By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The UTSA men’s basketball team came within a few plays Wednesday night of registering what would have been one of the biggest victories in program history.
The Roadrunners had Coach Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers reeling for much of the game. Memphis fans were stunned when UTSA had a two-point lead with a chance to close out the 13th-ranked team in the nation in the final seconds of regulation.
Just about that time, though, Roadrunners center Massal Diouf was whistled for a moving screen.
A questionable whistle? Replays suggested it could have been a no-call. Regardless, the Tigers knocked down the ensuing two free throws to tie and eventually pushed the game to overtime, when guard Jahvon Quinerly took over and won it for his team, 107-101
Quinerly scored nine points in the extra period, the Tigers survived an inspired upset bid by the Roadrunners and eventually escaped what might have been a disastrous loss for a team looking for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, nicknamed ‘Juice’ for a reason, led the Roadrunners with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists. In an epic shooting performance, he hit six of UTSA’s 17 three-point buckets.
For Memphis, forward David Jones notched a double double with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Quinerly, a transfer from Alabama, finished with 25 points, four rebounds and four assists. Memphis went to the free throw line 43 times and made 30 of them.
As a result, the Tigers improved to 76-10 at home in six seasons under Hardaway, including 8-0 this season.
UTSA 7-9, 1-2
Memphis 14-2, 3-0
Charlotte at UTSA, Saturday, 7 p.m.
In his postgame interview with Andy Everett on KTKR-AM 760, UTSA coach Steve Henson took responsibility for the play that resulted in the foul call on Diouf and praised the effort of his players.
“Proud of our guys,” Henson said. “They did a lot of things well in this game. Look at those turnovers (only eight by UTSA). Memphis thrives off turnovers. They need ’em. We reduced ’em. We did a heck of a job in that regard. Players stepped up.
“(Forward) Chandler Cuthrell came in and gave us a huge lift. Different guys did some terrific things in the game. We got to make one more play in regulation and win the game. I made a terrible (decision).”
On the key play, Ivy-Curry had the ball at the top of the circle, guarded by Jones. As Diouf ran out from the post area to set the screen, Jones turned and was picked as the Ivy-Curry pass zipped inside to forward Dre Fuller Jr.
Fuller was about to dunk it for a four-point lead when officials called the foul, stopped the action and sent Jones to the line on the other end.
“We had the ball in Juice’s hand,” Henson said. “I sent Massal out, not trying to pick. Early in the game, we were picking with the five man (the center) involving (Memphis center Malcolm) Dandridge to get by him. In that (last) case, I just wanted to get Massal out of the paint.
“That’s on me. We didn’t get the shot there.”
Quinerly, interviewed in the postgame by a reporter for ESPN, said he is proud of his teammates for sticking together and winning the close games.
“I’m just proud of the guys,” he said. “Another close one. I think our last five have been close games. We found a way to pull it out. So, I’m proud of the guys.”
Coming in, few observers gave UTSA much of a chance against Memphis.
The Roadrunners, picked to finish last in the American Athletic Conference, entered the FedEx Forum rated 285th in the nation on the NCAA’s NET computer. Memphis, picked to finish second in the AAC, was 47th on the NET.
“I know everybody talks down on this conference,” Quinerly said. “But this is a conference where anybody can win on any given day … You know, we got a lot to work on. I’m just happy we were able to pull this one out today.”
Several players emerged to play well for the Roadrunners. Six hit double figures. In the backcourt, alongside Ivy-Curry, Christian Tucker had 14 points, seven assists and a couple of steals.
Forward Chandler Cuthrell, meanwhile, had 13 points in 14 minutes and hit three from distance. Three others finished with 10 points, including starting big men Carlton Linguard Jr. and Trey Edmonds and also guard PJ Carter.
In all, the Roadrunners knocked down 17 of 45 from the three-point arc.