contributed 11 on four of seven. Both of them knocked down three from the 3-point arc.
On the defensive end, the Roadrunners also played well, holding the Bulls to four of 25 shooting from the field. UTSA outrebounded South Florida, 28-12, including 9-3 on the offensive glass.
South Florida rallied in the period behind point guard Vittoria Blasigh, who scored eight points and hit a couple of 3-pointers. Trailing by 25 at one point, the Bulls started a comeback. They put together a 14-2 run capped by a pair of Blasigh triples to cut it to 13. When the quarter came to an end, UTSA held a 49-35 advantage, but the Bulls had some hope.
Unfazed by the Bulls’ run in the third period, the Roadrunners dominated in the final 10 minutes, winning it 16-7. They held the visitors to three of 16 from the field. Trying to play catch up, the Bulls fired off nine 3-pointers and made just one. Offensively, both White and Proctor scored five points apiece.