‘Bad Bird’ call: Henson hopes fans turn out for LA Tech at UTSA

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson on Wednesday thanked the fans for their continued support even through a slow start. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Coming off a lost week in Florida and preparing to host the powerful Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, UTSA coach Steve Henson issued an appeal to the Roadrunners Nation.

He said Wednesday that he’d like to see as many UTSA supporters as possible attend Conference USA home games on Thursday night against Louisiana Tech and on Saturday afternoon against Southern Miss.

“It’s early on in the race,” Henson said, “but we know that if we want to do something special, we’ve got to win our home games.

“We feel like LA Tech is one of the best teams (in the C-USA) … If they’re not the best team, at least they’re playing at that level, so it’s a very, very important game for us, to get back home.

“Home court advantage is really, really helpful.

“When the band is here, when the students are here, we feed off that. Because of the size of our building, it doesn’t have to be 100 percent full. We get that lower bowl filled up over there, it’s good.”

UTSA ranks 12th in the 14-team, C-USA in attendance, averaging only 899 (announced) through six home games.

Henson thanked the fans for their support even though the team hasn’t played as well as expected to this point.

“The season-ticket holders, the fans that sit behind us, have been out in pretty good force for us early in the year, particularly, considering we haven’t had a great start,” he said. “But our loyal supporters have been here.

“The students, we know they’ll get here when school starts. But, you know, they can come even when school’s not in session.”

With the first day of classes set for Jan. 21, UTSA students are still on break.

Nevertheless, Henson said he’s counting on the “Bad Birds,” a boisterous student group that sits behind the media on press row and travels to games in the local area, to give the team a lift.

“The Bad Birds helped us out at Texas State, I know that,” Henson said. “We just need a bunch more Bad Birds.”

Coming up

LA Tech (11-3, 2-0) at UTSA (6-9, 0-2), 6 p.m. Thursday

UTSA update

UTSA opened its C-USA schedule with losses last Thursday at Florida Atlantic (79-64) and at Florida International (90-83, overtime) … The Roadrunners allowed a three-point lead to slip away in the final eight seconds of regulation at FIU on Saturday night …

It is the first time in seven seasons of C-USA competition that UTSA has started conference with an 0-2 record…the Roadrunners haven’t started 0-3 since their one and only season in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-13 …

Forward Eric Parrish practiced in team drills with the Roadrunners for the first time this week … UTSA is waiting on a ruling from the NCAA to determine whether he can play this season … Henson said guard Adokiye Iyaye is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken right thumb … Forward Phoenix Ford went home to Florida to attend a funeral but is expected to be available against LA Tech.

Louisiana Tech update

LA Tech extended its winning streak to five games by routing Southern Miss at home (80-49) and on the road (78-50) to open conference last week … McNeese State transfer Kalob Ledoux comes off the bench to lead the Bulldogs in scoring (13.1). Starters DaQuan Bracey (12.6) and Amorie Archibald (11.9) also average in double figures … The Bulldogs are No. 62 in the NCAA’s NET ratings, the highest rating for a C-USA team.

The series

LA Tech leads UTSA 12-5 in the all-time series. However, under Henson, the Roadrunners hold a 3-2 edge against the Bulldogs over the past three seasons. All five games have been decided by 10 points or less … Here’s a look:

Feb. 16, 2019, at Ruston — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 67. DaQuan Bracey scores 23, and lead changes hands 13 times, with nine ties.

Feb. 24, 2018, at San Antonio — UTSA 74, Louisiana Tech 64. Deon Lyle scores 11 of his team-high 17 in the second half.

Jan. 4, 2018, at Ruston — UTSA 78, Louisiana Tech 76. Giovanni De Nicolao hits game-winning layup with one second left.

Feb. 11, 2017, at San Antonio — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 66. Erik McCree produces 25 points, 9 rebounds and a block for the Bulldogs.

Jan. 7, 2017, at Ruston — UTSA 69, Louisiana Tech 68. Jeff Beverly scores 27 and Giovanni De Nicolao hits a three in the last minute for the Roadrunners.

FIU banks in a buzzer-beater in regulation, then wins 90-83 in OT

Holding a two-point lead with two seconds remaining in regulation Saturday night, the UTSA Roadrunners seemingly had wrapped up their first Conference USA victory of the season.

All they needed was a successful inbounds play to finish it off.

But in the end, Florida International junior forward Eric Lovett spoiled it, disrupting the pass, picking up a loose ball and then banking in a 15-foot shot at the buzzer for the tie.

From there, the Panthers exploded past the Roadrunners, 90-83, in overtime at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami.

Records

UTSA — 6-9, 0-2
FIU — 11-4, 2-0

A disappointing finish

The collapse at the end of regulation and overtime sullied an otherwise solid road performance for the Roadrunners.

They played well against an FIU team that had won seven of its last eight, including a 69-67 home victory over UTEP Thursday night in the C-USA opener.

In fact, it appeared as if UTSA would steal the victory in the final few minutes with a 6-0 run that included three straight defensive stops.

Two free throws by Keaton Wallace lifted the Roadrunners into a 77-74 lead with 7.9 seconds remaining.

On the other end, FIU senior guard Trejon Jacob was fouled and knocked down his first free throw. He missed the second one, but senior forward Osasumwe Osaghae snared the rebound.

Osaghae went to the line with 2.7 seconds left and missed the first one. At that point, FIU called time out.

When the Panthers returned to the floor for Osaghae’s second attempt, they were called for a lane violation, giving the Roadrunners possession and a 77-75 lead.

Senior Byron Frohnen tried to inbound to Jhivvan Jackson. But the ball was deflected, and Lovett picked it up, giving the Panthers one last chance.

He turned and hit the shot off the glass, fading away, for the tie.

Quotable

“Disappointed for our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio voice, Andy Everett, on The Ticket 760. “You know, we had a chance to rebound the free throw and didn’t get that done. Then we just had to inbound it one more time and we win the game.

“We didn’t have a time out left. I know you’re supposed to always have a time out left. I’ve been kicking myself in some of these other games where people are making runs and I haven’t been using those time outs to stop the runs. Trying to get a little more aggressive, using ’em earlier, and now I’m kicking myself for not having one there.

“But even then, we’ve got to execute a little better … we just didn’t complete the play, and it came back to haunt us.”

Notable

FIU came out with energy in overtime, and UTSA couldn’t match it. The Panthers opened with five quick points in an 11-2 streak for an 88-79 lead.

The Panthers converted during the run with an Isaiah Banks stick back and three-pointers from Lovett and Cameron Corcoran.

Forward Devon Andrews finished with 26 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.

The Roadrunners entered the game seeking redemption after losing 79-64 on Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.

Jackson had a rough night in Boca Raton, hitting only 3 of 18 from the field. He bounced back against FIU with 30 points on 11 of 24 shooting from the field, including 5 of 15 from three. Jackson also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Contributions from the big men

UTSA junior Luka Barisic, in his first year with the Roadrunners, had a season-high 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Bior, a senior, also had some good moments with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Coming up

Continuing with its conference schedule, UTSA is set to host Louisiana Tech next Thursday and Southern Miss on Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Louisiana Tech held the highest national rating among C-USA teams (65th) before its home victory Saturday night over Southern Miss.

The Bulldogs downed the Golden Eagles 78-50, improving their record to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference.

Florida Atlantic starts fast and routs cold-shooting UTSA, 79-64

The Florida Atlantic University Owls shut down high-scoring Jhivvan Jackson, raced to a 24-point lead in the second half and then held off the UTSA Roadrunners 79-64 Thursday night at home in Boca Raton.

In the Conference USA opener for both teams, the Owls held Jackson to a season-low eight points on 3 of 18 shooting.

Junior forward Jailyn Ingram led FAU with with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Keaton Wallace scored 27 for UTSA.

After trailing twice by 19 points in the first half, the Roadrunners made it an 11-point game at halftime and cut it to nine in the opening moments after intermission.

But after that, they suffered their worst shooting drought in weeks, missing 15 field goal attempts in a row.

Meanwhile, Richardson Maitre knocked down a pair of three-point shots mid-way through the half, boosting the FAU lead to 65-41.

The Roadrunners battled back to within 70-60 on a Wallace three with 1:21 left, but they couldn’t get any closer.

Records

UTSA 6-8, 0-1
FAU 9-5, 1-0

Coming up

UTSA at Florida International, in Miami, on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Notable

Jackson entered the game averaging 26.2 points, good for second in the nation. He hit his first shot of the game, a three, and then he misfired on his next seven field goal attempts. He closed the first half 2 of 12.

Quotable

UTSA coach Steve Henson, in his post-game radio interview on The Ticket, addressed Jackson’s early struggles. “A couple of those were forced. I thought he got fouled on one or two of ’em. I thought he was attacking. Driving and popping up. But he just couldn’t get it going.”

Notable

Florida Atlantic came out hitting shots from everywhere, at one time knocking down 15 of 21 in one stretch early in the first half.

Some of the 15-bucket barrage was a surprise, as backup center Aleksandar Zecevich sank three of them, and sub-40 percent shooters Everett Winchester and Jaylen Sebree hit two apiece.

Quotable

Henson: “They jumped right on us. We just couldn’t get shots to fall … They had some guys who normally don’t shoot perimeter jumpers (who) made some shots. Yeah, they jumped all over us. You could just see their confidence. Everyone was feeling good for them. We just couldn’t get it going.”

Jacob Germany continues to stir the discussion at UTSA

If you want to start a discussion at UTSA basketball practice, ask Coach Steve Henson about the upside potential of freshman center Jacob Germany.

Earlier this week, I pored over all the statistics, all my mental notes and a few videos of Germany, the high-rising, 6-foot-11 post from Oklahoma.

He’s not a starter yet.

Jacob Germany. Prarie View A&M beat UTSA 79-72 on Saturday night at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany throws down a dunk against Prairie View A&M. – photo by Joe Alexander

But already, 13 games into his career, he’s become entrenched in the playing rotation, averaging 5.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Germany’s also shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

How is this happening?

In my mental notes, I recall how UTSA has started to exploit his presence by throwing long, lob passes — some from beyond the three-point arc — that have resulted in ringing dunks or layups.

I also recall some moments of indecision, when he seems to struggle with the intensity of Division I basketball.

Such as, a sequence in a recent home game when Germany could have easily grabbed a loose ball, only to see an opposing guard wrestle it out of his grasp.

Finally, I recall a moment in UTSA’s practice Tuesday afternoon when he long-armed a rebound, jumped back awkwardly and then flicked in a 12-footer.

With the freshman from Oklahoma falling away, the ball swished.

It made me wonder. In a year or two, will he be rebounding those misses, passing out to the perimeter and then re-setting his feet to demand a pass back into the post?

Could he be a go-to threat in a few years, a player who would touch the ball on most set plays?

Henson, whose Roadrunners play at Florida Atlantic today at 6 p.m., artfully dodged the question.

But he did say this:

“He’ll become a bigger factor (in the offense), for sure. The stuff he does offensively, he’s so natural. He’s got great touch. He’s shooting I think 61 percent in his last eight games.

“He already does give us (an inside threat). He’s in that dunker’s spot. He makes it harder for people to help on penetration … they can’t help off him onto our shooters because he’s a threat there.

Henson said Germany doesn’t have the strength yet to be a “back-to-the-basket” guy this season. In addition, the coach said he’s not quite ready to be a “constant” shooter on the perimeter.

“But he does have the confidence — which is a big part of it — and the touch to do that,” Henson said. “He’s made a pretty good percentage of 15-foot shots, even in games. He does it in practice every, single day. So, I expect that is something he will do.”

As UTSA forges ahead in conference play, the coach said he wants to get the ball to Germany when he’s on the move to take advantage of his quickness and finesse.

Power moves? It might be a year or two before fans will see any of that.

“It’ll be a big off-season for him,” Henson said.

What else might we see from Germany this fall?

Well, so far, he’s shown he isn’t shy about playing in big moments.

For instance, when then 15th-ranked Utah State was trying to pull away from UTSA in the first half of a Nov. 18 road game, Germany came into the game and briefly turned the momentum back into the Roadrunners’ favor.

Ja - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany hails from Kingston High School in Kingston, Oklahoma.

“He impacted the game with his shot-blocking on drives,” Henson said. “He lost a couple of battles against his own guy. Again, that’s an experience factor. But he impacted the game by challenging penetration from the guards, blocking some shots and changing some others.

“We talk about that in our coaches’ meetings. We say, ‘Yea, this might not be a great game for him.’ And then he’ll go in there and just make things happen. It’s because his instincts are good. He’s not scared … He’s not afraid of the big stage.”

With 18 C-USA games looming, such a presence could come in handy.

Coming up

UTSA (6-7) at Florida Atlantic (8-5), 6 p.m. Livestream on ESPN Plus. Radio on The Ticket 760 AM.

UTSA ‘very confident’ entering conference opener at FAU

Byron Frohnen. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior forward Byron Frohnen has started 113 games in a row for the UTSA Roadrunners. – photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners remain a work in progress — far from a finished product, but confident in their abilities — leading into a Conference USA opener Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.

Veterans on the squad believe they can win the conference. But for that to happen, they know they will need to play at a much higher level than they’ve achieved to this point.

“It’s good to see that we’re finally putting stuff together,” UTSA senior Byron Frohnen said. “We had a tough start to the year. But we’re feeling very confident right now.

“Going into conference, we’re not right at the top, but we’re at full strength and we’re ready to go.”

One reason for the optimism centers around improved play from Frohnen, who has started 113 consecutive games since first suiting up UTSA as a freshman in 2016-17.

As UTSA started the season 0-5, much of the talk centered on how the Roadrunners needed to get more out of junior guard Keaton Wallace.

But Frohnen also wasn’t playing up to standards.

“Part of that was continuing to deal with issues with his body, and not feeling 100 percent physically,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Then Byron hit a little stretch where the ball just didn’t go in the hole for him.

“There were shots around the rim that he typically shoots 55 or 60 percent (and) he was shooting 35 or 40 percent. Just a combination of not feeling good physically and dealing with a confidence issue around the rim.”

In the past two games, Frohnen has stepped up his production, pulling down 18 rebounds and shooting 7 for 12 from the field.

He’s also moving the ball well, passing for 12 assists in his last four.

With the team led by Jhivvan Jackson and Wallace in scoring, Frohnen is asked to play defense and to rebound primarily.

But when his offense is working, hustling to get easy looks around the rim and crashing the offensive glass, the Roadrunners are a much better team.

“Now his body is feeling good,” Henson said. “He’s feeling fresh. His body weight is down, which is a good key for him. He’s got good energy.”

Henson said part of Frohnen’s resurgence stems from temporary relief from a rigorous academic regimen.

In the fall, the mechanical engineering major from Las Vegas was taking a 14-hour load, often staying up well past midnight to finish assignments and projects.

Frohnen acknowledged the academic stress from his recently-completed fall semester.

“I had a crazy load in my senior year of school,” said Frohnen, who carries a 3.2 grade point average. “Classes were really tough. I had engineering projects and stuff like that going on.

“Finals week was a rough week. I was up to like 3 a.m. every night. That was a tough week. I’m glad that’s over with.”

In 2016, the 6-foot-6 Frohnen was part of Henson’s first recruiting class.

He’s been a solid contributor to an improving program ever since, averaging 7.0 points and 6.9 rebounds for his career, while defending everyone from 6-10 centers to point guards.

Now he’s a senior, trying to make the most of his last season.

“I remember being a freshman like yesterday,” he said. “Seeing these younger guys come in (this year), I was in their shoes. It just flies by. You can’t take a day for granted. I wish I could go back and play harder on certain days.

“It’s good to be here. (I’m) embracing every moment.”

UTSA (6-7) has won only three games this season against NCAA Division I competition and has a NET rating that’s No. 249 out of 353 teams in the nation and No. 12 in its 14-team conference.

But Frohnen didn’t hesitate to say he thinks the Roadrunners can win the C-USA title.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We have every piece we need to win, for sure.”

Thursday’s game

UTSA (6-7) at FAU (8-5), 6 p.m. Live video on ESPN Plus. Radio on Ticket 760 AM.

Notable

UTSA guard Adokiye Iyaye has a broken thumb on his right hand, Henson said. The coach said Iyaye, a defender and an energizer who plays off the bench, won’t play this weekend as the Roadrunners prepare to face FAU Thursday and then Florida International on Saturday in Miami.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson ranks second in the nation in scoring at 26.2 points per game. – photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners are 6-2 since their 0-5 start. Jackson averages 26.2 points, second in NCAA Division I behind Markus Howard of Marquette at 26.3. Wallace is averaging 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

Three of the Owls’ eight victories have come against sub-Division I competition. FAU, listed at No. 227 in the NET ratings nationally and No. 11 in the C-USA, lost 60-58 in its last outing Sunday at South Florida. Newcomer Cornelius Taylor leads FAU in scoring with 11.2 points.

Last year, the Owls lost on the road at UTSA, 86-74. They finished 17-16 overall and 8-10 in the C-USA in Dusty May’s first season as head coach. The Owls dropped a 57-56 decision to Louisiana Tech in the first round of the C-USA tournament.

After a shaky start, UTSA romps past Our Lady of the Lake, 99-64

UTSA beat Our Lady of the Lake 99-64 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. Keaton Wallace led UTSA with 30 points. - photo by Joe Alexander

Playing with a head cold, Keaton Wallace scored a team-high 30 points Saturday against Our Lady of the Lake . – photo by Joe Alexander

Shrugging off a slow start, the UTSA Roadrunners roared to their highest point total of the season in a 99-64 victory Saturday afternoon over the NAIA Our Lady of the Lake Saints.

Keaton Wallace, battling a cold and a sore throat, nearly didn’t play but emerged as the focal point in the UTSA attack with 30 points.

Jhivvan Jackson, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, added 20 as the Roadrunners improved to 6-2 in their last eight games leading into conference play.

After the first 10 minutes, the game tilted into UTSA’s favor, with the home team building a 52-43 lead at half.

The visiting Saints, under pressure from bigger and more physical athletes, never came within single digits after intermission.

UTSA outscored OLLU 47-21 after intermission.

OLLU was limited to 29 percent shooting for the game, including 18.4 percent in the second half, in front of an announced 1,087 at the Convocation Center.

Records

UTSA 6-7
Our Lady of the Lake 4-10

Coming up

UTSA opens Conference USA competition on Thursday at Florida Atlantic University, followed by a Saturday game at Florida International.

Starting the second season

Roadrunners coach Steve Henson wasn’t thrilled with the slow start and sporadic execution on offense against an out-manned opponent in OLLU.

But he said he feels good about the team leading into the road trip to Florida.

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Our Lady of the Lake 99-64 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson states his case with a referee Saturday during a lopsided victory over Our Lady of the Lake University. – photo by Joe Alexander

In the team’s last game before Christmas, it played well in routing Illinois State, 89-70.

“The more I watched (on film), our defense in that game was really, really good,” Henson said. “So, I feel good about it. The rebounding continues to improve. You see the progress on film.

“We’re contesting shots (with) legitimate hands in the face. We’re right up on guys. That’s been a noticeable improvement.”

First half summary

Trailing for most of the first half, the Roadrunners woke up in time to outscore the Saints by nine at intermission.

Henson called time out 90 seconds into the game to emphasize the need to guard against the three-point shot.

OLLU kept firing away, anyway.

Jared Embry nailed a three-pointer, one of seven for the visitors before intermission, boosting the Saints into a 17-12 advantage with 15:35 remaining.

But the Roadrunners responded by outscoring the San Antonio-based Saints 40-26 the rest of the way, with Wallace (16 first-half points) and Jackson (13) taking the lead.

Wallace, who was sleeping in the training room during a morning shoot-around, hit 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point territory.

He nailed a three from the top of the arc at the halftime buzzer.

For the game, the junior from Dallas finished 11 of 16 from the field, hitting a variety of drives and mid-range floaters. He also nailed and 5 of 9 from three.

On playing with a cold, Wallace said, “I feel like when I’m on the court, I just stop thinking about it. It’s just a different type of mindset, I guess.”

By the numbers

UTSA started the season 0-5, with all of the losses coming away from home. Within its recent 6-2 streak, the Roadrunners have been 5-1 at home. Three of those victories (against Wiley, UT Permian Basin and OLLU) have come against sub-NCAA Division I programs. They are 0-2 against D-I power conference opponents (Oklahoma and Oregon State) and 0-1 against Utah State, ranked 15th in the nation at the time.

New player in town

Well-traveled forward Eric Parrish has joined the UTSA basketball program and was on the bench for the OLLU game.

UTSA announced Parrish’s signing on Dec. 10. He is a 6-foot-6 wing who was rated as the No. 4 junior college player in the nation last season.

UTSA men's basketball player Eric Parrish. - photo by Joe Alexander

Newcomer Eric Parrish, one of the top junior college players in the nation last season, was on the bench with the Roadrunners Saturday. – photo by Joe Alexander

It’s possible Parrish could play for the Roadrunners this season, but Henson said it won’t be right away.

“He’s got two things going,” Henson said. “He’s not eligible right now, and he’s got an injury. About a week ago, about the same day he got admitted to school, he was training and he broke his finger.”

Initially, coaches thought the injury might require a long-term recovery. Henson said that after review, Parrish is “several days away from practicing.”

It’s uncertain when the NCAA will rule on the eligibility appeal. But the coach said it won’t be by Thursday’s conference opener.

Parrish began his collegiate career at Akron in 2017-18, where he averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. He started 21 of Akron’s 32 games as a freshman.

Following the season at Akron, Parrish transferred to Bossier Parish Community College (La.) for 2018-19, and he responded by averaging 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.0 blocks.

Parrish joined the program at Nevada last summer. But Nevada announced in late October that he had left school. He didn’t play for the Wolf Pack, according to a report at nevadasportsnet.com.

UTSA vs. Our Lady of the Lake photo gallery

UTSA beat Our Lady of the Lake 99-64 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. Knox Hellums had 11 points for the Roadrunners. - photo by Joe Alexander

Knox Hellums had 11 points for the Roadrunners.

UTSA beat Our Lady of the Lake 99-64 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Jackson scores a season-high 41 as UTSA rolls past Illinois State

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson scored 25 of his season-high 41 points in the first half. With the performance, he boosted his NCAA leading average to 26.8 per game. – photo by Joe Alexander

Clearly loving the moment, UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson delivered almost as many post-game hugs to the fans as he did jaw-dropping offensive moves Saturday afternoon.

The impromptu show of affection from both player and fans broke out shortly after Jackson dropped a season-high 41 points on the Illinois State Redbirds in an 89-70 victory for the Roadrunners.

On a historic note, it was the seventh-most points in a game by a UTSA player in program history.

“We all excited to get this dub before we head out to the Christmas break,” Jackson said. “I think our defense was the main key, cause we been emphasizing that for so long, these past two weeks. We just came in to practices, and that’s all we worked on.

“We came out in the first half, played defense. I got a little hot. But, other than that, it was all because of our stops.”

Averaging 25.5 points coming into the game, Jackson nearly matched it in the first half with one of the best sequences of his career.

Jackson, the NCAA’s scoring leader, exploded for 25 before intermission.

At one point, he hit six shots in a row, including one from the middle of the court about 30 feet from the hoop.

In response, two fans seated near the end line on one side of the floor jumped up and screamed.

One of them stomped her feet and pumped two clenched fists.

“Honestly I try to take most of the shots that I practice,” said Jackson, who finished with five threes. “I think I got a couple of good looks in the first half. They went in. Coach started running a couple of plays for me. My teammates found me and they just trusted me to make shots.”

Jackson’s finished five points shy of his career high of 46 from last season at Western Kentucky. Roderic Hall holds the school record of 52 in a game played at home against Maine in December 1997.

For the game, the 6-foot junior from Puerto Rico hit 12 of 25 from the field, 5 of 11 from three and 11 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Afterward, a reporter asked UTSA coach Steve Henson if the Roadrunners just get out of the way when Jackson gets as hot as he did against the Redbirds.

“Yea, kinda,” Henson said. “We did. You know, he’s always had the ability, and a lot of his big games are just the result of him making special plays.

“(At) Texas State he had 20 in the first half, and that wasn’t because of the plays we were calling, necessarily, although I think we’re using him a little better than we ever have at any point in his career. Getting him moving into space better.

“But, yeah, he was just hot, doing special things out there.”

Records

UTSA 5-7
Illinois State 5-7

Announced attendance

853

Stepping up on defense

The Roadrunners entered play on Saturday with questions mounting on how they can possibly contend for a Conference USA championship with a defense that has a tendency to get burned.

For the season, the Roadrunners were giving up 46.4 percent shooting from the field, which ranked 317th out of 350 teams in the nation.

On Wednesday night in Houston, they yielded 55.8 percent and 59.1 percent in the second half in an 88-78 loss to Oregon State.

In a turnaround of sorts, UTSA held Illinois State to 33 percent in the first 17 minutes of the game, and 40.3 percent for the game.

Getting a boost from Byron

The Roadrunners also came into the Illinois State game working on boosting the play of senior forward Byron Frohnen.

Frohnen responded with his season-high of 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting. He also contributed six rebounds and two assists.

Viewing the big picture

With the victory, UTSA showed that it can play well against mid-major competition and that it might even be capable of postseason success if it can continue to improve defensively.

At the very least, they played well enough to dream. Henson said it’s important that the Roadrunners are healthy, generally.

“Our confidence is pretty high,” he said. “The record’s not what we would have wanted it to be. It’s not the kind of start that we wanted. But, again, we want to use this game as a spring-board … to continue to make progress defensively.

“I think we’re in a position — because of our chemistry, because of our mindset right now, and just being healthy — that we can still do something special.”

By the numbers

Illinois State — The Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference fell to 0-3 on the road and to 2-3 in December. Forward Keith Fisher III led the Redbirds with 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting. Zach Copeland scored 16 and Antonio Reeves came off the bench for 12.

UTSA — Keaton Wallace had an off night with 1 of 7 shooting, but Henson shrugged it off as “one of those nights.” Wallace, UTSA’s second-leading scorer, had only five points but he also contributed six rebounds, two assists and a block.

UTSA’s top scoring games

1, 52 by Roderic Hall vs. Maine (12/6/97); 2, 51 by Derrick Gervin vs. Baylor (1/2/85); 3, 46 by Jhivvan Jackson at Western Kentucky (1/31/19); 4, 45 by Keaton Wallace at Marshall (2/2/19), T5, 42 by Frank Hampton vs. Hardin-Simmons (1/17/87); T5, 42 by Derrick Gervin vs. West Texas A&M (1/27/84); 7, 41 by Jhivvan Jackson vs. Illinois State (12/20/19).

Coming up

Winners of four of their last five and five out of seven games, the Roadrunners take a break for Christmas and then return to play at home on Dec. 28 against the San Antonio-based Our Lady of the Lake University Saints, an NAIA program.

The Roadrunners open the C-USA portion of the schedule with a trip to Florida, including games on Jan. 2 at Florida Atlantic and Jan. 4 at Florida International.

UTSA vs. Illinois State photo gallery

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson made five 3-pointers and scored 41 points as UTSA beat Illinois State.

UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

A boy, his dad and a dream: Hellums reveled in driveway hoops

Knox Hellums. UTSA beat UT-Permian Basin 98-55 on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA junior Knox Hellums has emerged as one of the team’s most efficient shooters of late, hitting 56.5 percent from the field in his last six games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not long after UTSA guard Knox Hellums started dribbling around in the driveway of his Houston-area home as a pre-elementary school basketball project, he started to swish jumpers.

“I started playing when I was, like, four years old,” the Roadrunners’ sharp-shooting, red-shirt junior said Friday afternoon.  “My dad put a hoop up in the driveway. I started shooting out there.  My dad ultimately taught me how to shoot.

“Around sixth grade, I kind of fixed my form. I’ve had the same form since sixth grade. I just kind of started in close, and then worked my way out.  Once I got bigger and stronger, I was just extending my range with the same form since then.”

After a slow start to his first season with the Roadrunners, Hellums has emerged as one of the team’s most efficient three-point threats.

In his first five games, he shot 23.8 percent from the field. In his last six, the former prep standout at Tomball Concordia Lutheran, a transfer from Pepperdine, has cranked it up to 56.5 percent, including 62.5 percent from long distance.

As Illinois State comes in for a 3 p.m. Saturday game at the Convocation Center, Hellums likely is a topic of discussion among Redbirds’ coaches, having hit at least one three-pointer in his last four games, including 4 for 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 3 for 6 against UT Permian Basin.

In that stretch, he’s averaging 7.8 points, becoming one of the team’s most valuable assets as opponents attempt to defend an offense that also features the explosive duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said he knew Hellums would come around after some anxious moments in the first few games of the year.

“With Knox, it took a little bit for him to settle in, to do what we knew he could do,” Henson said. “We believed all along that he would step up and be a good three-point shooter for us. He’s proven that he could do it in another mid-major league.”

At Pepperdine, Hellums played 58 games combined in two seasons, averaging 4.5 points each year. He sat out last season under transfer rules.

“Just a matter of him settling in, getting comfortable with us,” Henson said. “Our struggles with the team probably affected him. And vice versa. You get him to make shots, it takes pressure off the other guys, and certainly the other way around.”

Records

UTSA 4-7
Illinois State 5-6

The matchup

Illinois State, based in Normal, Ill., is looking for its first win away from home. The Redbirds are 0-3 on neutral courts and 0-2 in road games. The Redbirds are defense-oriented, holding opponents to 69 ppg. They’ve struggled offensively averaging 68.5 points. In their last outing, they defeated Illinois-Chicago 67-66 Wednesday night by scoring the last 11 points of the game. Zach Copeland hit the game-winning three-pointer with 8.6 seconds left.

UTSA is 4-2 in its last six games but is coming off a disappointing loss to Oregon State. The Roadrunners made 15 three-point shots and still got beat, 88-78, Wednesday afternoon in Houston at the Toyota Center. The Beavers shot an opponent season-high 55.8 percent from the field, including 59.1 percent in the second half. Jhivvan Jackson leads the nation in scoring at 25.5 points per game and also averages 5.6 rebounds. Keaton Wallace is averaging 16.1 points.

Notable

UTSA has two games left before its opening game in Conference USA. After today, the Roadrunners get a break for the holiday and then host Our Lady of the Lake on Dec. 28. UTSA starts C-USA play with a road trip to Florida, including games at Florida Atlantic on Jan. 2 and Florida International on Jan. 4.

Quotable

“We cannot continue to have the type of defensive numbers that we have right now and do anything special in conference play. Our guys recognize that. We have to improve. We have to get better. And our guys embrace it. Some things we can control. Some things we can’t. We’re going to have some lineups where we’re not the quickest. Not the most athletic. But, we can guard better.” — Henson, discussing his team’s struggles on defense.