Florida Atlantic starts fast and routs cold-shooting UTSA, 79-64

The Florida Atlantic University Owls shut down high-scoring Jhivvan Jackson, raced to a 24-point lead in the second half and then held off the UTSA Roadrunners 79-64 Thursday night at home in Boca Raton.

In the Conference USA opener for both teams, the Owls held Jackson to a season-low eight points on 3 of 18 shooting.

Junior forward Jailyn Ingram led FAU with with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Keaton Wallace scored 27 for UTSA.

After trailing twice by 19 points in the first half, the Roadrunners made it an 11-point game at halftime and cut it to nine in the opening moments after intermission.

But after that, they suffered their worst shooting drought in weeks, missing 15 field goal attempts in a row.

Meanwhile, Richardson Maitre knocked down a pair of three-point shots mid-way through the half, boosting the FAU lead to 65-41.

The Roadrunners battled back to within 70-60 on a Wallace three with 1:21 left, but they couldn’t get any closer.

Records

UTSA 6-8, 0-1
FAU 9-5, 1-0

Coming up

UTSA at Florida International, in Miami, on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Notable

Jackson entered the game averaging 26.2 points, good for second in the nation. He hit his first shot of the game, a three, and then he misfired on his next seven field goal attempts. He closed the first half 2 of 12.

Quotable

UTSA coach Steve Henson, in his post-game radio interview on The Ticket, addressed Jackson’s early struggles. “A couple of those were forced. I thought he got fouled on one or two of ’em. I thought he was attacking. Driving and popping up. But he just couldn’t get it going.”

Notable

Florida Atlantic came out hitting shots from everywhere, at one time knocking down 15 of 21 in one stretch early in the first half.

Some of the 15-bucket barrage was a surprise, as backup center Aleksandar Zecevich sank three of them, and sub-40 percent shooters Everett Winchester and Jaylen Sebree hit two apiece.

Quotable

Henson: “They jumped right on us. We just couldn’t get shots to fall … They had some guys who normally don’t shoot perimeter jumpers (who) made some shots. Yeah, they jumped all over us. You could just see their confidence. Everyone was feeling good for them. We just couldn’t get it going.”

UTSA ‘very confident’ entering conference opener at FAU

Byron Frohnen. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior forward Byron Frohnen has started 113 games in a row for the UTSA Roadrunners. – photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners remain a work in progress — far from a finished product, but confident in their abilities — leading into a Conference USA opener Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.

Veterans on the squad believe they can win the conference. But for that to happen, they know they will need to play at a much higher level than they’ve achieved to this point.

“It’s good to see that we’re finally putting stuff together,” UTSA senior Byron Frohnen said. “We had a tough start to the year. But we’re feeling very confident right now.

“Going into conference, we’re not right at the top, but we’re at full strength and we’re ready to go.”

One reason for the optimism centers around improved play from Frohnen, who has started 113 consecutive games since first suiting up UTSA as a freshman in 2016-17.

As UTSA started the season 0-5, much of the talk centered on how the Roadrunners needed to get more out of junior guard Keaton Wallace.

But Frohnen also wasn’t playing up to standards.

“Part of that was continuing to deal with issues with his body, and not feeling 100 percent physically,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Then Byron hit a little stretch where the ball just didn’t go in the hole for him.

“There were shots around the rim that he typically shoots 55 or 60 percent (and) he was shooting 35 or 40 percent. Just a combination of not feeling good physically and dealing with a confidence issue around the rim.”

In the past two games, Frohnen has stepped up his production, pulling down 18 rebounds and shooting 7 for 12 from the field.

He’s also moving the ball well, passing for 12 assists in his last four.

With the team led by Jhivvan Jackson and Wallace in scoring, Frohnen is asked to play defense and to rebound primarily.

But when his offense is working, hustling to get easy looks around the rim and crashing the offensive glass, the Roadrunners are a much better team.

“Now his body is feeling good,” Henson said. “He’s feeling fresh. His body weight is down, which is a good key for him. He’s got good energy.”

Henson said part of Frohnen’s resurgence stems from temporary relief from a rigorous academic regimen.

In the fall, the mechanical engineering major from Las Vegas was taking a 14-hour load, often staying up well past midnight to finish assignments and projects.

Frohnen acknowledged the academic stress from his recently-completed fall semester.

“I had a crazy load in my senior year of school,” said Frohnen, who carries a 3.2 grade point average. “Classes were really tough. I had engineering projects and stuff like that going on.

“Finals week was a rough week. I was up to like 3 a.m. every night. That was a tough week. I’m glad that’s over with.”

In 2016, the 6-foot-6 Frohnen was part of Henson’s first recruiting class.

He’s been a solid contributor to an improving program ever since, averaging 7.0 points and 6.9 rebounds for his career, while defending everyone from 6-10 centers to point guards.

Now he’s a senior, trying to make the most of his last season.

“I remember being a freshman like yesterday,” he said. “Seeing these younger guys come in (this year), I was in their shoes. It just flies by. You can’t take a day for granted. I wish I could go back and play harder on certain days.

“It’s good to be here. (I’m) embracing every moment.”

UTSA (6-7) has won only three games this season against NCAA Division I competition and has a NET rating that’s No. 249 out of 353 teams in the nation and No. 12 in its 14-team conference.

But Frohnen didn’t hesitate to say he thinks the Roadrunners can win the C-USA title.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We have every piece we need to win, for sure.”

Thursday’s game

UTSA (6-7) at FAU (8-5), 6 p.m. Live video on ESPN Plus. Radio on Ticket 760 AM.

Notable

UTSA guard Adokiye Iyaye has a broken thumb on his right hand, Henson said. The coach said Iyaye, a defender and an energizer who plays off the bench, won’t play this weekend as the Roadrunners prepare to face FAU Thursday and then Florida International on Saturday in Miami.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Illinois State 89-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson ranks second in the nation in scoring at 26.2 points per game. – photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners are 6-2 since their 0-5 start. Jackson averages 26.2 points, second in NCAA Division I behind Markus Howard of Marquette at 26.3. Wallace is averaging 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

Three of the Owls’ eight victories have come against sub-Division I competition. FAU, listed at No. 227 in the NET ratings nationally and No. 11 in the C-USA, lost 60-58 in its last outing Sunday at South Florida. Newcomer Cornelius Taylor leads FAU in scoring with 11.2 points.

Last year, the Owls lost on the road at UTSA, 86-74. They finished 17-16 overall and 8-10 in the C-USA in Dusty May’s first season as head coach. The Owls dropped a 57-56 decision to Louisiana Tech in the first round of the C-USA tournament.

UTSA defeats FAU for its 10th straight win at home

Everyone, it seems, wants to know the real nickname for the UTSA tandem of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

Roadrunners coach Steve Henson admits he doesn’t know.

“I don’t,” he said. “I’ve been calling them the Dallas Duo. Other people have been calling them the Dynamic Duo. Somebody’s got to come up with something pretty good for ’em. They’ve been doing some special things.”

If they continue to play at their current level for the next three weeks, the issue may resolve itself by default.

By the first week of March, the nickname could become something mundane. Something like, say, “Conference USA champions.”

Jackson and Wallace scored 24 points each Saturday, pacing UTSA to an 86-74 victory over the Florida Atlantic University Owls.

The win was the 10th straight at home for the Roadrunners, who remained a half game back of first-place Old Dominion.

Records

Florida Atlantic 14-11, 5-7
UTSA 15-10, 9-3

C-USA leaders

Old Dominion 10-3, UTSA 9-3, North Texas 8-4, Western Kentucky 8-4, Southern Miss 7-5, UAB 6-6, Marshall 6-6. (The top five in the standings after next weekend qualify for the the top tier of the conference’s four-game bonus round.)

Title chase rundown

In other games involving the conference’s leaders, Old Dominion won on the road at Middle Tennessee, 55-50, to maintain a half game lead on UTSA. Western Kentucky claimed a 62-59 victory over North Texas in Denton.

Individuals

Florida Atlantic — Kevaughn Ellis 14 points, 4 of 6 on three-pointers. Anthony Adger 12 points, 11 rebounds. Michael Forrest 13 points, 4 assists.

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson 24 points, 6 of 12 on three-pointers. Also, 9 rebounds, 3 assists. Keaton Wallace 24 points on 5 of 13 from three. Also, 8 rebounds, 2 assists. Giovanni De Nicolao 10 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds. Off the bench, Atem Bior 9 points, 3 rebounds.

Second-half surge

With the game tied 53-53 early in the second half, UTSA reeled off 16 straight points to take control.

The UTSA defense sparked the spree by forcing FAU into seven straight missed shots and four turnovers.

De Nicolao ignited it offensively with a three-pointer. Nick Allen finished it with a driving layup to make it 69-53 with 9:21 remaining.

UTSA battled with Florida Atlantic throughout a physical first half and emerged with a seven-point halftime lead. Jackson scored 16 and Wallace 14 for the Roadrunners.

UTSA fans booed the visiting team and the referees on a few controversial plays before halftime.

On one, as seen below, Jackson drove into traffic, drew contact and fell to the floor but did not get a call.

Later, Wallace drove and got nailed, landing hard on his back and elbow. Wallace was awarded free throws, but FAU was not charged with a flagrant foul.

Notable

Jackson boosted his season average to 22.7 points per game. Wallace is averaging 21.0. They rank Nos. 1 and 3 on the updated C-USA scoring chart … Wallace’s five three-pointers gave him 101 for the season, a UTSA record … Forward Nick Allen received six stitches to repair a cut above his nose at halftime. He returned to the court with 15:56 left in the game and played most of the rest of the second half.

Florida Atlantic holds off UIW, 71-68, in the Bahamas

The Florida Atlantic Owls held off Incarnate Word in the second half Sunday for a 71-68 victory in The Islands of the Bahamas Showcase.

UIW (4-3) of the Southland Conference trailed by as many as 14 points before mounting a comeback.

The Cardinals pulled within one with less than a minute left but couldn’t sustain the rally.

Anthony Adger and Jaylen Sebree led FAU (4-1) on the final day of the tournament at Nassau, Bahamas.

Tournament summary

UIW finished 1-2 in three days of basketball at the tournament. The Cardinals lost 93-66 to Montana on Friday and then rebounded to beat North Dakota State 80-78 in overtime on Saturday.

Coming up

The Cardinals return home to face Northern Colorado on Wednesday night.

Texas’ first-year D-1 coaches

Carson Cunningham, Incarnate Word

Johnny Jones, Texas Southern

Chris Ogden, UT Arlington

Rodney Terry, UTEP