Old Dominion blows out UTSA, 83-51, in Norfolk

The Old Dominion Monarchs hammered the short-handed UTSA Roadrunners with a 19-2 run in the second half Thursday night en route to an easy 83-51 victory in Conference USA men’s basketball.

In the game played at Norfolk, Va., the Roadrunners were playing without starters Cedrick Alley, Jr., and Jordan Ivy-Curry and still were within 13 points with 16 minutes left.

The Monarchs answered by turning up the intensity behind Jaylin Hunter and C.J. Keyser to push the lead to 30, at 61-31, with 10:38 remaining.

From there, UTSA was doomed to an 0-4 start in conference, with one loss by 32, one by 28 and another by 16. Old Dominion shot 62 percent from the field on the way to a 2-0 C-USA record.

The Roadrunners shot 39 percent from the field. They hit only 1 of 13 from three-point range. Erik Czumbel scored a season-high 16 for UTSA and Jacob Germany 12.

For the Monarchs, Austin Trice had 19, while Hunter and Keyser added 16 apiece. Combined, the threesome hit 22 of 32 shots from the floor.

“Never got any rhythm going offensively, and defensively, it was pretty disappointing,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast.


UTSA 7-10, 0-4
Old Dominion 7-8, 2-0


Saturday — UTSA at Charlotte, noon


When the Roadrunners stepped on the court against the Monarchs, they were without two starters, power forward Cedrick Alley Jr. and guard Jordan Ivy-Curry.

A UTSA spokesman said in a text that Alley is out for the year because of academic eligibility. Ivy-Curry is in Covid protocols, he added.

Alley played 15 games and started 14 for the Roadrunners. He averaged 9.3 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds. With Alley out, it means that the Roadrunners have lost two starters for the season in the last two weeks.

Last week, UTSA announced that Dhieu Deing was no longer on the team and planned to pursue a professional career. Deing was UTSA’s leading scorer with 15.3 points per game.

Ivy-Curry apparently did not travel, so he will be out a minimum of two games, against Old Dominion and against Charlotte on Saturday. It’s the second time that Ivy-Curry, the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.1, has been in Covid protocols this season.

He also sat out two games in December.

The game at Old Dominion marked the first of three straight for the Roadrunners in conference away from home.

First half

Old Dominion built a 33-21 lead in the first half. Perhaps predictably, the Monarchs jumped on the Roadrunners early, forging leads of 7-0 and 16-2. Outside of scoring bursts from Erik Czumbel and Jacob Germany, UTSA trailed by double digits for most of the rest of the half. Forward Austin Trice hit 7 of 7 shots from the field for 15 points to lead the Monarchs. As a team, ODU hit 15 of 25 for 60 percent. UTSA was 7 of 25 for 28 percent. Czumbel hit 5 of 7 for 11 points.

Hopes are high as UTSA unveils revamped roster in first practice

Darius McNeill is one of the new players on the UTSA men's basketball roster. He is a 6-foot-3 senior transfer guard. - photo by Joe Alexander

High-energy guard Darius McNeill told reporters that he was relieved to receive clearance from the NCAA last week to play this season. He transferred into UTSA in the offseason after two years at Cal and one at SMU. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners hit the practice floor on Wednesday afternoon, opening preseason workouts confident that they can build on a winning tradition established by departed scoring stars Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

With Jackson and Wallace, the Roadrunners produced a 65-60 record in four seasons, including 38-32 in Conference USA. The team forged winning conference records in three of four years with the duo, who left UTSA as the Nos. 1 and 2 scorers in school history.

UTSA men's basketball coach Steve Henson at the first practice for the 2021-22 season at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson starts his sixth season at UTSA hoping to find a winning formula with a revamped roster. – photo by Joe Alexander

Prior to their arrival, UTSA basketball was down, riding a dismal stretch of five straight years with losing records, both overall and in conference. So, while some of their own fans may worry about how the team can replace the two, the new group is hardly fazed by the challenge.

UTSA sophomore Jordan Ivy-Curry says he thinks he and his teammates will be fine. Asked by a reporter what life will be like without Jackson and Wallace, Ivy-Curry didn’t hesitate with his response. “It’s going to be better,” he said.

“We’re going to be better,” said Ivy-Curry, who is projected as the team’s starter at shooting guard. “Even without Keaton and Jhivvan, you know, they were great scorers, but I feel like we have some great guys that came in. They can do the same.”

Based on how the team competed in a three-hour workout at the Convocation Center, it’s obvious that the Roadrunners are different, perhaps better defensively, with a fleet of lengthy, athletic forwards and guards.

It remains to be seen how they will fare, though, without the dominant backcourt scoring prowess that Jackson and Wallace supplied.

“Obviously it’s a different feel out there,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “A lot of new energy. A lot of new faces. A lot of hungry guys. A lot of guys that are going to be fighting for roles. They think they’re fighting for shots. They need to be fighting for roles.

“But I think you can sense the excitement, the newness, the freshness.”

Also, the quickness.

With a potential starting wing group that consists of Ivy-Curry, along with newcomers Darius McNeill and Dhieu Deing, both of them transfers, the Roadrunners showed in the first workout how they can get up and down the court in a hurry.

In addition, UTSA also exhibited a physical presence in the paint with 6-11 Jacob Germany and 6-6, 230-pound power forward Cedrick Alley Jr., both of them holdovers from last year’s team that finished 15-11 overall and 9-7 in the C-USA.

Scrimmage highlights that stood out on the first day included a fast break led by McNeill, who jetted down the court, passing a few defenders along the way.

When he reached the paint, the former two-year starter at Cal in the Pac-12 stopped and two-handed a bullet pass to the corner.

When the ensuing jump shot misfired, Deing swept in from the wing to tip it in.

Deing may have had the most and memorable moments of any of the newcomers on opening day. When he wasn’t spotting up to hit threes, he showed off deft ball-handling and passing skills.

On one play, he drove baseline, attracted a defender and dumped off a pass to Lachlan Bofinger for a layup.

Even with the offensive flair on display, players cheered loudest for good defensive plays, an emphasis from the start of team building during summer workouts.

A confident group is coming together with the season opener scheduled for Nov. 9 at home against Trinity.

“Oh, we going to be better,” Ivy-Curry said. “Just watch.”

Finding a home

McNeill said it felt good to get out on the floor with his new teammates. It felt especially good because, only last Friday, UTSA announced that he had been cleared by the NCAA to play immediately without having to sit out a year.

After two years at Cal, McNeill moved to Dallas in 2019 to attend SMU, hoping to be closer to his Houston home. Also, hoping to play right away. It didn’t happen. Denied by the NCAA, he sat out all of 2019-20 before finally getting a shot with the Mustangs last season.

Feeling restless last spring, McNeill elected to transfer again, and UTSA answered the call.

“When I first came in, it was like, up and down,” he said. “I was sad, because I didn’t want to go through the same thing I did at SMU. Nobody understands, you practice every day and you’re working for something and they tell you, ‘No.’

“It was like a hurt feeling. Now I get to play. My family gets to come see me play and I get to help the team win.”

Maturing as a player

Feeling good physically, 6-foot-11 center Jacob Germany also has a sense of ease that comes from being a veteran college player. A few years ago, he was a freshman, uncertain about his ability to play the college game at a high level.

Now, he’s a junior, feeling settled and more sure of himself.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “Big mindset change. Confidence, you know, is a lot higher. Freshmen come in and most of ’em are going to be scared and just trying to fit in. I enjoy it more now. I feel more comfortable. It’s really nice, honestly.”

Stormy weather for UTSA hoops? Not likely

UTSA center Jacob Germany throws down a dunk with 2:18 left to give UTSA a 69-65 lead in a 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany is expected to emerge as one of the focal points of an offense that may take some time to find an identity. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Sitting on the living room couch this morning, it’s still dark outside, and I hear rolling thunder and cracks of lightning. Also, some wind gusts and much-needed rain.

With a cup of coffee in reach, I started thinking. This nice little break from our weeks-long streak of late summer sunshine has got to have some alternate meaning, right?

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Southern Miss 70-64 in Conference USA action at the Convocation Center on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry, who averaged 7.2 points last season, likely will take on more of a scoring load this year as a sophomore. — Photo by Joe Alexander

How about a couple of possible narratives related to the start of UTSA men’s basketball practice, which gets underway later this afternoon at the Convocation Center?

Is nature’s noisy wake-up call a portent of what we can expect this season from, say, senior and first-year point guard Darius McNeill, throwing lobs for resounding dunks to junior center Jacob Germany?

Or, perhaps, from 230-pound Cedric Alley Jr., rumbling into the paint for rebounds in traffic?

Last season, we saw glimpses of potential from guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, who came on late to stoke optimism about the emergence of another high-scoring UTSA backcourt player.

Surely, “Juice,” now a sophomore, will supply some lightning of his own in coming months.

Then again, you have to wonder also about the flip side of our weather-related metaphor, because UTSA basketball historically tends to take you on the emotional roller coaster.

Could the morning cloud-burst actually be a sign of stormy weather to come for coach Steve Henson’s program?

After all, two of the best players — if not the two best players — in school history are no longer on the team.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 in a Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Cedrick Alley Jr., slowed by injuries last season, has impressed coaches during preseason conditioning. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Both Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace combined to score more than 4,500 points between them over the past four years before undertaking a journey that both hope leads to careers in professional basketball.

So, replacing those two will not be easy.

Henson, though, doesn’t sound like a guy who is concerned about a drop off from the past four seasons.

During a month of conditioning with the new group, he generally liked what he saw. Fierce competition, mainly.

With several newcomers, individual roles were being defined on a daily basis, so the level of intensity was high.

At the same time, Henson does have questions about the team’s identity and what it might look like come next March.

“It always evolves,” Henson said last week. “Typically, you go in and you have an idea what it’s going to look like. The more new guys you have, the more questions it would be. The commitment to the defensive end seems to be pretty strong.

“That gives us the best chance to win games.

“Offensively, there may be more questions. How are we really going to find our way offensively? We’ve got guys who can score. Juice has already proven that. Jacob’s already proven that. (Newcomer) Dhieu (Deing) has already scored at a high level (in junior college).

“So, I’m not worried about it. I just don’t know exactly what our offensive identity will end up looking like.”

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.


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.”