Defense sparks victory as UTSA sweeps No. 23 Charlotte

Returning home from the East Coast a week ago, the UTSA Roadrunners had lost two of three at Florida Atlantic and eight of their last 11 overall.

But after getting back to town, the Roadrunners found something.

They started with a 6-4 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night at Incarnate Word, followed by a 12-8 road win at 12th-ranked TCU on Wednesday. Finally, they completed a five-games-in-six-days stretch with three straight wins at home against the 23rd-ranked Charlotte 49ers.

The Roadrunners capped the sweep of the defending C-USA regular-season champions with an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon. The game was shortened to seven innings because of time constraints on a travel day for Charlotte.

In the aftermath of an exhausting stretch, UTSA emerged with an 18-10 record, a 5-4 mark in the conference and perhaps a rising level of confidence.

“We played good baseball,” Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark said. “I actually did not think we played very good on Tuesday (at UIW). But we persevered, and we won. The other four games, we played good. The defense was the key.

“You know, hitting comes and goes, and we’re still young on the mound. So, we’re going to be up and down (with the pitching). Hopefully in a couple of years, we’re much more consistent there.

“But the (pitchers) we’re relying on are young. They’re doing a good job. The key to me this week was the defense. From Wednesday to Sunday, those four games, we really defended very well.”

A play in the top of the fourth on Sunday stood out in Hallmark’s mind.

With UTSA leading 3-0, Charlotte had a runner aboard at first with nobody out when 49ers star Austin Knight roped a pitch from Braden Davis deep into the gap in right center.

Roadrunners’ center fielder Shane Sirdashney sprinted to his left, traveled a long way, and made a running catch.

As it turned out, the play saved at least one run. One out later, Charlotte’s Cam Fisher unloaded by slicing a two-run homer to left.

Davis got out of it with only two runs allowed. In the bottom half, the Roadrunners pushed across a run on a Jonathan Tapia sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

“Dash is pretty good,” Hallmark said of Sirdashney’s play in the field. “The jump is the key for him. He reads the ball good off the bat. He has those long strides. He made it look pretty easy. But he was running when he caught it. It’s not that easy.

“Just because he didn’t dive doesn’t mean it’s an easy play. He ended up tweaking something, too. We ended up taking him out of the game. Not sure what it was. Groin or (hamstring) or what.”

After the series at Florida Atlantic, the season for the Roadrunners had a chance to go downhill — and fast. But it didn’t. Now, it’s headed on a different trajectory.

“They’re hungry,” Hallmark said. “But, what’s the alternative? I know it seems like a coach answer. But if you don’t come hungry and ready to play, the alternative is not good.

“The guys understand. Guys like Tapia, they’ve been around. Chase Keng. They’ve been around. You don’t have to motivate ’em. I might coach ’em mechanically on something every now and then but there’s no motivational talks with these guys.

“Some of the young guys, they’re learning how to do it. We might coach those guys a little more. But Ian Bailey, Leyton Barry, they’ve been around. The alternative to not being ready is … we don’t even go there.”

The experience factor came into play on the last play of the game. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh, Knight hit a grounder toward the hole on the left side of the infield.

Tapia, playing third, gloved the ball but lost his footing. Then, somehow, he threw from his knees to second base for a force play. Game over. Sweep completed.

“The ball was hit with a lot of over spin,” Hallmark said. “The little subtleties of the game, with a natural surface field in South Texas, this field’s always hard. So any ball hit with over spin is tricky and nasty.

“Those are the ones you see bounce up on infielders. He over-committed a little. It cost him the footing. But, like you’re saying, the experience allowed him to recover. It was a fantastic play by an experienced player … a terrific play.”

At the end of the week, Tapia’s finger prints were all over the five-game streak. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, the senior from O’Connor had three hits apiece in those victories. That all came before Sunday, when he secured the victory with his glove, and his poise.

“He’s really good,” Hallmark said. “He held us together last year (with his versatility) and he’s doing it again.”

Records

UTSA 18-10, 5-4
Charlotte 17-10, 4-5

Coming up

Wednesday — Stephen F. Austin at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 5 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 11 a.m.

Notable

Junior right-hander Daniel Shafer completed the seventh inning to earn his second save in two days. For the week, he was 1-0 with the two saves in three appearances. Since Tuesday, Shafer pitched 4 and 1/3 innings scoreless, allowing only two hits and one walk. He struck out one.

The Roadrunners are 5-0 this season against ranked opponents, including a 6-5, 10-inning home victory against Stanford on Feb. 28, a 12-8 win at TCU last Wednesday and then 13-3, 8-7 and 8-5 victories over Charlotte. All three ranked opponents played in the NCAA tournament last year.

Young, 49ers fend off a Roadrunners rally to win, 62-53

Jahmir Young scored 15 and Syracuse transfer Robert Braswell added 14 Saturday as the Charlotte 49ers turned back the energetic but short-handed UTSA Roadrunners, 62-53.

Young, the leading scorer in Conference USA, hit only 4 of 13 shots from the field.

But with a well-rounded game, he helped to hand the Roadrunners their fourth straight loss with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

In a road game for UTSA played at Charlotte’s Halton Arena, only a few fans turned out due to impending bad weather and the Covid-19 threat.

The Roadrunners, playing without three starters, seemed to take advantage of the lack of energy in the building by erasing most of a 19-point deficit.

Down 32-13 early, they came back to pull within 42-37 with 10 minutes left.

In the end, without Jordan Ivy-Curry, Cedrick Alley Jr. and Dhieu Deing, they didn’t have enough firepower to sustain the momentum.

Deing (pro ball aspirations) and Alley (academics) are no longer with the team. They won’t be back this season. Ivy-Curry (Covid protocols) could return next week.

UTSA was concerned coming in that Charlotte’s offensive style, with cuts and back-cuts, would pose a problem.

While the 49ers didn’t hit a high percentage of shots from the field (34.7 percent), they did force their way to the free-throw line, where they hit 20 of 24, including 14 of 18 in the second half.

Another problem for the Roadrunners centered around decisions they made with the ball when they had it close to the basket.

A 13-1 lead for UTSA in second-chance points likely could have been an even wider margin, given a massive 19-5 edge in offensive rebounding for the Roadrunners.

Looking back, the Roadrunners probably wished they had either taken the ball stronger to the basket on the put-back attempts, or they should have dribbled out and re-started the possession.

Records

UTSA 7-11, 0-5
Charlotte 9-5, 2-0

Coming up

The Roadrunners were scheduled to return to San Antonio Saturday night. In coming days, they’ll begin preparations for a road game at UTEP on Thursday of next week.

Jan. 20 — UTSA at UTEP, 8 p.m.
Jan. 23 — UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m.
Jan. 27 — FIU at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 — FAU at UTSA, 1 p.m.

Notable

UTSA forward Aleu Aleu apparently suffered an injury in the first half and didn’t return.

The Roadrunners shot 29.4 percent from the field (20 of 68). From three-point distance, they hit only 12.5 percent (2 of 16). Christian Tucker emerged as UTSA’s leading scorer with 10 points. Without the team’s other primary scoring threats on the floor, junior center Jacob Germany faced traps and double teams most of the afternoon, and as a result he hit only 2 of 9 shots.

Freshman Lamin Sabally and sophomore Lachlan Bofinger supplied good energy when they were on the floor. Sabally scored six points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Bofinger had six points and nine rebounds.

UTSA holds off Charlotte, 72-62, advances to C-USA quarterfinals

The UTSA Roadrunners celebrated in the locker room Wednesday night after opening the Conference USA championships with a 72-62 victory over the Charlotte 49ers.

At the same time, the good vibes were mixed with a sense of urgency on what comes next.

“We were excited that we were going to enjoy it for the next 20 or 30 minutes or so,” UTSA center Jacob Germany said. “But, we came here to win more than one game. So, we’re all feeling good, confident. But we’re locked into the next one, too.”

The Roadrunners advanced in the bracket into a quarterfinal matchup Thursday against the powerful Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The tournament is being held at The Star in Frisco.

In running up a 41-26 lead at halftime, the Roadrunners held the 49ers to 28 percent shooting, and senior guard Jhivvan Jackson exploded for 18 points.

UTSA’s defense played well at the outset, as well. Players really clamped down in the closing minutes of the half, limiting the 49ers to 1 of 8 shooting from the floor.

In the half, the 49ers hit only 7 of 25 shots.

Jackson was as good as ever in the early going. He hit two threes and scored 10 in the first eight minutes. For the half, he was 7 of 13 from the field.

UTSA experienced a scare with its leading scorer with about four minutes left before intermission, as he came out of the game holding his left shoulder. Jackson, who had suffered what Coach Steve Henson described as ‘like a stinger,’ returned with 3:49 remaining and played the rest of the way.

In the second half, Jackson wasn’t the same offensively as he went scoreless on 0 for 6 shooting. But as the 49ers rallied to get back into it, Keaton Wallace and Germany stepped in to stop the charge.

Wallace poured in 11 of his team-high 20 points and Germany scored 10 of his 16 after intermission. Germany also finished with 10 rebounds for his first postseason double-double.

Asked if he was worried when the 49ers started to make a run, Germany said, “Mmm, kind of.”

“Coach told us they were going to get into their little groove offensively and try to slow the game down,” he said. “We always knew they would eventually get going. But I think we did a good job in responding and controlling the game.”

For the streaking Roadrunners, it was their 10th win in their last 12 games. It was also their first win at the C-USA tournament since 2018 when they beat UTEP in the opening round before bowing out with a loss to Middle Tennessee in the quarterfinals.

In 2019, the Roadrunners had a first-round bye into the quarterfinals but stumbled in a loss to the UAB Blazers.

Last season, UTSA lost in the opening round, falling to UAB for the second straight year on March 11, the day before the tournament was scrapped because of the pandemic.

Charlotte’s season ended on a nine-game losing streak. The 49ers were led by guards Jordan Shepherd with 20 points and Jahmir Young with 19.

Records

UTSA 15-10
Charlotte 9-16

Coming up

Conference USA quarterfinals
Thursday, at The Star, in Frisco

UTSA vs. Western Kentucky, 5:30 p.m.
Rice vs. UAB, 6 p.m.

Looking ahead

Western Kentucky (18-6) is the No. 1 seed out of the C-USA East Division. The Hilltoppers boast the Player of the Year, center Charles Bassey. Bassey, a 6-11 center, averages 17.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.

Guard Taveion Hollingsworth (14.3 points and 2.3 assists) is also a threat. The Hilltoppers won in non- conference play against Memphis, Rhode Island and on the road at Alabama. They topped the C-USA East standings at 11-3. It’s the first game of the tournament for WKU, which earned a first-round bye. Because of the unbalanced schedule this year, the Roadrunners did not play them.

“They had a terrific year,” Henson said. “We didn’t get to play all the teams in the East this year. But we’re excited. We’ve got great respect for them. They’re clearly one of the best teams in the East and the No. 1 seed. We know what Bassey will do, and it’s not a one-man show. You know, and they’ve got some other really, really good players. It’ll take a great effort. But, shoot our guys are fired up. They’re excited.”

UTSA set to play Charlotte in C-USA championships

The UTSA Roadrunners will open play in the Conference USA basketball championships against the Charlotte 49ers, according to the bracket announced Saturday.

The 14-team men’s tournament starts Tuesday with a pair of first-round games at The Star in Frisco. As the No. 4 seed in the West, UTSA will open play in the second round on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against the 49ers, the No. 5 seed in the East.

UTSA enters tournament play having won nine of its last 11, while Charlotte has lost eight straight. The two teams were scheduled to play Feb. 19-20 in North Carolina, but the games were scrapped because of the winter storm in Texas.

If the Roadrunners beat the 49ers, they would advance to play in the third round Thursday against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the No. 1 seed in the East. UTSA will need to win four games in four days to secure the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Records

Charlotte 9-15, 5-11
UTSA 14-10, 9-7

Notable

Please click on the link for full details on the C-USA championships.

UTSA road games at Charlotte are postponed

The last road trip of the regular season for the UTSA Roadrunners has been postponed because of winter-weather issues in Texas over the past week, it was announced Thursday night.

UTSA had been scheduled to travel on Thursday afternoon in order to play road games against the Charlotte 49ers on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

But the trip was scrapped in the wake of winter storms that have adversely affected the state of Texas for the past four days. A release from UTSA did not mention possible make up dates.

The Roadrunners (12-9, 8-6 in Conference USA) had won four in a row, sweeping two on the road at Florida International and two at home against Florida Atlantic.

According to the news release, UTSA “will now return to action with its final games of the regular season,” hosting the UAB Blazers Feb. 25-26 at the Convocation Center.

Shepherd scores 26 as Charlotte rolls past UTSA, 91-84

Jordan Shepherd scored 26 points to lead four players in double figures in a 91-84 victory Saturday over the UTSA Roadrunners.

Charlotte held UTSA to 8 of 31 shooting on three-pointers, with UTSA scoring star Jhivvan Jackson limited to 1 for 11.

At one point late in the game, the Roadrunners were 4 for 23 from deep.

Guard Keaton Wallace hit three 3-pointers in the last two minutes en route to a team-high 27 points.

Jackson, the nation’s second-leading scorer, had 25 points and eight rebounds as the Roadrunners split two games on a Conference USA road trip.

Records

Charlotte 14-9, 8-4
UTSA 11-14, 5-7

Notable

UTSA had won its last two C-USA road games, including an 85-81 overtime victory at Old Dominion on Thursday night. But Charlotte had too many hot hands. Besides Shepherd, Malik Martin (19 points), Jahmir Young (16) and Drew Edwards (13) riddled the Roadrunners’ defense.

Quotable

“You know, we really wanted to come in here and sort of back up what we did at ODU the other night. But we couldn’t get it done.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson told KTKR radio.

Jackson scores 28, as UTSA rolls past Charlotte, 88-43

Sophomore guard Jhivvan Jackson steps back behind the three-point line to hoist a shot. Jackson hit six threes against the Charlotte 49ers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners didn’t like the feeling of losing two in a row in Conference USA.

In response, they took out their frustrations on the Charlotte 49ers, rolling to an 88-43 victory Thursday night at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Coming on the heels of road losses at Middle Tennessee and UAB, it was UTSA’s largest winning margin against an NCAA Division I program in three seasons under Coach Steve Henson.

It was also the program’s widest margin of victory in a C-USA game since joining the conference for the 2013-14 season.

Sophomore Jhivvan Jackson led the way with 28 points on an efficient 11 of 19 shooting from the field. He hit six three-pointers.

UTSA led by 25 at intermission and boosted it into the 30s four minutes into the second half.

The lead expanded into the 40s with two minutes left and grew to 45 on the last bucket of the night, a layup by reserve forward Adrian Rodriguez, with 19 seconds remaining.

Records

Charlotte 5-14, 2-6
UTSA 11-9, 5-2

Notable

Previously, UTSA’s largest margin of victory in a C-USA game (21) came three years ago against Southern Miss. The Roadrunners beat the the Golden Eagles 74-53 on Feb. 20, 2016 at the Convocation Center.

Quotable

“We were really locked in defensively. Then Jhivvan got hot. We did some good things offensively anyway, and then he got real, real hot, and we popped the game open in the first half.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson.

Coming up

UTSA will host the C-USA title-contending Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday at 3 p.m. Old Dominion downed the UTEP Miners, 50-48, Thursday in El Paso.

With the win, the Monarchs improved to 16-5 and 6-2 in the C-USA. They lead the conference standings over Marshall, North Texas, UTSA and UAB, all at 5-2.


Jackson hits one of his five first-half three pointers. He swished this one after a defender put a hand in his face. Jackson created some space between him and the defender with a slight lean to his right.

First half

Jackson scored 21 points in 18 minutes in the first half for the Roadrunners, who rolled to a 44-19 lead on Charlotte at intermission.

Jackson was 8 of 13 from the field and was particularly deadly from long distance, hitting five of nine.

He hoisted his last trey from a spot directly in front of the Charlotte bench (see video above).


Sophomore Keaton Wallace breaks free for a floater in the lane as UTSA scores off an out-of-bounds play in the second half.

Taking an early lead

Charlotte was in the game for the first five minutes. The 49ers took an 8-6 lead when guard Jon Davis sank a driving layup.

After that, UTSA responded with a 16-0 run, capped by three consecutive threes from Jackson.

The last one made it 22-8 with 10:52 remaining.

Sub-plots

Jackson effectively bounced back from two erratic shooting nights on the road. He hit a combined 18 of 49 from the field last week against Middle Tennessee and UAB … The Roadrunners have won eight of their last 10 games overall … They connected on 55.7 percent from the field for a season best against a Division I opponent … In addition, they also established a season high by limiting the 49ers to 29.6 percent … Jon Davis, Charlotte’s scoring leader, was held nine points under his average. He finished with 12.

Individuals

Charlotte — Jon Davis, 12 points, 5 of 11 shooting.

UTSA — Jackson, 28 points on 11 of 19 from the floor and 6 of 12 from three. Keaton Wallace, 15 points and three assists. Adokiye Iyaye, 12 points, 5 of 6 shooting, three offensive rebounds.


Jackson scores his final basket with 6:46 remaining as he picks up a loose ball in the lane and lays it in. The ball popped out when two Charlotte players fumbled the rebound, emblematic of a tough night for the 49ers.

Back home, UTSA hopes to rediscover the winning formula

Byron Frohnen. Oklahoma beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Byron Frohnen says he’s encouraged by the team’s focus leading into tonight’s home game against Charlotte. – Photo by Joe Alexander

As much as UTSA forward Byron Frohnen hated the outcome of his team’s two most recent games, he said Wednesday he liked the attitude and the attention to detail at practice this week leading into tonight’s home test against the Charlotte 49ers.

Players have more on their minds right now with school back in session, Frohnen said, but he added that the Roadrunners have been determined to get back to their winning formula.

“Everyone’s got classes,” Frohnen said. “Some people are coming in late for practice, which kind of sucks. But I did feel like we were locked in, and the intensity was good. All of us are a little tired, fatigued. But we just got to keep fighting through it.

“It’s just another week in conference. There’s a lot of season still to go.”

When the Roadrunners last played at the UTSA Convocation Center 12 days ago, they defeated North Texas for their seventh straight win. They also moved into sole possession of first place in Conference USA.

Since then, they were humbled with consecutive road losses at Middle Tennessee and UAB.

The loss in Tennessee stung, in particular, because the Blue Raiders had lost 13 straight before they knocked off the Roadrunners, 89-86.

After falling to UAB 83-73 last Saturday, the Roadrunners have dropped into a tie for fourth in conference, while bracing for homecourt challenges against the 49ers tonight and the Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday afternoon.

In practices this week, the Roadrunners tried to clean up execution on both offense and defense, all while preparing for a quirky opponent in the 49ers, who play deliberately and try to milk as much of the shot clock as possible.

They feature senior guard Jon Davis, who leads the C-USA in scoring, averaging 21.4 points.

Two years ago, in the first season for a UTSA coaching staff led by Steve Henson, Davis beat the Roadrunners in San Antonio with a late shot.

“He’s a big-time scorer,” Henson said. “I know when we got the job here two years ago, people said he was one of the best guards in the league. He’s two and half years older than he was then, so we have a great deal of respect for him.”

Charlotte is coming off a 76-70 loss at home on Monday against Old Dominion. UTSA has won six in a row on its home court.

C-USA Standings

North Texas 5-1, 17-2
Marshall 5-1, 12-7
Old Dominion 5-2, 15-5
UAB 4-2, 12-7
UTSA 4-2, 10-9
FIU 4-3, 13-7
W.Kentucky 3-3, 10-9
LATech 3-4, 13-7
SouthernMiss 3-4, 11-8
Rice 2-4, 7-12
MiddleTenn 2-4, 5-14
FAU 2-5, 11-9
Charlotte 2-5, 5-13
UTEP 1-5, 6-11

Charlotte wins 10-4 to end UTSA’s season

Todd Elwood stroked two hits and produced three RBI Saturday as the Charlotte 49ers beat UTSA, 10-4, at the Conference USA tournament.

The setback ended the season for the Roadrunners.

Charlotte put the game away with five runs in the seventh inning.

Drew Ober capped the rally with a two-run double.

Trent Bowles hit a grand slam to give the Roadrunners a 4-2 lead in the third.

Records

UTSA 32-24
Charlotte 33-24