UTSA takes two from FAU, extends winning streak to four

Eric Parrish. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Eric Parrish came off the bench to produce 15 points and 5 rebounds Saturday as UTSA cruised past Florida Atlantic, 86-75. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The dance skills for UTSA men’s basketball coach Steve Henson are questionable, at best.

But that didn’t stop him from trying to improvise on Saturday afternoon when he walked into the locker room and saw that his players were celebrating their fourth straight victory, an 86-75 triumph at home over the Florida Atlantic University Owls.

Erik Czumbel. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Erik Czumbel scored 11 off the bench for the Roadrunners, who improved to 12-9 on the season and 8-6 in Conference USA. — Photo by Joe Alexander

“You could tell on his face,” UTSA forward Parrish said. “He came in, jumping and moving. I don’t see him move too much like that. Not even at practice.”

Later, Henson confirmed that he let loose with some emotion.

“Oh, we got to celebrate ’em,” the coach said. “Gosh. You know, it’s hard to win college basketball games.”

On Friday night, a Conference USA weekend series against FAU started with UTSA winning 84-80 in a fast-paced game. The pace slowed substantially on Saturday afternoon as athletes on both sides struggled with the quick turnaround.

But UTSA got the best of it with five players in double figures and the team shooting 50 percent from the field on an FAU squad trying to find answers in the absence of leading scorer Jailyn Ingram.

Without Ingram, a 6-foot-7 forward, the Owls produced only a few good stretches in the game. In the early going, midway through the first half, they led by three. At that point, senior guard Jhivvan Jackson and his teammates seized control and never really let up the rest of the afternoon.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Keaton Wallace, the No. 2 scorer in school history, had 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting against the Owls. — Photo by Joe Alexander

They surged into a seven-point lead at halftime. After intermission, they popped it open to 15 at one point and led by double digits almost constantly.

“We did a lot of good things two days in a row,” Henson said. “We’re on a roll here right now. We got to enjoy those. If I could dance, I would have danced, but I can’t, so we just jumped around a little bit. By the time I get in there, they always usually have celebrated a little on their own.

“You know, we got to ride this out. We’ve got different guys stepping up.”

With Jackson scoring 20 points to become the No. 2 all-time scorer in Conference USA and No. 86 in NCAA history, the Roadrunners completed a four-week run to jump from last place to fourth in the C-USA West division.

The Roadrunners haven’t won four in a row since a seven-game streak in 2018-19. The previous streak started in non conference, in December of 2018, and it carried into January of 2019, when they won first four games on the conference schedule.

This time, rolling along with a 7-1 record in the last four weeks feels especially sweet, especially after the squad started off with a 1-5 record in conference.

“Different guys are feeling good,” Henson said. “Our team’s feeling good.”

Records

UTSA 12-9, 8-6
FAU 8-9, 3-5

Coming up

UTSA at Charlotte, Friday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Notable

The Roadrunners complete the regular season with two games in Charlotte (9-11, 5-7), followed by two at home against the UAB Blazers (16-4, 9-3). The games against UAB are Feb. 26-27, dates that potentially mark the last two home games for UTSA senior stars Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the Nos. 1 and 2 scorers in school history.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson is 86th in NCAA Division I history and 2nd in the C-USA in career scoring with 2,461 points. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Jackson has 2,461 points in his career, and Wallace 1,964.

Jackson entered the weekend series against FAU with 2,411 and ranked No. 101 on the all-time NCAA Division I career scoring list. He scored 30 on Friday night and added a team-high 20 on Saturday, giving him 2,461, tied for 86th with 1950s-era La Salle star Tom Gola.

By moving into the NCAA’s Top 100 this weekend, Jackson passed the likes of Steve Alford, Chris Mullin, Glen Rice, Vernon Maxwell and Christian Laettner on the list. Now ranked No. 2 in C-USA, he bested former UTEP star Stefon Jackson, who produced 2,456 points in four seasons at UTEP through the 2008-09 season.

Television announces constantly talk about Jackson’s scoring prowess.

But his all-around game right now is as good as ever. On Saturday, for instance, he hit 8 of 13 shots from the field. Jackson also passed for nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds. For the weekend, he ran the team at point guard, hit 19 of 34 from the field and averaged 7.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds.

FAU played Saturday without Ingram, who averages 13.6 points per game.

Possibly limited by injury, he was held to 0-for-5 shooting on Friday night. UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez (knee) sat out his second straight game Saturday against FAU. It’s not certain whether he will play at Charlotte but Coach Henson is hopeful.

Roadrunners hang on to beat FAU for third straight win

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 84-80 on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in the first game of a Conference USA back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson played the pick and roll to near perfection as he scored 30 points against Florida Atlantic University. With the performance, Jackson moved up to 93rd on the NCAA Division I career scoring list with 2,441 points, one ahead of former St. John’s great Chris Mullin. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson likes to think some games come down to winning the “toughness battles.”

The Roadrunners won enough of them down the stretch Friday night and held on to defeat the Florida Atlantic University Owls, 84-80, for their third straight victory.

“Early in the second half, they came right at us,” Henson said. “Just drove it at us. (Grabbed) offensive rebounds. They won all the toughness battles there for several minutes. Drew a bunch of fouls on us. Looked up and we got five team fouls early in the second half. So we really challenged our guys in the one timeout to just play tougher.”

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 84-80 on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in the first game of a Conference USA back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany battled with 6-foot-11 FAU center Karlis Silins and came up big with a career-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. It was his fifth career double double. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Boosted by senior guard Jhivvan Jackson, who scored 30 points, and sophomore center Jacob Germany, who produced a career-high 26 points and 12 rebounds, UTSA stayed on a hot roll that they’ve kept alive for four straight weekends.

The Roadrunners built an early lead and survived 13 three-pointers by the Owls, moving to 6-1 in their last seven games.

Feeling confident, they’ll try to make it four straight wins and seven out of eight when they host the Owls in Saturday’s Game 2 of a Conference USA home series at the Convocation Center.

At the moment, it’s only Feb. 12, but with different players and combinations contributing each night, it feels like March can’t come soon enough for the Roadrunners, who are averaging 87 points in their last three.

“Each game we get in the win column, that’s just more fuel to the fire,” said Germany, who hit 13 of 21 from the field. “We’re going to try to be one of those teams that gets hot at the right time and just makes a run deep in the conference tournament.”

Records

UTSA 11-9, 7-6
Florida Atlantic 8-8, 3-4

Coming up

Florida Atlantic at UTSA, Saturday at 3 p.m.

Top 100 breakthrough

Jackson was masterful with 11-for-21 shooting, not to mention six assists and six rebounds, on a night when perhaps the best player in program history moved into the top 100 in career scoring on the all-time NCAA Division I list.

By hitting for 30, the 6-foot native of Puerto Rico increased his school-leading career total to 2,441 points, which moved him into 93rd place all time in Division I, one point ahead of former St. John’s University star Chris Mullin.

Jackson’s mid-range game has been particularly good lately.

“Usually, a lot of teams limit my three-point shooting,” Jackson said. “And they always kind of have two guys on me. But I knew today, that team switches a lot. I knew I’d have to use the five (the center, for screens) a lot, and Jacob set some good screens for me.

“I had a couple of good looks. You know, I had a couple of good looks on the floaters and a couple of curls that I missed, but those shots, coach would love for me to take, you know, instead of a hard three. I don’t usually miss mid-range. Growing up, that’s the shot I worked on all the time.”

Down to the wire

As it turned out, the Roadrunners needed just about everything that Jackson and Germany could give them.

The Owls converted on a four-point play with eight seconds left when Kenan Blackshear knocked down a three out of the corner, got fouled, and hit a free throw to make it 82-80.

Keaton Wallace hit two free throws with six seconds left to ice it.

“Once again, we brought too much drama into it,” Henson said. “Think we had a nine-point lead real late and didn’t quite close it out the way you need to. That was a little disappointing. But there were a lot of positives.”

Halftime: UTSA 44, FAU 41

FAU hadn’t played a game in 20 days because of virus interruptions, and it showed early. The Owls were erratic on the offensive end, leading to some easy baskets for the Roadrunners, who jumped out to a 15-4 lead.

Germany hit five shots in the streak, including a variety of hooks, jumpers and layups.