Struggling UTSA hopes to bounce back against No. 23 Florida Atlantic

Christian Tucker. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Christian Tucker averages 12.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds going into Sunday’s home game against the FAU Owls. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Humbled by a blowout loss on the road against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane Wednesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners didn’t have much time to sleep on it before wake-up calls went off in their hotel rooms Thursday at 4 a.m.

Time to stand up and face another day.

Sleep-deprived or not, the Roadrunners were scheduled to board the bus for a trip to the airport, fly back to San Antonio and then meet in the basketball offices for a session with coaches.

Topics in the film-room included a 107-78 loss to Tulsa and an upcoming test at home against the nationally-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls.

Later that evening, the Roadrunners watched on television as the No. 23 Owls rallied at home from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Wichita State Shockers, 86-77.

They are the real deal, these Owls, who return almost everyone from a team that reached the NCAA Final Four last season.

“They’re just really physical,” UTSA guard Christian Tucker said. “They like to move the ball a lot and they’re a great three-point shooting team. When you have those intangibles, it makes you a better team.

“We’re going to have our game plan, and we’ll approach it the right way.”

Several players on the FAU roster have the ability to make plays offensively, but Johnell Davis has emerged as the Owls’ leader, with averages of 17.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals.

He pretty much does it all, and with great efficiency, hitting 50 percent from the field and 47.5 percent from three-point distance.

“Such a good player,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Plays with great pace and strength and command of the ball.”

Florida Atlantic (14-4 overall, 4-1 in the American) comes in with victories in pre-conference against the likes of Butler, Texas A&M and Arizona. In conference, the Owls have lost by two at Charlotte, and that’s it.

They’ve since registered victories over Tulane in New Orleans and against UAB and Wichita State at home.

UTSA (7-11, 1-4) has looked promising on occasion but has been unable to break through with a signature victory. The Roadrunners have lost three straight and seven of nine.

The loss at Tulsa set off some alarm bells, with UTSA giving up a season high in points in regulation on 59 percent shooting. In response, coaches analyzed with the players every defensive possession in the Tulsa game during Thursday’s film session.

Tucker said he thinks the Roadrunners are still believers in their ability to win and generate some momentum.

“It’s still not late in the season,” Tucker said. “We definitely still have some things we need to clean up … We’ve worked so hard in here (during preseason and in-season practices), eventually it’s going to pay off.”

Down the stretch, the Roadrunners have seven games at home and six on the road before the AAC tournament. Tucker said it would be helpful if the UTSA students, who have returned to campus for the spring semester, would come out to support.

It’s so important to look up in the stands and see a packed Convocation Center,” he said. “When the students are involved in the game, and they’re loud, we really feed off that energy and it helps us out.

“If we can get a big crowd of student in here every single game, then that could really help us. I just really want the students to show out and give some support to us.”

Coming up

Florida Atlantic at UTSA, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Tulane at UTSA, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
UTSA at South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 27, 3 p.m.


Florida Atlantic (14-4, 4-1)
UTSA (7-11, 1-4)


UTSA guard Isaiah Wyatt, who had games of 27 and 20 points in late November and early December, hasn’t had as big of a role in the offense lately. He was held scoreless at Tulsa on 0-for-5 shooting.

Roadrunners guard Adante’ Holiman is likely out for the FAU game. It’ll be his fifth straight sidelined with an ankle sprain. Holiman has played in 12 games, averaging 9.2 points and 2.1 rebounds. Three scholarship players sitting out as redshirts include Juan Reyna, Justin Thomas and Blessing Adesipe. Thomas has been sitting out of practices recently with a case of mononucleosis, Henson said.

The Owls beat the Roadrunners twice last season in Conference USA on their way to a 35-4 record and a berth in the Final Four at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

In the UTSA game played at San Antonio, FAU built a 16-point lead at halftime and then cruised to an 83-64 victory. FAU held UTSA to 36.2 percent shooting on one end, and on the other, Davis scored 14 points and Brandon Weatherspoon had 12. In Boca Raton, Fla., senior Michael Forrest scored 19 points to lead seven players in double figures in rolling to a 106-66 victory. Forrest, who played five years at FAU, has moved on and is no longer in the program.

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