Senior Nick Allen talking about challenges of a strong UNT team coming to The Convo on Saturday. #BirdsUp🤙 pic.twitter.com/5A89wP1NH3
— UTSA Basketball (@UTSAMBB) January 11, 2019
When UTSA basketball players ran through drills in practice on Friday afternoon, they’d look up to see a television camera in their face.
It was at least the second time this week that a local TV station dispatched a crew to cover a workout.
Not a game, mind you. A practice. And not in March, either. In the second week of January.
Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said he welcomes the attention.
“Hey that’s important for our program,” he said.
It’s not surprising that the Roadrunners are starting to attract notice.
After all, first place in Conference USA is on the line Saturday at 3 p.m. when the surging North Texas Mean Green pay a visit to the UTSA Convocation Center.
North Texas is 16-1 and is riding an eight-game winning streak. Perhaps more compelling, UTSA is 9-7 with six victories in a row, after starting the season at 0-5.
“It’s no secret we didn’t start the season real well,” Henson said. “Our schedule was tough early. We weren’t playing great. But now we are. Nine (wins) out of 11 (games). Six in a row. We hope there’s some buzz around the program.”
Having North Texas in the house on a Saturday afternoon certainly helps.
Games between the two squads are usually pretty intriguing, anyway, but this year it’s different.
This year, North Texas is 4-0 and sitting atop the C-USA standings, while UTSA trails in second at 3-0.
UTSA guard Keaton Wallace said it would mean a lot on a number of levels to win and take over first place.
First, if the Roadrunners can win, they would tie a 30-year-old school record and would become only the second team in school history to open conference play at 4-0.
“That,” Wallace said, “would be big time.”
In addition, it would also feel good for players to beat an in-state rival that has won four in a row in the head-to-head series against the Roadrunners.
Last year, the Mean Green erased a 13-point deficit and beat the Roadrunners 72-71 at the Convocation Center.
Later, North Texas routed UTSA 80-62 at Denton, in the first game after Roadrunners guard Jhivvan Jackson was knocked out for the season with a knee injury.
The game in San Antonio stands out as the most emotional of the two.
At the end, with UTSA trailing by the eventual final score, UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao raced the length of the court on the dribble, stretched out for a layup in traffic and saw it skip off the rim.
“We know they got us last year,” Wallace said. “We expect them to come out hard and ready to play. We got to protect home court.”
Nick Allen hit career highs in both points (20) and three-pointers (four) against Rice Thursday night. De Nicolao’s 19 points were a season high. The Roadrunners hammered the Owls, 95-79, establishing team season highs in points, field goal percentage (49.3) and three-pointers made (12) against Division I competition.
North Texas survived a challenge from UTEP Thursday night in El Paso, winning 58-51. Redshirt freshman guard Umoja Gibson played well off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds. Roosevelt Smart scored 13, Michael Miller had 11 and 6-foot-10 Zachary Simmons contributed 10 points and four rebounds.
Fastest in the country to 16 wins and only 4-0 team in Conference USA.#GMG pic.twitter.com/1gMzynT1c7
— North Texas Basketball (@MeanGreenMBB) January 11, 2019