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.”

Kemba Walker’s 10-year-old miracle still resonates

Ten years have passed since guard Kemba Walker led the UConn Huskies on a wild ride to the Big East Conference title and, ultimately, to the NCAA title.

It was perhaps the only time in recent memory that a school’s performance in a major conference tournament ever equaled that of an ensuing ride at the national level in terms of how fans would come to view the accomplishment years after the fact.

What the Huskies did at Madison Square Garden in 2011 still seems unthinkable. They won five game in five days to win the Big East crown.

All that comes to mind for me today with the Conference USA championships opening in Frisco.

For Southern Miss and Rice, playing today in the preliminary round for the right to advance into the main bracket, Walker’s achievement stands as a testament that anything can happen in a tournament setting.

Even if you have to win as many as five games in five days to reach the NCAA’s Big Dance.

For seven other C-USA teams who start play on Wednesday, they’ll need to win four in four days. That eight-team group includes the UTSA Roadrunners, who open the tournament Wednesday afternoon against Charlotte.

Finally, for the select four with byes into Thursday’s quarterfinals, the dream can be secured with three wins in three days.

From a historical perspective, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, UAB Blazers, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Old Dominion Monarchs would seem to hold a massive advantage over the others.

In 24 previous C-USA tournaments — last year’s wasn’t completed because of the pandemic — the conference has never crowned a champion that won five games in five days, and only two previous tournaments in years past have been structured in such a way, with five rounds. In all the others, only four champions have been crowned after winning four games in four days.

According to the brackets, only the 1997 Marquette Golden Eagles, the 1999 Charlotte 49ers, the 2000 Saint Louis Billikens and the 2010 Houston Cougars have danced through the C-USA tournament with an improbable 4-0 record during a 96-hour period. To me, it was surprising to find that while going through the records.

Going into my research, I really didn’t think I’d find more than one or two.

As a long-time hoops fan who probably has spent far too much time in my life following March Madness, I could only think of one other situation when a team pulled off such a head-slapping achievement.

Going in, I remembered that the 2006 Syracuse Orange did the four-in-four thing at another memorable Big East tournament.

But I had forgotten the account of the team’s championship celebration, when one reporter pointed out that Syracuse star Gerry McNamara had made a bigger splash in the New York tabloids that week than even Paris Hilton.

I asked UTSA coach Steve Henson on a recent zoom conference if he had a favorite memory of a team that had won four games in a conference tournament, and he didn’t know of one right off the top of his head.

“When we were coaching at UNLV, I think we probably just won three in a row in two different years,” he said. “I don’t think it was a four-game situation. Those memories are pretty special. There was a stretch in the Mountain West where New Mexico was always good. San Diego State was always good. Two years in particular, us and BYU were the two best teams.

“BYU won the regular season two years in a row. Then we knocked them off in the conference tournament two years in a row. That was pretty special. Unbelievable atmosphere.

“In the Mountain West, there could not have two semifinal games … with a better atmosphere that we had in those games at the Thomas and Mack Center (in Las Vegas). San Diego State traveled well. BYU traveled well. New Mexico traveled well. Atmosphere was unbelievable … For us to beat the regular-season champions two years in a row, was pretty special.

“To win four in a row is a little bit tougher, but that’s our task.”

Hey. it is a tall task. But it’s not as rare as you might think. As a matter of fact, the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Monday night completed a four-wins-in- four-days romp through the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Michigan did it in 2017 in the Big Ten tournament in Washington D.C. after its charter air craft, en route to the event, slid off the runway and crashed. At the time, Wolverines coach John Beilein said his players were “a little banged up and shook up” after the experience, but then they went on to beat Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin on consecutive days.

Austin Peay did it in 2016 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Houston, with Tom Penders in his final year as a Division I head coach, was the last team in Conference USA to pull it off. In 2010, with a team led by Aubrey Coleman, Kelvin Lewis, Maurice McNeil and San Antonio’s Adam Brown, Houston claimed the C-USA crown as the No. 7 seed. The Cougars knocked off East Carolina, Memphis, Southern Miss and, finally, top-seeded UTEP in one remarkable week in Tulsa.

UTSA, in turn, has won three in three days but never four. The Roadrunners did the three-in-three thing in 1988 in Daytona Beach, Fla., when they claimed their first NCAA berth out of the old Trans America Athletic Conference. They won two games in 1999, three in 2004 and three in 2011 in their other three conference title conquests. But, never in a three-day period as they did under the late Ken Burmeister in ’88.

So, boiling it all down, the Roadrunners will face an uphill challenge this week rivaling a drive up the winding roads on Pike’s Peak.

At the same time, they do have a couple of dangerous offensive threats in Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. They do have some confidence instilled by a 9-2 record over their last 11 games. And they did win some of those games with defense that seems much-more suited to conference tournament-style play than what fans may have seen last November and December.

All that’s missing, if you look at it from a historical perspective, is magic.

It’s the magic that some fans in New York are still talking about 10 years after Walker scored 130 points (combined) on five opponents, turning his five-day stay in the city into the stuff of basketball legend.

C-USA honors go to UTSA’s Jackson, Wallace, Ivy-Curry

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry finished the regular season fourth on the team in scoring at 7.1 points per game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Haunted by poor shooting through his first eight games in college basketball, UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry eventually re-discovered his touch.

As a result, Ivy-Curry started to flourish as an all-around player in his first year with the Roadrunners, and on Monday, he joined seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace in winning honors announced by Conference USA.

For the third year in a row, Jackson was named first-team all-conference. Also for the third straight year, Wallace was named to the second team. This time, they were joined by Ivy-Curry, who was named to the C-USA all-freshman team.

The Roadrunners, one of the hottest teams in the conference, were scheduled to practice in San Antonio for the last time Monday afternoon before boarding a bus bound for Frisco. They’ll work out again Tuesday in Frisco as the tournament opens at The Star with preliminary round games.

On Wednesday afternoon, they Roadrunners will play the Charlotte 49ers in a second-round game.

‘Juice’ makes his mark

In the first third of a 24-game season, Ivy-Curry had yet to live up to his reputation as a high-octane scorer. As a high school senior, he averaged more than 30 points a game at La Marque. But with the Roadrunners, his shot would not fall — at least, not initially.

In his first eight games, Ivy-Curry was playing off the bench and shooting a meager 32.6 from the field. From three-point range, he was way off the mark — 0-for-13. All that started to change on Jan. 2. ‘Juice’ hit a three out of the corner and finished 5 of 14 overall in a road loss at Rice. Coaches stayed with him, and he kept getting better.

For the season, he played in all 24 games, averaging 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes. He was also good in terms of moving the ball on offense and in defending the perimeter. Down the stretch, his three-point shooting touch returned. In his last 16 games, he hit 22 of 45 from distance for 48.9 percent.

Rodriguez improving

UTSA coach Steve Henson said in a zoom conference with reporters that junior forward Adrian Rodriguez has practiced well. “In another 2 or 3 days, hopefully he’ll be close to 100 percent,” the coach said.

Rodriguez hurt his knee on Feb. 6 in at Florida International and sat out the next three games. On Feb. 27, he played two minutes at home against the UAB Blazers. Last Thursday, Henson played him 16 minutes in UTSA’s tune-up against Southwestern Adventist. Rodriguez had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Trying to make history

For the Roadrunners to claim the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, they will need to win four games in four days in the pressure cooker of a single-elimination event.

UTSA has never executed such a four-in-four conference tournament run in its previous 39 seasons of basketball.

In 1988, a Ken Burmeister-coached UTSA squad claimed the school’s first NCAA berth when it won three games in three days to claim the Trans America Athletic Conference title at Daytona Beach, Fla.

In 1999, the first of two Tim Carter-coached NCAA teams won two games in two days for the Southland championship in Shreveport, La.

In 2004, Carter took his team to the NCAA dance once again as Southland titlists with three wins in five days. The Roadrunners won in San Antonio, in Hammond, La., and then in San Antonio again (against Stephen F. Austin).

In 2011, the Brooks Thompson-coached Roadrunners won three games in four days to win a Southland championship at the Merrell Center in Katy.

Coming up

Conference USA tournament. UTSA vs. Charlotte, Thursday at 5:30 p.m., at The Star in Frisco.

Records

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

Wallace joins Jackson in a 2K tandem as UTSA rolls past UAB

UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace (left) joined Jhivvan Jackson in the 2,000-career point club on ‘Senior Day’ Saturday, when the Roadrunners rebounded from an ugly loss on Friday night to blow out the UAB Blazers. – photo by Joe Alexander

Leave it to UTSA senior guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. Only those two could light up a drafty, old gymnasium and turn an overcast Saturday afternoon into one for the memory banks.

First, Wallace eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career mid-way through the second half against the UAB Blazers.

A few minutes later, Jackson unleashed a flurry of buckets to climb past 2,500 points. In the end, the Roadrunners played perhaps their best game of the season in claiming a convincing 96-79 ‘Senior Day’ victory over a 19-win team.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace produced 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in what may have been his last home game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

If it was indeed the last time for Jackson and Wallace to grace the court at the UTSA Convocation Center, then it was done with appropriate style and flair, complete with a wave from the two of them to a Covid-19 restricted crowd of 394 as they walked off to the dressing room.

As fans cheered to hail UTSA’s newly-minted 2K tandem, UTSA coach Steve Henson offered his thanks, as well.

“We all know we got a lot of basketball left,” Henson said. “They’re going to have some emotional moments with their families right now. I was thanking them, and they were thanking me. Just appreciate everything they’ve done for this program.”

Jackson led the rout with 32 points, and Wallace added 22. As a team, the Roadrunners showed impressive resilience in bouncing back from a bad loss Friday to salvage a split in their two-game series with the Blazers.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson, held to 12 points in Friday’s loss to the Blazers, bounced back to score 32 on Saturday. — Photo by Joe Alexander.

“Pretty fitting for them to finish it off this way in the Convo (with) monster nights from both of them,” Henson said. “You know, they came in here four years ago and started making baskets and they just kept it going … There were a lot of nights when one or the other was clicking … But to have both of them have monster nights on Senior Day is very, very special.

“They have changed the perception, I think, of our program. You know, they allowed us to play fast, the way we said we were going to play. They’ve allowed us to shoot a lot of threes. They’ve allowed us to do a lot of things we said we were going to do when we recruited them four years ago. They’ve been great ambassadors.

“They’ve handled their business. They’ve both done a great job in the classroom. They’re great Roadrunners.”

Turning the tables

UTSA played one of its best stretches of the season against a quality opponent in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and rolling to a 42-33 intermission lead.

Spacing the floor and taking care of the ball, the Roadrunners hit 17 of 34 shots, including 5 of 9 from three. In one span of a little more than seven minutes, UTSA produced a 16-0 streak against the Blazers, the top defensive team in Conference USA.

All of a sudden, an eight-point deficit for UTSA turned into a 23-15 lead.

The Blazers never got closer than five the rest of the way. With the Roadrunners shooting 65.6 percent in the second half, they pushed the lead to as many as 22, quite the turnaround from Friday night, when the Blazers claimed a 64-57 victory on the same floor.

Records

UAB 19-6, 11-5
UTSA 13-10, 9-7

Coming up

The Roadrunners likely will not make up two games against Charlotte that were scratched last week because of the winter storm. But they could possibly schedule a non-conference game next week. Many C-USA teams will play make-ups next week for games that were lost to Covid-19 postponements. The C-USA is expected to announce next weekend the bracket for the tournament. All 14 teams — seven in each division — will be invited. The tournament is March 9-13 at Frisco.

For the record

When the Roadrunners came out in the second half, they unleashed a series of defensive plays that sparked a surge. First, the 6-foot Jackson soared high in an attempt to block a dunk attempt. Though he was called for a foul, the play clearly sent a message. On UAB’s next possession, 6-11 UTSA center Jacob Germany rejected UAB’s 7-foot Trey Jemison. Next time down, UAB’s Quan Jackson was rejected by UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr.

It all translated into a rush of momentum for the Roadrunners. With 12:08 remaining, Wallace hit a three that made him the 615th player in Division I basketball history to reach 2,000 points. Later, as Jackson connected on a long ball with 10:06 left, he simultaneously hit the 2,500 mark and moved into No. 1 in C-USA history in three-point makes. When the day was done, Jackson had totaled 2,505 points and Wallace 2,007.

Having the last word

Jackson finished his day’s work by hitting 13 of 21 from the field and six of 10 from three. He described a flood of emotions when he and Wallace came off the floor for the last time with 2:26 remaining.

“You know, I kind of wanted to finish the game out, just because they got us yesterday, and, beating us every single year, in the Conference USA,” he said. “But, man, I was grateful. I kind of took this game as just a regular game. I was kind of pissed about yesterday. We played the right way yesterday. We (just) had a little too many turnovers. If we make even half our shots, we win.

“So, our mentality today was just getting no turnovers. You know, we only got nine in the whole game (today) … And we just got stops. That’s the reason we won today. We were stopping them. We held (down) their best player (Tavin Lovan, to seven points). That just helped us. We were just the tougher team today.”

Wallace punctuated his 22 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. He hit 8 of 13 from the floor and 3 of 4 from distance. “It’s just a blessing to be able to make history at our school,” he said. “Just for two guys to score the ball like we do, in the same backcourt, is big time. It speaks volumes. I just appreciate all the support. All the love from the fans. The staff. My teammates. And my family. You know, Birds up.”

Notable

UTSA freshman guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 13 points on three 3-pointers. He also grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists over 23 minutes. Junior Eric Parrish had 10 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. Sophomore center Jacob Germany had a team-leading eight rebounds to go along with eight points.

Jalen Benjamin scored 21 points to lead the Blazers. Tyreek Scott-Grayson had 13 points, followed by Trey Jemison with 11 and Michael Ertel 10. Scott-Grayson and Tavin Lovan, both guards, have been key players on UAB teams that were 5-3 against UTSA over the past four seasons before Saturday. The Blazers have knocked the Roadrunners out of the C-USA tournament each of the past two seasons.

Blazers look for series sweep on UTSA’s ‘Senior Day’

On ‘Senior Day,’ Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace will face an all-too-familiar foe in what might be their last home game for the UTSA Roadrunners.

They’ll take on the UAB Blazers at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

Playing on the Roadrunners’ home court, the Blazers won 64-57 Friday night in the opener of a two-game Conference USA series to close the regular season.

With the victory, the Blazers improved to 5-3 in the past four seasons over the Jackson and Wallace-led Roadrunners.

When Jackson and Wallace were freshmen, in 2017-18, the Roadrunners went on the road to Birmingham, Ala., and scored an 82-70 victory over the Blazers. Since then, the Blazers for the most part have held the upper hand.

UAB produced a 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, and in both seasons, the Blazers eliminated UTSA from the C-USA tournament.

The Blazers have been tough on Jackson, in particular, in holding him to less than 33 percent shooting from the field over the teams’ last two meetings.

Last season in Frisco, UAB won 74-69 while limiting Jackson to 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting in the first round of the tournament. On Friday night in San Antonio, the Blazers held Jackson to 12 points again on 5 of 13 shooting.

Jackson had been playing and shooting the ball well leading into Friday night’s series opener. During an eight-game stretch in which the Roadrunners won seven, he hit 60 of 124 from the floor for 48.3 percent.

Coming up

Next week, it is possible that UTSA could add a game or two to its schedule. Otherwise, their next game will come March 9-13 in Frisco, at the C-USA tournament. The winner of the conference event advances to the NCAA tournament. UTSA hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Records

UAB 19-5, 11-4
UTSA 12-10, 8-7

Leading the way

Jackson has tallied 2,473 points in 111 games. Wallace has produced 1,985 points in 121 games. They are Nos. 1-2 on the UTSA all-time scoring list. Jackson ranks 83rd on the all-time Division I list and No. 2 in C-USA. Wallace is tied for seventh in C-USA.

UTSA’s Jackson credits teammates, coaches for career scoring achievement

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 expressed surprise this week when he learned that he had become the leading career scorer in NCAA Division I among players born in Latin America. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Like any young man with dreams, record-setting UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson has faced challenges.

One of the biggest came when he was growing up in Puerto Rico, and he knew he wanted to move to the U.S. mainland to further his ambitions as a basketball player.

To make the move effectively, Jackson had to learn how to speak English.

“My parents already knew my dream was to play college basketball,” he said. “In P.R., the school that I was going to, for two or three grades I went to bilingual school so already all my classes were in English down there. The only class I was taking in Spanish was an actual Spanish class.

“My parents, they knew at one point I wanted to come out here. They kind of wanted me to, early on, learn English. Like I say, I went to that bilingual school for a couple of years, and that got me right. I watched a lot of TV, and then when I moved for seventh grade I already knew English. I wasn’t fluent. You know, I had a strong accent. But I understood it.”

Jackson made the move to Texas. He went on to attend Euless Trinity High, where he became one of the best ball players in the Dallas area.

“It was a little challenging, obviously, but after a couple years, after eighth grade, I was already good,” he said. “I’m good at learning language. Like I said, I already had schooling and knew how it was. It was all about writing it and taking the accent away a little bit. But, everything was smooth. Like I said, my dad helped me with that. He did it with me and my brother. That got us better.”

As a basketball player, Jackson continues to improve.

He entered UTSA as a freshman for the 2017-18 season with high hopes but no guarantees. In that time, he has led the Roadrunners to winning records in three of four seasons.

Jackson has also created a splash with his offensive production, averaging 18.4 points as a freshman, followed by seasons of 22.9 and 26.8. This year, he’s averaging 20.4 as UTSA continues its quest for an NCAA tournament bid.

An important step comes tonight when the Roadrunners host the UAB Blazers. The Blazers, with 18 wins on the season, remain as one of the best teams in Conference USA despite having lost three of their last four in conference play.

As usual, UTSA coach Steve Henson will call on Jackson and fellow senior standout Keaton Wallace to step up to meet the moment. The two had power knocked out in their apartment last week during the winter storm. But they’ll be ready. It’s perhaps their last weekend at home, so the expectation is that they’ll put some pressure on the Blazers. Quite a bit of pressure, probably.

Leroy Jackson, the ball player’s father, said basketball drives his son.

“He’s very dedicated toward it,” Jackson said. “Since he was a kid, he was always that way. Always. He loves working out. Basketball takes him away from everything that’s negative. That’s a sacred time for him.”

Ultimately, Jackson wants the NCAA tournament bid and he wants it badly.

Along the way, though, the spotlight will continue to shine on him because of his scoring prowess. Last year, he became the school’s all-time scoring leader. Two weeks ago, he moved into the Top 100 in all-time career scoring in NCAA Division I.

Earlier this week, he learned that he had become the top career scorer in Division I history among athletes who were born in Latin America. Jackson (with 2,461 points) has passed the likes of J.J. Barea, Greivis Vasquez, Luis Flores, Felipe Lopez, Khadeen Carrington and Rolando Blackman on the list.

Barea is a Puerto Rico native who played in college at Northeastern. Blackman came out of Panama and played years ago at Kansas State. Both enjoyed long NBA careers. Blackman, in fact, was an NBA all-star four times.

Jackson said it’s “crazy” to think about what he has accomplished.

“Some of those players are players I kind of look up to a little bit or have seen play growing up,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that I passed them. But, obviously, all the credit goes to my hard work, my teammates and my coaches. They really were the ones that trusted me and put me in those positions to be the player that I am right now.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
C-USA tournament, March 9-13, at Frisco

Records

UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6

Scoring honors

Here is the list of athletes born Latin America who have been identified in the top seven in Division I career scoring:

Jhivvan Jackson, born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, scored 2,461 points at UTSA, through 2021.

J.J. Barea, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 2,290, at Northeastern, through 2006.

Greivis Vasquez, Caracas, Venezuela, 2,171, at Maryland, through 2010.

Luis Flores, San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, 2,160, at Rutgers and Manhattan, through 2004.

Felipe Lopez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1,927, at St. John’s, through 1998.

Khadeen Carrington, Trinidad, 1,846, at Seton Hall, through 2018.

Rolando Blackman, Panama City, Panama, 1,844, at Kansas State, through 1981.

Determined to keep winning, UTSA prepares for UAB

Steve Henson. 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

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners have won four straight and seven of their last eight going into a weekend home series against the UAB Blazers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson said Wednesday afternoon in a zoom call with reporters that the UTSA Roadrunners’ two Conference USA home games against the UAB Blazers this weekend likely would be the team’s last games in the regular season.

They’re set for Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

In addition, Henson said he expects the games also will be the last two at home in the remarkable careers of Roadrunners seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the leading scorers in the program’s 40-year history.

Both Jackson and Wallace told reporters they have not made a decision on whether they might take advantage of an extra year of eligibility. Before the season, all Division I basketball players were given an extra year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even so, Henson said he plans on having “Senior Day” festivities on Saturday for Jackson, Wallace and also for forward Phoenix Ford. The coach was asked how “Senior Day” might be different with the lingering possibility that one or both of his high-scoring guards could return.

“I think we’ll go through it as if it’s their last game and worry about it after that,” Henson said. “The guys, right now, they’re focused on continuing to play (into the tournament). We started talking about this weeks ago — the opportunity to start winning games, to play better basketball.

“At one point, we knew four of our final six were going to be at home. That we could go into the conference tournament with some momentum. So, they liked that.

“What we did yesterday in practice was really, really encouraging. Just from different guys making plays. The ball moving. I think our guys are pretty locked in right now. There’s always that emotional piece on Senior Night, right before the game starts. (But) our guys are still planning on playing basketball for awhile.”

UTSA hasn’t played since Feb. 13. On that day, the Roadrunners completed a two-game, home sweep of the Florida Atlantic Owls, pushing their winning streak to four. A day later, a few players came in to shoot at the Convocation Center, but with cold and inclement weather on the way, the campus was scheduled to close at 5 p.m.

As it turned out, a week of the worst winter weather in South Texas in years descended from cold, gray skies, leading to power outages all over the city.
The UTSA basketball team was not spared.

Some players — notably, roommates Wallace and Jackson — had power go out in their apartments. From a basketball standpoint, the inclement weather kept the Roadrunners off the practice floor through Thursday. Ultimately, the team’s two road games, set for Friday and Saturday at Charlotte, N.C., were scrapped.

It was a blow to the fast-improving Roadrunners, who have won seven of their last eight conference games.

“We wanted to go down there and play,” Henson said. “We just couldn’t make it happen.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Conference USA tournament, at Frisco, March 10-13

Records

UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6

Notes

Before the season, C-USA officials left open the first week of March — next week — for any make-up games. Even so, the two games between UTSA and Charlotte likely will not be played, Henson said, because Charlotte’s end-of-week schedule is full. The 49ers are scheduled to play Covid-related makeups on the road at Marshall on March 5 and 6.

“The chances of us playing Charlotte are slim and none,” said Henson, who added that the likely cancellations have created a “pretty weird situation for us” leading into the C-USA tournament.

“We’ll go 24 days with only two games — these UAB games — in that window there, which is less than ideal,” Henson said. “So we’re still trying to find something for next week. (We’ll) see if we can schedule a game or two. I’d really not prefer to go such a long span with only two games in there. But at this point, as of right now, the UAB games will be our last regular-season games.”

Senior Day emotions

Jackson has scored 2,461 points and Wallace 1,964. Jackson has twice been first-team all-C-USA. Wallace, in turn, has been second-team all-C-USA twice. The Roadrunners have built their program around them, which means that Saturday likely will be an emotional day.

“I’ll probably be as emotional as anybody, with the exception of some of the family members,” Henson said. “Keaton’ll probably be pretty stone-faced. That’s kind of his M.O., anyway. Jhivvan will be emotional, I think.

“Once the ball gets tipped, I think they’ll play great. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have an arena full of fans come and honor them in that regard. We’re going to honor Phoenix, as well. Those guys have done a great job. Great ambassadors for our program.”

With Covid restrictions, attendance will be limited.

“Keaton and Jhivvan helped us turn this thing around,” the coach said. “Got the attention of everyone around the country, everyone around the league. Really proud of them. It’s amazing the accomplishments they’ve had. Wish we could celebrate it in more grand style. But we’ll do the best we can with Covid.”

Henson is approaching the games against the Blazers as if they’re as if they’re the last ones at home for his two stars.

“My anticipation is that they have accomplished so much, I anticipate they’re ready to move on,” the coach said. “They love it here, and we’re glad they do, and we love having them here, but they both have sights set on winning a bunch more games here and then going and playing professionally. We haven’t spent a lot of time on the details with the scholarship numbers, or anything like that.”

Jackson has boosted UTSA’s profile in Latin America

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southern Miss 78-72 in Conference USA action at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Is UTSA senior Jhivvan Jackson the No. 1 Latin American-born scorer in NCAA Division I history? Apparently so, based on a review of online records by The JB Replay. — Photo by Joe Alexander.

Jhivvan Jackson has supplied so many thrills for fans of the UTSA Roadrunners in the past four seasons, it’s hard to quantify his impact on the program.

Paired with Keaton Wallace, the duo always gives UTSA a chance to win. It’s always worth it to come out and watch the two of them, because there’s always a chance for something special to happen.

Jackson, particularly, brings a skill level unmatched in the school’s 40-year basketball history.

He’s got the ability to shoot the long ball or the pull-up floater. Jackson on a mad-dash to the hoop is something to see. Now, if he can team with Wallace and friends to reach the NCAA tournament in a few weeks, then that certainly would boost his stature as one of the program’s most important players.

If he reaches the NBA some day, that, too, would solidify his standing — along with Derrick Gervin and Devin Brown — as an athlete that fans will talk about for the next 40 years.

Clearly, Jackson already has left an indelible mark on Roadrunners basketball, and part of it has to do with bringing in new followers.

For fans of the game south of the United States, UTSA’s profile is pretty high right now. People are watching. Why? Because, from what I can tell, the 6-foot native of Puerto Rico has scored more points in his college career than any other Latin American-born NCAA Division I player in history.

Based upon online research at websites such as sports-reference.com and basketball.realgm.com, along with assistance from NCAA statisticians and member schools, Jackson ranks No. 1 on this unofficial list compiled recently by The JB Replay.

Here is the list:

Jhivvan Jackson, born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, scored 2,461 points at UTSA, through 2021.

Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea scored 2,290 points in college for the Northeastern Huskies in Boston. He later went on to enjoy a 14-year career in the NBA, 11 of them with the Dallas Mavericks. — Photo, courtesy of Northeastern University athletics

J.J. Barea, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 2,290, at Northeastern, through 2006.

Greivis Vasquez, Caracas, Venezuela, 2,171, at Maryland, through 2010.

Luis Flores, San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, 2,160, at Rutgers and Manhattan, through 2004.

Felipe Lopez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1,927, at St. John’s, through 1998.

Khadeen Carrington, Trinidad, 1,846, at Seton Hall, through 2018.

Rolando Blackman, Panama City, Panama, 1,844, at Kansas State, through 1981.

Once again, this is by no means an official list on file at the NCAA. Neither is it found on any website that I have seen. It’s just something I’ve researched for the past few weeks based on my coverage of the game since the late 1970s.

Taking one last step in my little project, I messaged the NCAA office that handles basketball statistics.

Dominican Republic native Luis Flores (No. 3) started his career at Rutgers, transferred to Manhattan and finished his career with 2,160 points. — Photo, courtesy of Manhattan athletics

Recently, the NCAA responded by sending out my query into a forum that is seen by information directors around the country. In my query, I asked if anyone could supplement my research with knowledge of a player (or players) from Latin America who had scored at least 1,800 points in NCAA Division I.

My query turned up two names — Vasquez and Carrington — that I did not have on the preliminary list. If I get more names and information, I’ll update accordingly.

So, today, I wanted to push out the story, because this coming week may be the last time we will ever see Jackson and Wallace (1,964 points) play at the Convocation Center. The Roadrunners host the UAB Blazers on Friday night and Saturday afternoon in what likely are the last two regular-season games of the season.

Felipe Lopez scored 1,927 points for St. John’s University and was a first-round pick in the 1998 NBA draft by the Spurs, who traded him — along with veteran Carl Herrera — to the Vancouver Grizzles for Antonio Daniels. — Photo, courtesy of St. John’s athletics

A few weeks ago, I asked Jackson’s father, Leroy Jackson, about his son’s emergence as one of the top scorers in Division I history. Jhivvan is 86th on the all-time list and is second in Conference USA.

“I can’t even put it into words,” said Leroy Jackson, a former professional player who works now for American Airlines in Dallas.

Leroy transferred in his job from Puerto Rico to the Metro-Plex in 2008. An older son followed in 2009, setting the stage for Jhivvan to make the move in 2010 for his seventh-grade year. Already advanced as a player at a young age, Jhivvan went on to star at Euless Trinity High School.

At UTSA, Jhivvan has continued to progress. He’s made first-team, All-Conference USA the past two years. Last year, he led the C-USA in scoring and ranked second in the nation at 26.8 points per game.

His father, a native of Panama who played collegiately at Oregon State and professionally for 15 years, mostly in Latin America, said he is not surprised at the trend. “No, I’m not,” he said. “And I know he can do more.”

Rolando Blackman, from Panama City, Panama, scored 1,844 points at Kansas State through 1981. He did it without the 3-point shot, which didn’t come into play in the NCAA until the late 1980s. Blackman played 13 seasons in the NBA — 11 with the Dallas Mavericks — and made four all-star teams. — Photo, courtesy of Kansas State athletics

Leroy said the basketball communities in both Puerto Rico and Panama have taken notice of his son’s achievements. After all, the family is prominent in Latin American basketball circles. Jhivvan’s maternal grandfather, Flor Melendez, is a prominent coach in Puerto Rico. Leroy himself played professionally in Puerto Rico for years.

But even with the hype, Leroy said Jhivvan isn’t thinking now about the headlines he makes or the impact he is having back home.

“Jhivvan thinks, ‘I got a lot more to do, a lot more to do to get better,’ ” Leroy Jackson said. “(He says) ‘I got a lot more work to get done.’ … I say, ‘All these kids from Puerto Rico, when they hear your name, they know who you are … I’m from Panama, and I know a lot of people from Panama follow him.

“I tell him, ‘You don’t pay a lot of attention to it. But a lot of people love your game. A lot of people follow you. A lot of people enjoy watching your highlights.’ But because he is so focused right now, it hasn’t registered with him yet,” Leroy Jackson said.

More than any scoring list, Jackson said his son is more consumed with a team goal at the moment.

“It’s to make ‘March Madness,’ ” Leroy Jackson said.

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.

Wallace moves into No. 2 on UTSA’s all-time scoring list

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Southern Miss 78-72 in Conference USA action at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace is now the No. 2 all-time scorer in UTSA school history. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace has moved into second on the UTSA all-time scoring list. Jhivvan Jackson leads with 2,389 points, followed by Wallace with 1,928.

Former San Antonio schoolboy Devin Brown, who played for the Roadrunners from 1998-2002, scored 1,922.

Wallace moved up with a 33-point performance Friday night at Florida International. Jackson, the leading scorer among active NCAA Division I players, scored 22 as he climbed to within reach of 2,400.

Only 103 players in Division I history have scored 2,400 points.