Alley’s status uncertain as UTSA prepares for North Texas

The status of injured UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., is uncertain for Friday’s home game against the North Texas Mean Green.

“He’s pretty sore,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on a zoom call with reporters Wednesday.

Henson said Alley has spent “a lot of time” with the training staff as the Roadrunners resumed practice this week following a pair of losses at Rice last weekend.

Alley, a starter at power forward, fueled an 11-2 UTSA run late in the first half in Game 1 of the two-game series against Rice in Houston last Friday.

In one sequence, he had a steal and then hit a 3-pointer as UTSA rolled to a 48-42 intermission lead.

For the game, Alley hit 5 of 11 from the field and scored a season-high 15 points in a 95-86 loss for the Roadrunners.

He aggravated his groin during the game, Henson said. Subsequently, Alley warmed up Saturday but wasn’t able to play in Game 2 when Rice knocked off UTSA, 84-69.

UTSA has been watching him closely this week as it prepares to host North Texas, the defending Conference USA champions.

“Right now I don’t know what he’ll be able to do (Thursday) or Friday,” Henson said.

Henson said he’s hopeful that Alley’s showing at Rice is a glimpse of what he can produce as the 18-game C-USA schedule continues.

Coming up

North Texas at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
North Texas at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

North Texas 4-4, 0-0
UTSA 4-5, 0-2

UTSA cruises past UT Permian Basin, 97-71, in season opener

Eric Parrish has 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in his UTSA debut as the Roadrunners beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 at the Convocation Center.

Eric Parrish scored 19 of his team-high 20 points in the first half in his first game for the UTSA Roadrunners. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard-forward Eric Parrish produced 20 points, four rebounds and four steals Friday in his UTSA debut, and the Roadrunners cruised to a 97-71 victory at home over the UT Permian Basin Falcons.

In addition, guard Keaton Wallace scored 19 points and center Jacob Germany 15 as the Roadrunners opened their 40th season as an NCAA Division I program.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UTSA beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in the men's basketball season opener at the Convocation Center.

Cedrick Alley Jr. made his debut by stuffing the stat sheet with seven points, five rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Center Malik Brikat had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Division II Falcons.

A few minutes into the game, the Roadrunners roared off on a 22-2 run to take charge. By the end of the streak, they were up 35-11. The Falcons never got closer than 16 for the remainder of the afternoon.

“I really liked the way we started the game,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “(It was) terrific to see Parrish and Cedric (Alley Jr.) get off to a good start. Those guys are going to be so important to our season. Didn’t really know how they’d respond in a game situation … certainly they responded very, very well.”

Both were making their UTSA debut. Parrish transferred to UTSA from Nevada last fall, and coaches hoped they could obtain a waiver that would have allowed him to play last spring. But it didn’t happen.

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Henson said. “The transfer, the waiver (request), the waiting and waiting and waiting. To finally get out there and play, I know he was excited and relieved.”

Keaton Wallace had 19 points and a team-high five assists in UTSA's season opener as the Roadrunners beat UT-Permian Basin 97-71 on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 at the Convocation Center.

Keaton Wallace had 19 points and a team-high five assists. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA won’t have much time to think about what went right and what went wrong against the Falcons. Game 2 looms in less than 24 hours.

The Roadrunners will play at 3 p.m. Saturday in Edinburg against Division I UT Rio Grande Valley.

“The game we just had is over,” Alley Jr. said. “It’s time to lock in on UTRGV and go down there and just handle business.”

Roadrunners star Jhivvan Jackson, the No. 2 scorer in the nation, is expected to play after sitting out against UTPB for violating team rules.

Nineteen seconds into the first game of the season, Parrish nailed a three pointer. He finished 7 of 11 from the field, including 2 of 4 from long distance.

Afterward, Parrish said he felt good about the team’s performance and tried to downplay his own contribution.

“I feel like I did some things well,” Parrish said. “Definitely a lot of things I’m going to look back on and see where I can improve and help my teammates. You know, it felt good to get this win. Now we’re looking forward to UTRGV.”

Parrish, a 6-foot-6 athlete with long arms, big hands and quickness, finished with 19 points and three steals at the half.

Alley, a 6-6, 230-pound transfer from Houston, hit three of his first four shots. Alley finished three of 11 from the field, but he filled the box with seven points, five rebounds and three assists, a blocked shot and a steal.

“If I could give myself a grade, I’d give myself a B minus,” he said. “I could have done a little bit more on the defensive end as far as rebounding. I don’t know how many offensive rebounds we gave up, a nice little amount, so I felt I could have brought a little more there.

“But, overall, I felt like I did a pretty good job.”

Playing off their defense, the Roadrunners rolled to a 57-29 halftime lead.

The Roadrunners held the Falcons to 31 percent shooting before intermission and cranked out an 18-2 advantage on fast-break points.

Even though UTSA star Jhivvan Jackson wasn’t playing, sitting out because of a violation of team rules, newcomers Parrish and Alley supplied energy and production from the very start.

Pandemic basketball

Not only was it UTSA’s first game of the season, it was also the team’s first during the Covid-19 pandemic, with attendance limited in the Convocation Center and with chairs on both benches separated to mitigate the risk of virus spread.

The setup present presented some unique challenges.

“You look down at the bench, and the bench is all spread out. (You) Look down to sub someone in and you got to find where they’re sitting,” Henson said. “One of the things we’re going to have to figure out, is how we can get a little more communication with the assistants.

“Usually I’m up quite a bit. Walking up and down. When I do sit, (the other) coaches are giving me some pretty good input. Now, that’s a little harder. They’re farther away. I would have liked to have communicated with them a little bit better … We’re missing that because we’re so spread out.”

Starting over

Because of the pandemic, UTSA’s schedule has already taken a hit.

The Roadrunners took a flight to Oklahoma Tuesday and found out Wednesday morning that their season-opening game that night had been postponed because of Covid-19 issues in the Sooners’ program. So, they boarded a bus Wednesday afternoon and traveled back to San Antonio.

“I feel like it took a lot out of us mentally because we were so well prepared,” Alley said. “But we couldn’t do nothing about it. It’s like a blessing from above because we could have (gone) out there and played (had) someone spread it to the team, and we’d have been out for two weeks. So it’s a blessing that we were able to come back and have a game today.”

Coming up

UTSA (1-0) at UT Rio Grande Valley (0-1), 3 p.m.

Efforts to improve defensively dominated UTSA’s offseason

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to Middle Tennessee on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson says he likes the way his players have embraced a commitment to improved play on the defensive end. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A year ago, optimism soared among followers of the UTSA basketball program. Coming off two straight winning seasons, and with a high-scoring backcourt duo returning, the Roadrunners were picked to finish second in Conference USA.

For a variety of reasons, the season didn’t work out the way the pundits thought it might, and it didn’t come close to what Coach Steve Henson wanted.

UTSA finished 13-19 overall and 7-11 in the C-USA. The Roadrunners, seeded 10th in the conference’s postseason tournament, lost on opening night in Frisco to the UAB Blazers.

On Tuesday morning, eight days before the season opener at Oklahoma, Henson reflected in a telephone interview on what went wrong last winter and what the program has done to address the shortcomings going into his fifth season on campus.

“Certainly the initial response, and the most glaring area, was the defensive end,” he said. “We talked about that in the post-game on many nights (last year).

“We just didn’t get where we needed to on the defensive end. We didn’t defend at a level high enough to win enough ball games. So, that was the talk — that was all the talk in the offseason.

“It was, ‘How do we change that? How do we change our approach?’ Certainly it starts with me and having more focus and more emphasis, more time (devoted to it) in our early workouts, and we’ve done that,” Henson said.

Led again on the offensive end by Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the Roadrunners will employ some new personnel to the rotation in hopes of improving on a defense that ranked in the lower half of C-USA in field goal and three-point percentage allowed.

“I think we’ve got a group that’ll be more committed on that end,” Henson said “They want to make improvements on that end of the floor, and they understand that we can’t reach our goals unless we defend at a high level.”

The Roadrunners are looking to a pair of transfers, Cedrick Alley, Jr. and Eric Parrish, to help make up for the loss of Byron Frohnen and Atem Bior. Both will play roles in the positions of small and power forward, Henson said.

In the C-USA’s latest preseason poll, the Roadrunners are pegged for ninth place. Quite a snub for a program that won 20 games in 2016-17 and 17 in 2017-18. Both years, the Roadrunners finished 11-7 in conference.

So far this fall, Henson said he likes what he has seen from his players, in terms of embracing the defensive mindset.

“Oh, very much so,” he said. “We’ve added some new faces and we think that will help. More importantly, it’s our … commitment and our focus.

“Again, that starts with me and our coaches, just making sure that that’s the priority. We’ve got talented guys offensively, and we assume we’ll be able to put the ball in the hole.

“Now, we weren’t great offensively. I don’t think we were anywhere near we needed to be offensively, either. But all the talk has been defense — (how to avoid) the breakdowns, how to simplify things schematically on the defensive end, mindset, effort.

“All those things go into it.”

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