Deja vu? Not quite, as UTSA rolls late to beat UTEP, 86-70

Atem Bior. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Atem Bior produced a career-high 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Roadrunners improved their record in Conference USA to 3-3. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson was grinning slightly as he walked around the perimeter of a media scrum and moved into position for his post-game interview session Saturday afternoon.

Before taking a single question, he had one declaration to make.

Steve Henson. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it felt good to make enough plays at the end to beat the UTEP Miners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Fire away,” Henson said. “A dollar for the first one that says, ‘Was that (game) just like Wednesday?’ Yes.”

True enough.

The teams were the same — the UTEP Miners against Henson’s Roadrunners. The flow of the game was also about the same, with the Miners executing a thrilling second-half rally for the second time in four days.

But, with all due respect, this one was different in an important way.

The Roadrunners won this one, even though they did fritter away most of a 23-point lead before steadying themselves at the end to nail down an 86-70 victory over the Miners.

With the decision, the Roadrunners improved to 8-1 at home and gained a measure of redemption after blowing a 24-point lead and then losing 80-77 to the Miners in overtime at El Paso.

After the game in West Texas, the Roadrunners returned to San Antonio in a funk, having squandered their second golden opportunity in two weeks to win on the road in Conference USA.

Coming home, they knew they had to make amends.

“Just glad our guys bounced back the way they did,” Henson said. “Had two good days of preparation. Weren’t real long practices, but we worked real hard on keeping our legs fresh and making a few adjustments.

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman center Jacob Germany went 4 for 4 from the field, including a highlight-reel dunk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Came out and re-established what we’d established in the first half (in El Paso).”

In the first half at El Paso, UTSA looked very good.

After that, everything unraveled, as the Miners roared from behind with separate runs of 17-0 and 8-0 en route to the biggest comeback in school history and the biggest in NCAA Division I this season.

Less than 72 hours later, both teams tipped off in San Antonio, and a season-high crowd of 1,684 fans watched curiously as deja vu started to set in.

With 61 percent shooting, the Roadrunners bolted to a 48-31 halftime lead, and then they emerged from the dressing room after intermission with equal intensity.

They continued to apply pressure on the Miners, hiking the advantage to 62-39 when Atem Bior scored on a bucket in the paint.

At that point, just as they did a few nights ago, the Roadrunners got careless with the ball, started turning it over at an alarming rate and allowed the Miners to rally.

Nevil Shed was at Saturday's UTSA vs. UTEP men's basketball game. Shed is a basketball legend in both San Antonio and El Paso.

Texas basketball legend Nevil Shed takes in Saturday’s game at the Bird Cage. He played for the 1966 NCAA champion Miners of Texas Western College (now UTEP) and later became an assistant coach and an administrator at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTEP capitalized on five turnovers, blitzing the home team with a stunning 19-2 run over the next five minutes.

All of a sudden, in a game that looked lost, the Miners had life — down by six with 7:25 remaining.

“To be honest, it felt worse tonight, than it did on Wednesday,” Henson said of the UTEP comeback. “On Wednesday, it wasn’t like we totally lost our composure.

“Tonight, it was. We were throwing that ball around, making weak plays. It was very, very similar.

“…What happened (in El Paso) was in our minds a little bit. So, yeah, the wheels came off. But, we regrouped and finished the game better.”

Aided by big plays from Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace, Luka Barisic and Makani Whiteside, the Roadrunners constructed a 17-6 run to put the game away.

A couple of Jackson free throws with 1:54 remaining capped the streak and widened the lead to 81-64.

Records

UTEP 11-8, 2-4
UTSA 9-10, 3-3

Coming up

Winless on the road in the C-USA at 0-3, UTSA plays next at North Texas (on Thursday) and at Rice (next Saturday.) Both with a tip off at 7 p.m.

By the numbers

UTEP — Bryson Williams produced 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting, 7 rebounds. He had 34 points Wednesday night. Souley Boum scored 18 points. Not counting Williams, the Miners hit only 16 of 53 shots from the field (30.1 percent). Guard Daryl Edwards, who hurt the Roadrunners in El Paso, scored only three on 1 of 10 shooting.

UTSA — It’s notable that the Roadrunners beat a good team on a day when they made only six three-point shots. Known for their long-distance artistry, they were 6 of 20 from three. They made up for it with strong play from big men Atem Bior (13 points, 7 rebounds), along with Jacob Germany and Luka Barisic (both with 9 points).

Jackson and Wallace

The highest-scoring tandem in Division I combined for 44 points. Jackson produced 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Wallace scored 21, and also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jackson was off the mark with his shooting touch (5 of 14), including a missed layup late in the game, but he sank 12 of 12 at the line. Wallace hit 8 of 18 from the field.

First-half recap

Wallace scored 16 points and Bior came up big with 11 points and five rebounds, leading the Roadrunners to a 48-31 advantage at the break. UTSA played strong defense, limiting the Miners to 35.3 percent shooting. UTSA also won the battle of the boards, 23-16. On the offensive end, the Roadrunners sizzled at 61.3 percent. UTSA hit eight of its last nine shots before intermission.

Second-half summary

After the Miners pulled to within six, Barisic stopped the run with a three-point play. Later, the Miners had it down to nine when Whiteside nailed a three from the arc to make it a 12-point game with 4:30 remaining. From there, UTSA never allowed UTEP to cut the lead under 10. Jackson made sure of it by hitting six of six at the free throw line in the last two minutes.

Roadrunners hope to even the score against the UTEP Miners

The UTSA Roadrunners will certainly know more about what to expect from forward Bryson Williams and the UTEP Miners Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

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

Jhivvan Jackson produced 29 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday in an overtime loss at UTEP. – photo by Joe Alexander

But just because they’re more familiar with the Miners’ personnel and game plan, it doesn’t mean that the rematch will be any easier to win than their first meeting of the season.

Behind Williams, UTEP rallied at home on Wednesday night, battling back from a 24-point deficit to knock off UTSA 80-77 in overtime in the first of two Conference USA games this week between the in-state rivals.

The Roadrunners will try to even the score when the teams meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

“It’s going to be a grind it out game,” UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson said. “It’s not going to be easy. They’re one of the top defensive teams in the nation. They going to make us work. But we going to make them work, as well.

“We want to make them take hard shots, just like they want us to take hard shots. That’s kind of … the game plan, just come in with a defensive mindset, and have the offense take care of itself.”

Leading 54-30 with 14 minutes remaining Wednesday night, the Roadrunners failed to close out the game.

They were left stunned when the Miners outscored them 38-14 to the regulation buzzer.

Emboldened by the comeback, UTEP took a two-point lead into the final minute of overtime and then forced 3-point misses from Jackson and Keaton Wallace in the final seconds.

Miners guard Daryl Edwards knocked down a free throw with one second remaining for the final margin.

For the Roadrunners, it was the second time in the first three weeks of the C-USA schedule that they have allowed road games to slip through their fingers.

It happened first in Miami two weeks ago when Florida International stole an inbounds pass and hit a buzzer beater to tie the game in regulation, and then stormed to a 90-83 victory in overtime.

It happened again in El Paso when Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward in his first season with the Miners, finished with a season-high 34 points and 10 rebounds.

After scoring a modest 10 points in the first half, the Fresno State transfer started to get hot.

He made several tough shots out of the low post after intermission on the Roadrunners, who lost in spite of solid games from Jackson (29 points, 13 rebounds) and Keaton Wallace (26 points).

Despite the mounting adversity, Jackson said UTSA’s attitude has been good.

“Everybody on this team knows we should have pulled that one out,” Jackson said. “There’s no doubt about that. But, all we can do from that is just learn as a team.

“We got to learn how to close out games. I think that’s been one of our weaknesses just lately.”

Records

UTSA 8-10, 2-3
UTEP 11-7, 2-3

Notable

Newcomer Eric Parrish practiced with the Roadrunners in five on five drills Friday afternoon, but it remains uncertain when — or if — he will be allowed to play this season.

Coach Steve Henson said that UTSA communicated with the NCAA on the matter earlier this week. But the coach said he hasn’t heard about any ruling yet.

Parrish is an athletic, 6-foot-6 guard-forward who could give the team an immediate boost.

He has played one season at Akron in NCAA Division I and one in junior college. After that, he spent part of last semester at Division I Nevada.

But because Nevada changed coaches last summer and because Parrish didn’t play in any games for the Wolf Pack this season, UTSA is asking if he can play immediately for the Roadrunners.

Most players transferring from one D-I program to another are required by NCAA rule to sit out a year.

Trailing by 24 points, UTEP rallies past UTSA in overtime, 80-77

Junior forward Bryson Williams exploded for 34 points, and the UTEP Miners rallied from 24 points down to beat the UTSA Roadrunners 80-77 in overtime Wednesday night in Conference USA basketball.

UTSA built a 42-28 lead at halftime, extended it to 54-30 with 14:43 remaining in regulation and then couldn’t hold on at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.

“There’s going to be so many things we’re going to look at, and second-guess every single decision we made there,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “We were up 24 … and started turning it over and couldn’t get stops.

“(Against Williams) we went zone and (we) liked that for a few possessions, and they kept pounding it into him regardless of what defense we were in. Yeah, it’s tough. Really tough.”

With the victory, UTEP snapped a five-game losing streak to UTSA in the series between C-USA rivals. It was the first victory for the Miners over the Roadrunners since Jan. 21, 2017.

The loss kept UTSA winless on the road in the C-USA (0-3) this year.

In two of the losses — at Florida International and at UTEP — the Roadrunners squandered perfectly good chances to win in regulation, only to collapse and then lose in the first overtime.

Scoring leaders

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson 29, Keaton Wallace 26.
UTEP — Bryson Williams 34, Daryl Edwards 18.

Records

UTEP 11-7, 2-3
UTSA 8-10, 2-3

Coming up

UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m. Saturday

First-half recap

The Roadrunners outscored the Miners 20-6 in the paint and forged a 22-17 lead on the boards en route to a commanding 42-28 advantage at intermission. Down by three points early, UTSA went on a 17-2 tear behind Jackson to take charge of the game. Later, UTEP rallied to within six. But Wallace exploded for the Roadrunners, who outscored the Miners 14-6 in the last six minutes

Second-half summary

Luka Barisic hit a bucket inside and knocked down two from three-point range as UTSA scored 12 of the first 14 points after intermission.

After that, the Miners slowly started to get back into it. With the Roadrunners committing a few unforced turnovers, Williams posted up on the other end and started hitting shots, even inside the zone. Williams scored 20 in the second half on 8 for 12 shooting from the field 4 for 4 at the line.

Both teams had a chance to win it in the final minute but couldn’t score. For UTSA, Wallace was called for a charge. On the other end for UTEP, Eric Vila misfired on a three and Nigel Hawkins couldn’t hit from close range.

Overtime

Jackson hit a jumper and connected on a pair of free throws as UTSA started fast and took a one-point lead. But Williams answered with a jumper to make it 75-74 with 2:21 remaining. The Miners scored on their next two possessions, and the Roadrunners never led again. With UTSA down by two, Jackson and Wallace both misfired on threes in the final seconds.

UTSA hits 15 three-pointers and downs Southern Miss, 80-70

Byron Frohnen. UTSA beat Southern Miss 80-70 on Saturday for the Roadrunners' second straight Conference USA victory at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Byron Frohnen enjoyed another strong performance with nine points and eight rebounds as UTSA improved its conference record to 2-2. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners followed up their best game of the season with a victory, but it wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy coach Steve Henson.

Henson knows his team can play better than it did in downing the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 80-70, Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southern Miss 80-70 on Saturday for the Roadrunners' second straight Conference USA victory at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 23 points on 7 of 18 shooting after shaking off a pre-game knee issue. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA buried 15 three-point shots to make up for other issues in a grind-it-out, tougher-than-expected performance against a struggling program.

“Well, to be honest, we didn’t feel great about our practice yesterday or our shoot-around today,” Henson said. “Wasn’t terrible. Wasn’t terrible. But, you can’t have one good game and feel like you’ve arrived.

“I don’t think our guys had conscious bad thoughts. But it was noticeably a little different. Didn’t jump ’em in practice or in the shoot around the way we maybe should have.

“But, you could tell, we just weren’t quite focused.”

On Thursday night, the Roadrunners played well for most of the game in rolling to an 89-73 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, a team that arrived in San Antonio with a NET national rating of No. 59.

Against the Golden Eagles, rated No. 309, the Roadrunners had to scramble to win by double digits after allowing the lead to be trimmed to three twice, the last time with 6:28 remaining.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, rated No. 209, they switched to a zone defense to thwart the Eagles at the end.

They also hit all eight free throws down the stretch, including six of six by Jhivvan Jackson, to put the visitors away.

Jackson, the second-leading scorer in the nation, produced 23 points and six rebounds to pace the Roadrunners. Keaton Wallace added 16 points and four assists.

As a team, the Roadrunners nailed 15 of 27 from behind the arc to give them 33 of 59 on the homestand.

Six players hit from deep, including little-used freshman Makani Whiteside, who made two of them in the second half.

Records

UTSA 8-9, 2-2
Southern Miss 4-13, 0-4

Coming up

UTSA travels to play at UTEP on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The two teams will play again in San Antonio next Saturday at 3 p.m.

Jackson’s adversity

Even with two victories in the past three days, Jackson endured a difficult week, in some respects.

In Thursday’s victory, he scored 37 points against the Bulldogs but tweaked his surgically-repaired knee on a fall in the second half.

Jackson said he was feeling it before the game against Southern Miss.

“My knee swelled up a little,” he said. “Other than that, once I step on that floor, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with me. I’m going to play.

“We got the best trainer (Josh Modica) in the country. He helped me get loose. That’s why I got out here (for warm-ups) a little late.”

If physical pain wasn’t enough of a worry, Jackson also was concerned about family in Puerto Rico, where a series of earthquakes have rocked the Caribbean Island.

The latest hit Saturday morning.

Jackson said his family is OK. “They didn’t have power for a couple of days, but they’re good now,” he said. “I mean, just taking it one day at a time.”

A freshman’s day

After a series of strong practices by Whiteside early this week, he was due for some additional playing time.

Though he did not get off the bench against Louisiana Tech, the 6-foot-4 guard from California logged eight productive minutes against Southern Miss.

He pleased the coach with his defense and with his shot-making, a 2-for-2 showing on three-pointers in the second half.

“Coming in I was expecting to play a little, so I just tried to stay ready,” he said.

Whiteside has moved up in the guard rotation in the wake of an injury to Adokiye Iyaye, who is out 6-8 weeks with a broken right thumb.

“First of all, I’d like to say, I’m praying for Doke,” he said. “But truth be told, there are minutes to be had.”

A painful birthday

UTSA had a scare early in the second half when starting point guard Erik Czumbel, celebrating his birthday, was hit in the face early in the second half.

He had to come out so that trainers could stop the bleeding. Diagnosed with a broken nose, Czumbel did return to the game wearing a protective mask and even hit a three-pointer out of the corner.

Henson said he should be able to continue to practice and play.

First-half recap

Playing patient basketball, the Roadrunners built a 35-31 first-half lead. But in many respects, it was an uninspired showing, with the Golden Eagles out-rebounding the Roadrunners 17-12. Of the 17 boards, the visitors pulled down five on the offensive end.

Wallace kept UTSA ahead on the scoreboard by nailing five shots, including four threes, to lead the Roadrunners with 14 points. Jackson had 12.

Second-half notes

The Roadrunners weren’t quite right in the second half, either, giving up 48 percent shooting from the field. They also were foul prone, allowing the Golden Eagles to hit 14 of 16 at the line. But on offense, UTSA had much better balance, with nine different players scoring and five players making threes. Whiteside and Czumbel made two each.

Jackson scores 37 as UTSA blasts Louisiana Tech, 89-73

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech 89-73 in Conference USA on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Louisiana Tech’s Mo Muhammed (at right) tries to stay with UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Facing the possibility of an 0-3 start in Conference USA, the UTSA Roadrunners showed equal parts fortitude and flair Thursday night, burying one of the C-USA’s better teams with a prolific, first-half shooting display.

Later, they hung on for a record-setting, 89-73 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in front of an announced 922 at the Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson had 37 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds to lead UTSA to an 89-73 conference victory over Louisiana Tech on Thursday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson had 37 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds to lead the Roadrunners. – photo by Joe Alexander

The difference, easily, was three-point shooting. UTSA made a school-record 18 and gave up only six. In a dizzying display, Roadrunners junior Jhivvan Jackson knocked down a career-high, tying eight by himself.

“It was a great win,” said Jackson, who scored 37 points. “Other than (making) the shots, we got the stops we needed in the first half. I mean, that was our main focus coming into the game. We got to get stops. The offense going to take care of itself.”

LA Tech showed up at the Convocation Center with the conference’s best rating (No. 59 nationally) in the NET standings.

UTSA, on the flip side, came in far down the list at No. 249 in the NCAA’s rating system of 353 Division I programs.

On a more personal level, UTSA players felt stung by starting conference play with two losses in Florida last week, including a game they virtually threw away at Florida International on Saturday night.

But in a nod to the craziness of college basketball, the Roadrunners built a commanding 26-point intermission lead on the Bulldogs, juiced it to 29 in the second half and then made enough plays down the stretch to keep the Bulldogs at arms length.

“We knew it would take a great effort (to win),” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “You know, we made shots. So, that might have skewed things a lot. But, shoot, we’ll take it.”

Records

UTSA 7-9, 1-2
Louisiana Tech 11-4, 2-1

By the numbers

UTSA — Jackson hit 11 of 23 from the floor, including 8 of 15 from three, and 7 of 8 free throws. He also had six assists and five rebounds. Forward Luka Barisic followed a 14-point outing at FIU with 16 against Louisiana Tech. The 6-foot-9 Croatian nailed 4 of 5 from three. Keaton Wallace played well defensively and also contributed 13 points and six rebounds. Byron Frohnen was major a factor with nine points and 10 rebounds.

LA Tech — UTSA held one of the conference’s better three-point shooting teams to 6 of 17. Long-distance sharp-shooters DaQuan Bracey and Amorie Archibald were a combined 0 for 3. Bracey and Kalob Ledoux scored 12 points apiece. LA Tech also failed to disrupt the UTSA offense as much as it would have liked. UTSA had trouble at times with 14 turnovers, but the errors weren’t consequential in the end. Coming in, the LA Tech defense had forced an average of 17.1 opponent turnovers per game.

First-half recap

The Roadrunners shot 55 percent from the field and tied a season-high for points in a half, racing to a 53-27 lead on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at intermission.

Initially, Jackson couldn’t get an open look with LA Tech swarming him with double teams.

At the same time, the strategy opened up the floor, and the Roadrunners’ complementary players started hitting from everywhere.

Once the Bulldogs stopped doubling on UTSA’s leading scorer, Jackson went off in a flourish, finishing the half with 18 points.

Freshman watch

Center Jacob Germany, a 6-11 freshman from Oklahoma, continued to raise eyebrows with his play in the first half. On one occasion, he raced ahead of the defense and caught a long pass for a layup. On another, he snared a lob in front of the rim and — facing away from the bucket — threw it down two-handed as a no-look dunk.

Special treat

San Antonio resident and former UTSA star Derrick Gervin attended the game. Wearing a cap with the school logo, he sat high in a section of bleachers behind the Roadrunners’ bench. Afterward, the 1980s-era power forward for the Roadrunners visited with reporters at press row.

FIU banks in a buzzer-beater in regulation, then wins 90-83 in OT

Holding a two-point lead with two seconds remaining in regulation Saturday night, the UTSA Roadrunners seemingly had wrapped up their first Conference USA victory of the season.

All they needed was a successful inbounds play to finish it off.

But in the end, Florida International junior forward Eric Lovett spoiled it, disrupting the pass, picking up a loose ball and then banking in a 15-foot shot at the buzzer for the tie.

From there, the Panthers exploded past the Roadrunners, 90-83, in overtime at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami.

Records

UTSA — 6-9, 0-2
FIU — 11-4, 2-0

A disappointing finish

The collapse at the end of regulation and overtime sullied an otherwise solid road performance for the Roadrunners.

They played well against an FIU team that had won seven of its last eight, including a 69-67 home victory over UTEP Thursday night in the C-USA opener.

In fact, it appeared as if UTSA would steal the victory in the final few minutes with a 6-0 run that included three straight defensive stops.

Two free throws by Keaton Wallace lifted the Roadrunners into a 77-74 lead with 7.9 seconds remaining.

On the other end, FIU senior guard Trejon Jacob was fouled and knocked down his first free throw. He missed the second one, but senior forward Osasumwe Osaghae snared the rebound.

Osaghae went to the line with 2.7 seconds left and missed the first one. At that point, FIU called time out.

When the Panthers returned to the floor for Osaghae’s second attempt, they were called for a lane violation, giving the Roadrunners possession and a 77-75 lead.

Senior Byron Frohnen tried to inbound to Jhivvan Jackson. But the ball was deflected, and Lovett picked it up, giving the Panthers one last chance.

He turned and hit the shot off the glass, fading away, for the tie.

Quotable

“Disappointed for our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio voice, Andy Everett, on The Ticket 760. “You know, we had a chance to rebound the free throw and didn’t get that done. Then we just had to inbound it one more time and we win the game.

“We didn’t have a time out left. I know you’re supposed to always have a time out left. I’ve been kicking myself in some of these other games where people are making runs and I haven’t been using those time outs to stop the runs. Trying to get a little more aggressive, using ’em earlier, and now I’m kicking myself for not having one there.

“But even then, we’ve got to execute a little better … we just didn’t complete the play, and it came back to haunt us.”

Notable

FIU came out with energy in overtime, and UTSA couldn’t match it. The Panthers opened with five quick points in an 11-2 streak for an 88-79 lead.

The Panthers converted during the run with an Isaiah Banks stick back and three-pointers from Lovett and Cameron Corcoran.

Forward Devon Andrews finished with 26 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.

The Roadrunners entered the game seeking redemption after losing 79-64 on Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.

Jackson had a rough night in Boca Raton, hitting only 3 of 18 from the field. He bounced back against FIU with 30 points on 11 of 24 shooting from the field, including 5 of 15 from three. Jackson also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Contributions from the big men

UTSA junior Luka Barisic, in his first year with the Roadrunners, had a season-high 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Bior, a senior, also had some good moments with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Coming up

Continuing with its conference schedule, UTSA is set to host Louisiana Tech next Thursday and Southern Miss on Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Louisiana Tech held the highest national rating among C-USA teams (65th) before its home victory Saturday night over Southern Miss.

The Bulldogs downed the Golden Eagles 78-50, improving their record to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference.

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.

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.”

Records

UTSA 5-7
Illinois State 5-7

Announced attendance

853

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.

Jhivvan Jackson takes over NCAA Division I scoring lead

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat A&M-Corpus Christi 89-67 on Tuesday night at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson hits a floater in the lane against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson has taken over the national lead in scoring, according to NCAA Division I basketball statistics released Monday afternoon.

Jackson, a 6-foot junior, moved up from third to first on the national charts after scoring 28 points Sunday at the Convocation Center in a 98-55 victory over UT Permian Basin.

A tight race for the NCAA scoring lead has developed early in the season, with Jackson (25.2 points per game) leading Marquette’s Markus Howard (25.1) and Northeastern’s Jordan Roland (25.0).

UTSA coach Steve Henson on Wednesday, Oct. 30. 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. The Roadrunners beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson. – photo by Joe Alexander

Jackson has surged lately, averaging 26.8 points during a streak of four wins in five games by the Roadrunners.

Armed with a dynamic array of skills, the native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, does a little bit of everything with the ball, shooting the 3-pointer, pulling up for medium-range floaters and driving to the basket with either hand.

Jackson averaged 18.4 points as a freshman two years ago. Last season, he led Conference USA in scoring at 22.9. This year, he’s scored 30 or more four times, including 33 on Dec. 7 at Texas State.

Moreover, the former standout at Euless Trinity High School is rebounding at a higher level, averaging 5.7 per game.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said after the UTPB game that Jackson’s improved work habits are starting to pay off.

“He’s obviously such an elite, talented scorer,” Henson said. “He was a guy, by the time he got here, he could go get 30 when the lights came on.

“But his habits are getting better. He’s becoming a better practice player. He’s starting to help his teammates more, which is absolutely huge.

“(We) called a play for him today, and he said, ‘Let’s run it for Knox (Hellums).’ Those are good signs for us.”

Basically, Jackson is maturing into a leader.

“He’s such a quick guy, he can chase down long rebounds,” Henson said. “He’s had a few big rebound games for us this year.”

In the past two seasons, Jackson and junior Keaton Wallace have emerged to lead a basketball renaissance at UTSA, pacing the team to a combined 37 victories.

With the two high-scoring guards returning, the Roadrunners were a trendy pick in the preseason to contend for a Conference USA title.

But after a 32-point loss at Utah State dropped the Roadrunners to 0-5, Jackson did some soul searching.

He told The JB Replay upon returning home from Utah that the Roadrunners would get better with an increased focus on defensive effort.

“It’s what we’re really emphasizing, just, getting a lot of stops,” Jackson said. “We have a chance to be a really good defensive team. But you know, we got to do it for 40 minutes. Not just in stretches. That’s the one thing we’ve been working on, is, getting stops.

“We know the offense is going to come. We’re not worried about offense. You know, anybody on our team can score. Once we get our defense together, really locking down people, we’re going to be good.”

Coming up

UTSA (4-6) vs. Oregon State (8-1), Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., at the Toyota Center in Houston.