Jackson scores a season-high 41 as UTSA rolls past Illinois State

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

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson scored 25 of his season-high 41 points in the first half. With the performance, he boosted his NCAA leading average to 26.8 per game. – photo by Joe Alexander

Clearly loving the moment, UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson delivered almost as many post-game hugs to the fans as he did jaw-dropping offensive moves Saturday afternoon.

The impromptu show of affection from both player and fans broke out shortly after Jackson dropped a season-high 41 points on the Illinois State Redbirds in an 89-70 victory for the Roadrunners.

On a historic note, it was the seventh-most points in a game by a UTSA player in program history.

“We all excited to get this dub before we head out to the Christmas break,” Jackson said. “I think our defense was the main key, cause we been emphasizing that for so long, these past two weeks. We just came in to practices, and that’s all we worked on.

“We came out in the first half, played defense. I got a little hot. But, other than that, it was all because of our stops.”

Averaging 25.5 points coming into the game, Jackson nearly matched it in the first half with one of the best sequences of his career.

Jackson, the NCAA’s scoring leader, exploded for 25 before intermission.

At one point, he hit six shots in a row, including one from the middle of the court about 30 feet from the hoop.

In response, two fans seated near the end line on one side of the floor jumped up and screamed.

One of them stomped her feet and pumped two clenched fists.

“Honestly I try to take most of the shots that I practice,” said Jackson, who finished with five threes. “I think I got a couple of good looks in the first half. They went in. Coach started running a couple of plays for me. My teammates found me and they just trusted me to make shots.”

Jackson’s finished five points shy of his career high of 46 from last season at Western Kentucky. Roderic Hall holds the school record of 52 in a game played at home against Maine in December 1997.

For the game, the 6-foot junior from Puerto Rico hit 12 of 25 from the field, 5 of 11 from three and 11 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Afterward, a reporter asked UTSA coach Steve Henson if the Roadrunners just get out of the way when Jackson gets as hot as he did against the Redbirds.

“Yea, kinda,” Henson said. “We did. You know, he’s always had the ability, and a lot of his big games are just the result of him making special plays.

“(At) Texas State he had 20 in the first half, and that wasn’t because of the plays we were calling, necessarily, although I think we’re using him a little better than we ever have at any point in his career. Getting him moving into space better.

“But, yeah, he was just hot, doing special things out there.”


UTSA 5-7
Illinois State 5-7

Announced attendance


Stepping up on defense

The Roadrunners entered play on Saturday with questions mounting on how they can possibly contend for a Conference USA championship with a defense that has a tendency to get burned.

For the season, the Roadrunners were giving up 46.4 percent shooting from the field, which ranked 317th out of 350 teams in the nation.

On Wednesday night in Houston, they yielded 55.8 percent and 59.1 percent in the second half in an 88-78 loss to Oregon State.

In a turnaround of sorts, UTSA held Illinois State to 33 percent in the first 17 minutes of the game, and 40.3 percent for the game.

Getting a boost from Byron

The Roadrunners also came into the Illinois State game working on boosting the play of senior forward Byron Frohnen.

Frohnen responded with his season-high of 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting. He also contributed six rebounds and two assists.

Viewing the big picture

With the victory, UTSA showed that it can play well against mid-major competition and that it might even be capable of postseason success if it can continue to improve defensively.

At the very least, they played well enough to dream. Henson said it’s important that the Roadrunners are healthy, generally.

“Our confidence is pretty high,” he said. “The record’s not what we would have wanted it to be. It’s not the kind of start that we wanted. But, again, we want to use this game as a spring-board … to continue to make progress defensively.

“I think we’re in a position — because of our chemistry, because of our mindset right now, and just being healthy — that we can still do something special.”

By the numbers

Illinois State — The Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference fell to 0-3 on the road and to 2-3 in December. Forward Keith Fisher III led the Redbirds with 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting. Zach Copeland scored 16 and Antonio Reeves came off the bench for 12.

UTSA — Keaton Wallace had an off night with 1 of 7 shooting, but Henson shrugged it off as “one of those nights.” Wallace, UTSA’s second-leading scorer, had only five points but he also contributed six rebounds, two assists and a block.

UTSA’s top scoring games

1, 52 by Roderic Hall vs. Maine (12/6/97); 2, 51 by Derrick Gervin vs. Baylor (1/2/85); 3, 46 by Jhivvan Jackson at Western Kentucky (1/31/19); 4, 45 by Keaton Wallace at Marshall (2/2/19), T5, 42 by Frank Hampton vs. Hardin-Simmons (1/17/87); T5, 42 by Derrick Gervin vs. West Texas A&M (1/27/84); 7, 41 by Jhivvan Jackson vs. Illinois State (12/20/19).

Coming up

Winners of four of their last five and five out of seven games, the Roadrunners take a break for Christmas and then return to play at home on Dec. 28 against the San Antonio-based Our Lady of the Lake University Saints, an NAIA program.

The Roadrunners open the C-USA portion of the schedule with a trip to Florida, including games on Jan. 2 at Florida Atlantic and Jan. 4 at Florida International.

A boy, his dad and a dream: Hellums reveled in driveway hoops

Knox Hellums. UTSA beat UT-Permian Basin 98-55 on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA junior Knox Hellums has emerged as one of the team’s most efficient shooters of late, hitting 56.5 percent from the field in his last six games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not long after UTSA guard Knox Hellums started dribbling around in the driveway of his Houston-area home as a pre-elementary school basketball project, he started to swish jumpers.

“I started playing when I was, like, four years old,” the Roadrunners’ sharp-shooting, red-shirt junior said Friday afternoon.  “My dad put a hoop up in the driveway. I started shooting out there.  My dad ultimately taught me how to shoot.

“Around sixth grade, I kind of fixed my form. I’ve had the same form since sixth grade. I just kind of started in close, and then worked my way out.  Once I got bigger and stronger, I was just extending my range with the same form since then.”

After a slow start to his first season with the Roadrunners, Hellums has emerged as one of the team’s most efficient three-point threats.

In his first five games, he shot 23.8 percent from the field. In his last six, the former prep standout at Tomball Concordia Lutheran, a transfer from Pepperdine, has cranked it up to 56.5 percent, including 62.5 percent from long distance.

As Illinois State comes in for a 3 p.m. Saturday game at the Convocation Center, Hellums likely is a topic of discussion among Redbirds’ coaches, having hit at least one three-pointer in his last four games, including 4 for 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 3 for 6 against UT Permian Basin.

In that stretch, he’s averaging 7.8 points, becoming one of the team’s most valuable assets as opponents attempt to defend an offense that also features the explosive duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said he knew Hellums would come around after some anxious moments in the first few games of the year.

“With Knox, it took a little bit for him to settle in, to do what we knew he could do,” Henson said. “We believed all along that he would step up and be a good three-point shooter for us. He’s proven that he could do it in another mid-major league.”

At Pepperdine, Hellums played 58 games combined in two seasons, averaging 4.5 points each year. He sat out last season under transfer rules.

“Just a matter of him settling in, getting comfortable with us,” Henson said. “Our struggles with the team probably affected him. And vice versa. You get him to make shots, it takes pressure off the other guys, and certainly the other way around.”


UTSA 4-7
Illinois State 5-6

The matchup

Illinois State, based in Normal, Ill., is looking for its first win away from home. The Redbirds are 0-3 on neutral courts and 0-2 in road games. The Redbirds are defense-oriented, holding opponents to 69 ppg. They’ve struggled offensively averaging 68.5 points. In their last outing, they defeated Illinois-Chicago 67-66 Wednesday night by scoring the last 11 points of the game. Zach Copeland hit the game-winning three-pointer with 8.6 seconds left.

UTSA is 4-2 in its last six games but is coming off a disappointing loss to Oregon State. The Roadrunners made 15 three-point shots and still got beat, 88-78, Wednesday afternoon in Houston at the Toyota Center. The Beavers shot an opponent season-high 55.8 percent from the field, including 59.1 percent in the second half. Jhivvan Jackson leads the nation in scoring at 25.5 points per game and also averages 5.6 rebounds. Keaton Wallace is averaging 16.1 points.


UTSA has two games left before its opening game in Conference USA. After today, the Roadrunners get a break for the holiday and then host Our Lady of the Lake on Dec. 28. UTSA starts C-USA play with a road trip to Florida, including games at Florida Atlantic on Jan. 2 and Florida International on Jan. 4.


“We cannot continue to have the type of defensive numbers that we have right now and do anything special in conference play. Our guys recognize that. We have to improve. We have to get better. And our guys embrace it. Some things we can control. Some things we can’t. We’re going to have some lineups where we’re not the quickest. Not the most athletic. But, we can guard better.” — Henson, discussing his team’s struggles on defense.