Jackson, Wallace lead UTSA past Alabama-Birmingham, 82-70

Jhivvan Jackson scored 24 points and Keaton Wallace passed for a season-high 11 assists Saturday night as UTSA posted a surprisingly easy 82-70 road victory at Alabama-Birmingham.

The Blazers entered the game 11-1 at home this season in Bartow Arena, having lost only to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

But the Roadrunners didn’t seem to flinch at history or anything else on a night when they tied a season-high with 15 three-pointers and registered 24 assists on 32 baskets.

UTSA (11-11, 4-5) also out-rebounded the bigger home team, 36-34. UAB (14-8, 5-4) didn’t play up to par in either half.

Left on their heels early by the Roadrunners’ ball movement, shooting and rebounding, the Blazers trailed 42-26 at intermission.

They closed to within eight once early in the second half but couldn’t sustain the momentum against a UTSA offense that continued to click.

“Proud of our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “We needed a win. We needed to play like that, though. That’s the way you got to play.

“I hope people don’t look and say, ‘Well, we won because we made 15 three-pointers. I mean, certainly, that helped our cause. But they were better shots.”

Only two nights ago, UTSA’s offense had stagnated badly in a 75-51 loss at Middle Tennessee.

Even in a 65-61 home victory over UTEP last Saturday night, the ball didn’t always move as Henson wanted.

But UTSA had a good day of practice in Birmingham on Friday and came to the arena on game night with a positive outlook.

The Roadrunners got a steal off the opening tip and a layup by Jackson to set the tone.

“We were just active all game,”” Jackson said. “That really helped us. We played really good ‘D.’ We were patient on offense and we got the shot we wanted.”

It certainly aided the cause that most of the shots were going in.

The Roadrunners hit 48.5 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from long distance (15 of 28).

Fading away, Jackson hits a long three out of the corner against UAB.

UTSA had made 15 threes on three other occasions this year — at Tulsa, at home against NAIA Bethany, Kansas, and on the road at Nebraska.

Against UAB, Jackson, Giovanni De Nicolao and Deon Lyle all buried four. George Willborn III, Austin Karrer and Toby Van Ry all hit one apiece.

With the victory, UTSA moved into a four-way tie for seventh in the conference race.

Middle Tennessee is first at 8-1, followed by Old Dominion and Western Kentucky, both 7-1. Marshall is 5-3. Then, UAB and North Texas at 5-4. Followed by Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, UTSA and Florida Atlantic, all 4-5.

UTSA plays at home next week, hosting Marshall on Thursday and Western Kentucky on Saturday.