Shocker: UTSA rallies behind Ivy-Curry, Carter to win at SMU

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Jordan Ivy-Curry buried a 25-footer from the wing with 15 seconds left Saturday afternoon as the UTSA Roadrunners completed an improbable comeback, rallying from a 13-point deficit to down the SMU Mustangs, 77-73.

Ivy-Curry finished with 33 points for the Roadrunners, who entered the game at SMU’s Moody Coliseum in a tie for last place in the American Athletic Conference.

But after knocking off the fourth-place Mustangs, they have now won three in a row, a streak that started a week ago with a win on the road at North Texas and then one at home against Tulsa.

The victory over SMU was easily UTSA’s best of the season. The Mustangs entered the day at No. 44 nationally in the NET ratings. They were 13-2 at home and 7-0 in AAC home games.

Up until a week ago, they were still in contention for the AAC title.

Nonetheless, Ivy-Curry, PJ Carter (23 points), Dre Fuller Jr. (13), Christian Tucker (nine assists) and all their friends supplied the grit to help make the upset victory a reality.

Interviewed in the postgame on the ESPN Plus livestream, Ivy-Curry thanked his teammates for staying together through tough times this season.

“Big shoutout to my teammates,” Ivy-Curry said. “We’ve been through a lot of tough battles. We was on a losing streak and we had to fight some battles, keep going to practice. You know, keeping our head level and staying (together). So I want to give a shoutout to my teammates for staying positive, no matter what the outcome was.”

In the wake of the win, the Roadrunners will get some time off before they play the regular-season finale at home against Temple on March. 10. The AAC men’s basketball tournament opens March 13 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

For SMU (19-10, 10-6) in the American), the loss might be costly.

The Mustangs entered the day in fourth place in the 14-team AAC. With a top-four finish, teams get a double-bye into the AAC tournament, meaning they will need to win only three games in three days to win it. Teams that finish from fifth place to 10th place must play four games in four days.

With the win, UTSA (11-19, 5-12) likely needs a victory over Temple at home on March 10 and some help to avoid a bottom-four finish, which would result in a five-games in five days route to the automatic NCAA berth.

Halftime

Reversing course from a dismal start, the UTSA Roadrunners battled from behind and made a statement against the SMU Mustangs. The Mustangs withstood the charge and emerged with a 36-34 lead at halftime.

In the beginning, the Mustangs dominated. Employing a physical style, they methodically buried the Roadrunners, surging into a 21-8 lead with a little less than 10 minutes remaining.

UTSA, at times, had trouble getting off a shot against the home team. The Roadrunners mixed turnovers with three-of-13 shooting from the field and found themselves in a rather large hole.

Then, all of a sudden, they flipped the narrative. With Dre Fuller Jr., PJ Carter and Ivy-Curry leading the way, they stunned the Mustangs with a 14-0 run.

Records

UTSA 11-19, 5-12
SMU 19-10, 10-6

Coming up

Temple at UTSA, Sunday, March 10, 2 p.m.

Temple snaps a 10-game losing streak by downing UTSA, 83-77, in AAC men’s basketball

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Leading by three with two minutes left, the Temple Owls broke it open down the stretch thanks to a Steve Settle three pointer, and then they went on to snap a 10-game losing streak with an 83-77 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

In an American Athletic Conference played game at Philadelphia, the Owls shot 45 percent from the field and knocked down eight threes to win for the first time since Jan. 7. UTSA has now dropped six straight and hasn’t won since Jan. 24.

Guard Hysier Miller scored 20 points to lead four Temple players in double figures. Settle finished with 16, followed by Jahlil White with 15 and Jordan Riley 12.

UTSA played the second half without floor leader Christian Tucker, who was disqualified just before halftime for leaving the bench area. Jordan Ivy-Curry led the Roadrunners with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. PJ Carter hit three three-point baskets and finished with 13. Dre Fuller Jr. had 11 points and four rebounds.

The Roadrunners shot 42.7 percent from the floor and made six three-point baskets.

First half

In a blow to the Roadrunners’ chances to win, guard Christian Tucker was ejected just before halftime. It all started when Temple guard Hysier Miller was trapped in the corner adjacent to the UTSA bench. Guarded closely by Roadrunners’ guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, Miller pushed off. Ivy-Curry fell backward and went down on the floor.

Tucker, who was not in the game at the time, stood up in front of the bench. Then he came out on the court, extending his hand to help Ivy-Curry get up. But, by rule, he was ejected, leaving UTSA short-handed for the second half. The Roadrunners went into the dressing room leading 41-34 after Ivy-Curry hit a free throw awarded on a technical foul against Miller for pushing off.

Records

UTSA 2-11, 8-18
Temple 2-11, 9-17

Coming up

South Florida at UTSA, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Notable

Christian Tucker had one point, two rebounds and two assists at the time of his ejection. For the season, he was averaging 12 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Mason scores 30 as Rice holds off UTSA down the stretch, 80-76

Adante' Holiman. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Adante’ Holiman hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points off the bench in his first game since Jan. 2. Holiman sat out the last seven games with a sprained ankle. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Mekhi Mason scored 17 of his season-high 30 points in the second half and Anthony Selden knocked down two free throws in the last minute Saturday, lifting the Rice Owls to an 80-76 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

Jordan Ivy-Curry led the Roadrunners with 19 points.

UTSA lost its second straight game and fell to 1-6 in its last seven despite a spirited comeback in the final five minutes that fell short.

Mekhi Mason. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Arizona native Mekhi Mason hit 11 of 19 from the field and scored a season-high 30 points for the Rice Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With 5:02 remaining, Rice took a commanding 73-58 lead as Mason pulled up to knock down a jumper.

From there, the Roadrunners rallied with an 18-5 run over the next four and a half minutes to pull within two.

Guard Adante’ Holiman, playing his first game after missing most of January with a sprained ankle, swished a three-pointer off the wing to make it a 78-76 game with 33 seconds left.

After the timeout, UTSA pressured the ball, trapping just as Rice brought it past halfcourt. The ball was swung around to Selden, and UTSA fouled him with 21 seconds left.

Selden, a 73 percent free-throw shooter who was one for two at the line at that point, made both free throws to give the Owls a four-point lead.

On the other end, the Roadrunners came up empty with four straight misses before the buzzer sounded.

The difference in the game was Mason, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Gilbert, Ariz. Mason entered the arena averaging 14 points for the season on 41 percent shooting, including 32 of 97 from the three-point arc. He torched the Roadrunners by hitting 11 of 19 from the field. Mason made three of seven from distance.

Jordan Ivy-Curry. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Travis Evee also hurt the Roadrunners, scoring 18 points and sinking four of eight from the arc. In all, the Owls made 12 of 29 from distance, getting the best of the 3-point shooting Roadrunners, who managed only seven of 25 on the afternoon.

In the teams’ last meeting, played in Houston on Jan. 6, the Roadrunners won it 89-82 in overtime and slowed down the Owls with a 2-3 zone.

They tried to mix it up a little in the rematch, throwing out a 1-3-1, but Evee, Mason, Alem Huseinovich and Noah Shelby took turns shooting over it with success.

“I thought the 1-3-1 matched up,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s broadcast, on KTKR AM-760. “At times it had the effect that we needed it to have. Guys embraced that this week. I thought they did a good job with that. But, long way to go. We got to play harder. Got to play harder. There (are) loose balls we’re not getting. Rebounds we’re not getting. We got to play harder.”

Records

Rice 9-13, 3-6
UTSA 8-14, 2-7

Scott Pera. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Scott Pera’s Rice Owls improved to 3-2 over their last five games. The Owls have notched victories over Temple, Memphis and UTSA in that stretch. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Coming up

UTSA at Wichita State, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

Notable

The Owls nearly completely turned the tables on the two Roadrunners who hurt them the most last month. Center Carlton Linguard Jr. scored 24 points and Dre Fuller Jr. had 23 in the first meeting. In the rematch, Linguard scored six and Fuller was shut out. Both were 0 for 3 from long distance in the first half, when the Roadrunners went 3 for 17 as a team.

Linguard battled hard to the end, making some plays down the stretch and finishing with 10 rebounds.

Leading the Roadrunners were Jordan Ivy-Curry, Christian Tucker, Adante’ Holiman and Trey Edmonds. Ivy-Curry, the team’s leading scorer, hit for 19 points on 6 for 16 shooting in 27 minutes. Tucker produced 14 points, eight assists and four steals.

Holiman, a UTSA sophomore from McAlester, Okla., scored 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench. He injured his ankle on Jan. 2 late in a home game against the UAB Blazers. The 6-foot transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley sat out the next seven games in rehabilitation before starting to work out full speed earlier this week.

“I thought he was really good considering how much time he’s missed,” Henson said. “He got three practices in this week, (on) Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He stepped right in like hasn’t missed a beat.”

Edmonds, one of UTSA’s big men, scored 10 points on four of five shooting. Massal Diouf, a power forward off the bench, contributed six points and seven rebounds.

Trey Edmonds. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Trey Edmonds scores on a breakaway dunk. Edmonds finished with 10 points on four of five shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

South Florida hits 18 triples and rolls past UTSA, 89-72

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Coming off a dramatic, one-point victory at home, the UTSA Roadrunners couldn’t conjure up the necessary magic to win on the road Saturday afternoon.

The South Florida Bulls romped to a 14-point halftime lead and then followed through with a convincing 89-72 victory at Tampa, Fla.

South Florida beat UTSA at its own game, using the 3-point shot to win going away. The Bulls hit 18 from long distance. Averaging 10 made triples per game for the season, UTSA was limited to 10 of 29 from beyond the arc.

Even then, the total was misleading because Roadrunners made three of them in the last four minutes when the game was already out of reach.

Kobe Knox, Chris Youngblood and Jose Placer did most of the damage for the Bulls, hitting four threes apiece. As a result, South Florida won its fifth straight game and improved its record to 11-1 overall since Dec. 9.

On the scoring chart, Knox had 18 points and Placer had 16. Youngblood and Selton Miguel had 15 apiece. For the game, the Bulls hit 32 of 60 from the field and 18 of 33 from 3-point territory.

The Bulls entered the game as one of only four teams with one loss in the American Athletic Conference, so they will keep pace with the leaders. The Roadrunners, meanwhile, continued their struggle to find consistency, falling to 3-9 in their last 12 games.

UTSA had lost some close ones during the skid, including a couple of them in overtime against nationally-ranked teams, one on the road at Memphis and another at home against Florida Atlantic. On the other hand, the Roadrunners also have lost twice by lopsided margins on the road.

They fell by 29 at Tulsa and now by 17 at South Florida.

“This game and the Tulsa game are going to be the ones that are really going to stick with us for awhile,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast on KTKR AM-760. “We just didn’t compete hard enough.

“February is a monthy where if we play well and stay together, stay healthy, get Adante’ (Holiman) back at some point, I still think we can make some noise in February.”

Holiman, a sophomore guard, has missed seven games in a row with an ankle sprain.

Against South Florida, guard Jordan Ivy-Curry finished with 23 points on 8 of 16 shooting. He made 5 of 9 from long distance.

In a three-game stretch this week, Ivy-Curry scored a career-high 38 in a 112-103 overtime loss to Florida Atlantic, hit the winning bucket with 2.3 seconds left in an 89-88 victory over Tulane and then kept UTSA in the game against a South Florida team playing like a contender.

Carlton Linguard Jr., who exploded for a career-high 31 against Tulane, couldn’t find the range against South Florida. He was limted to 2 of 7 from the field and 1 of 4 from three. PJ Carter scored nine points, and Christian Tucker and Massal Diouf had eight each.

Tucker, the assists leader in the American, had six against the Bulls.

“We’ve had several games where we just don’t do a good job defending the three,” Henson said. “A lot of these were results of drive and kick, whether off penetration or zoom action turning the corner … They were kicking it for pretty good looks.

“A couple of ’em early were by guys who don’t shoot ’em great. But, man, when they started going, they were all knocking ’em in. Just not enough resistance on the defensive end.”

Records

UTSA 8-13, 2-6
South Florida 13-5, 6-1

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2 p.m.

No. 23 FAU rallies behind Davis to beat UTSA 112-103 in OT

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA lost to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored a career-high 38 points in front of the home crowd Sunday afternoon, but Florida Atlantic withstood the barrage and defeated the Roadrunners by nine in overtime. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Johnell Davis scored 34 points Saturday afternoon as the 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls rallied from a 16-point deficit in the first half to down the UTSA Roadrunners, 112-103 in overtime, at the Convocation Center.

Coming off a Final Four season, the Owls didn’t flinch when they fell behind 36-20 in the first half. They kept plugging away and tied the game in regulation, escaping a loss when UTSA’s Carlton Linguard Jr. missed a wide-open three at the buzzer.

In the overtime, FAU called on Alijah Martin, who scored nine of his 26 points in the extra five minutes.

Johnell Davis. Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Johnell Davis scored 34 points — 13 in the first half, 17 in the second half and four in overtime — for the FAU Owls. Davis, from Gary, Ind., has hit 30 or more points in two of his last three games and in three of his last eight – Photo by Joe Alexander

Martin also contributed momentum-turning plays with a key steal and an offensive rebound off a missed FAU free throw as the Owls improved their record to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the American Athletic Conference.

With the loss, the Roadrunners fell to 7-12 and 1-5, including a pair of agonizing losses in the AAC to Top 25 teams — both in overtime. On Jan. 10, the Roadrunners played on the road and took 13th-ranked Memphis to OT before falling 107-101.

This time, guard Jordan Ivy-Curry electrified the home crowd with a career-high of 38 points. Ivy-Curry was on his game, hitting 10 of 20 from the field, four of eight from three-point distance and 14 of 17 at the free-throw line.

Guard Christian Tucker also played well, contributing 19 points and 12 assists. Tucker, a one-time, walk-on, is leading the conference in assists and is also one of the AAC’s best free-throw shooters.

The Roadrunners had it going early in the game, knocking down 12 of their first 17 shots. Eight of the 12 were 3-pointers, including four of them by Isaiah Wyatt. A triple by Linguard made it 36-20 in favor of the Roadrunners with 9:24 left in the first half.

From there, the Owls started getting hot themselves. Davis hit a three, a layup and another three to ignite the visitors on a 29-17 run to the end of the first half.

Christian Tucker. UTSA lost to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA point guard Christian Tucker finished with 19 points and 12 assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

After the Owls scored the first five points after intermission for a 54-53 advantage, the Roadrunners went on the attack again. The constructed an 11-3 run. When forward Massal Diouf hit a layup on an assist by Ivy-Curry, the Roadrunners had regained control, up by seven.

At that juncture, the Owls grinded it out through the end of regulation, outscoring the Roadrunners 34-27 in the last 14 minutes. They did it in large measure by running UTSA off the 3-point line.

Consequently, the Roadrunners made only one triple down the stretch. In the closing moments of regulation, UTSA had a three-point lead when Davis had the ball on the perimeter, looking for a chance to tie. As he rose to shoot, Wyatt fouled him, bumped him body-to-body.

Davis, a 6-foot-4 junior from Gary, Ind., went to the free-throw line and made all three attempts with 16.6 seconds left. His third make tied it 91-91. After that, UTSA had the ball and Ivy-Curry faced a double team.

Ivy-Curry may have had a chance to drive it but he elected to pass to the open man, and Linguard missed, sending the game into overtime.

Isaiah Wyatt. UTSA lost to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Wyatt caught fire early, knocking down four 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes. He finished with 14 points. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Records

Florida Atlantic 15-4, 5-1
UTSA 7-12, 1-5

Coming up

Tulane at UTSA, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Notable

In UTSA’s first season in the American, three of its first six conference games have lapsed into overtime. One was a win but two have been excruciating losses to Top 25 opponents.

The Roadrunners emerged with an 89-82 victory over Rice on Jan. 6 in Houston. Four nights later, they played at No. 13 Memphis and dropped a 107-101 decision to the Tigers. Finally, against 23rd-ranked FAU, they bolted to the large lead in front of a home crowd but couldn’t hold on.

“We have got to find a way to win those games,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said.

Dre Fuller Jr. UTSA lost to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

FAU center Vladislav Goldin (50) extends his length to defend against UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. Fuller, who attended FAU briefly last summer, finished with nine points and five rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In his postgame radio interview aired on KTKR AM-760, The Ticket, Henson bemoaned the lost opportunity to beat the Owls at the end of regulation.

On the play, Ivy-Curry was double-teamed on the perimeter and couldn’t get off a shot, electing to pass off to Linguard on the high right side of the three-point arc. The 7-foot center misfired, leaving the score tied 91-91 going into the OT.

“Juice (Ivy-Curry) had it going,” Henson said. “We needed to make sure he gets that shot and we didn’t do it.

“We should have just left everybody flat, just let Juice play straight in iso ball. We tried to get (FAU center Vladislav) Goldin out of the lane, so we could get down in there and attack.

“I mean, he causes some problems with his length down in there. We tried to pull him out … They just went and gave a little soft double on Juice. Juice’s only option would have been to back it up and then drive it at Goldin, which probably would have been successful.

“But he made the right play. You got to trust your teammates. Carlton made some baskets with the game on the line earlier in the season. It was the right play. But we would have loved to have Juice take that last shot.”

Alijah Martin. Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Alijah Martin hit two threes and scored nine of his 26 points in overtime. He also had a key steal and an offensive rebound in the extra five minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

No. 13 Memphis survives upset bid, downs UTSA 107-101 in OT

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA men’s basketball team came within a few plays Wednesday night of registering what would have been one of the biggest victories in program history.

The Roadrunners had Coach Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers reeling for much of the game. Memphis fans were stunned when UTSA had a two-point lead with a chance to close out the 13th-ranked team in the nation in the final seconds of regulation.

Just about that time, though, Roadrunners center Massal Diouf was whistled for a moving screen.

A questionable whistle? Replays suggested it could have been a no-call. Regardless, the Tigers knocked down the ensuing two free throws to tie and eventually pushed the game to overtime, when guard Jahvon Quinerly took over and won it for his team, 107-101

Quinerly scored nine points in the extra period, the Tigers survived an inspired upset bid by the Roadrunners and eventually escaped what might have been a disastrous loss for a team looking for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, nicknamed ‘Juice’ for a reason, led the Roadrunners with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists. In an epic shooting performance, he hit six of UTSA’s 17 three-point buckets.

For Memphis, forward David Jones notched a double double with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Quinerly, a transfer from Alabama, finished with 25 points, four rebounds and four assists. Memphis went to the free throw line 43 times and made 30 of them.

As a result, the Tigers improved to 76-10 at home in six seasons under Hardaway, including 8-0 this season.

Records

UTSA 7-9, 1-2
Memphis 14-2, 3-0

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, Saturday, 7 p.m.

Notable

In his postgame interview with Andy Everett on KTKR-AM 760, UTSA coach Steve Henson took responsibility for the play that resulted in the foul call on Diouf and praised the effort of his players.

“Proud of our guys,” Henson said. “They did a lot of things well in this game. Look at those turnovers (only eight by UTSA). Memphis thrives off turnovers. They need ’em. We reduced ’em. We did a heck of a job in that regard. Players stepped up.

“(Forward) Chandler Cuthrell came in and gave us a huge lift. Different guys did some terrific things in the game. We got to make one more play in regulation and win the game. I made a terrible (decision).”

On the key play, Ivy-Curry had the ball at the top of the circle, guarded by Jones. As Diouf ran out from the post area to set the screen, Jones turned and was picked as the Ivy-Curry pass zipped inside to forward Dre Fuller Jr.

Fuller was about to dunk it for a four-point lead when officials called the foul, stopped the action and sent Jones to the line on the other end.

“We had the ball in Juice’s hand,” Henson said. “I sent Massal out, not trying to pick. Early in the game, we were picking with the five man (the center) involving (Memphis center Malcolm) Dandridge to get by him. In that (last) case, I just wanted to get Massal out of the paint.

“That’s on me. We didn’t get the shot there.”

Quinerly, interviewed in the postgame by a reporter for ESPN, said he is proud of his teammates for sticking together and winning the close games.

“I’m just proud of the guys,” he said. “Another close one. I think our last five have been close games. We found a way to pull it out. So, I’m proud of the guys.”

Coming in, few observers gave UTSA much of a chance against Memphis.

The Roadrunners, picked to finish last in the American Athletic Conference, entered the FedEx Forum rated 285th in the nation on the NCAA’s NET computer. Memphis, picked to finish second in the AAC, was 47th on the NET.

“I know everybody talks down on this conference,” Quinerly said. “But this is a conference where anybody can win on any given day … You know, we got a lot to work on. I’m just happy we were able to pull this one out today.”

Several players emerged to play well for the Roadrunners. Six hit double figures. In the backcourt, alongside Ivy-Curry, Christian Tucker had 14 points, seven assists and a couple of steals.

Forward Chandler Cuthrell, meanwhile, had 13 points in 14 minutes and hit three from distance. Three others finished with 10 points, including starting big men Carlton Linguard Jr. and Trey Edmonds and also guard PJ Carter.

In all, the Roadrunners knocked down 17 of 45 from the three-point arc.

UAB wins in the final seconds against UTSA, 78-76

UAB guard Efrem ‘Butta’ Johnson (No. 24) circles the perimeter, receives a pass and knocks down the game-winner. Johnson, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Huntsville, Ala., hit two baskets in the last minute of the game and finished with 17 points for the Blazers. – Video by The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Guard Efrem Johnson nailed a 16-foot jumper off the side with three seconds left Tuesday night, lifting the UAB Blazers to a 78-76 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners in the inaugural American Athletic Conference game for both teams.

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry produced 20 points and 10 rebounds. It was his second straight game of 20 or more. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“They made a contested two to win it,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “Frustrating. Frustrating.”

After a timeout, the Roadrunners had 2.5 seconds left to try to pull it out. They were inbounding with 92 feet to the other end of the court. So it was a low-percentage chance to tie or win it. And, sure enough, the play was blown up when UAB guard Eric Gaines intercepted the inbounds.

“Disappointed for our guys,” Henson said later in the interview room. “We did some things very well in the game. It feels a little like the Oregon State game, where we did enough good things on both ends to win the ball game. It’s right there.”

UAB forward Yaxel Lendeborg emerged as the individual star of the night with 23 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots. The performance followed his 24-point, 15-rebound effort in a 90-85 victory over UNC Asheville last Friday in Birmingham. Against UTSA, Lendeborg knocked down five of six 3-point shots.

Coming into the conference opener, the Roadrunners talked openly about how they felt “disrespected” in a preseason poll that pegged them for a last-place finish in the 14-team league. One player mused that “a lot of people think we’re not even supposed to be in this conference.”

Even with the loss, the Roadrunners might have changed some opinions with their all-out effort against a team that had been picked fourth in the same preseason poll. Playing in front of a television audience on ESPNU, UTSA pressured on defense and forced UAB into 40 percent shooting from the field and 20 turnovers.

“I think we made a statement that we’re not here to quit or lay down, and that we’re going to fight in every game,” UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. said.

Christian Tucker. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Christian Tucker finished with 15 points on six of nine shooting from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The final minute of the game was hotly contested. In fact, it looked a lot like a game headed for overtime.

First, UTSA power forward Trey Edmonds sank a short hook shot with 57 seconds left to tie the score. On the other end, Johnson nailed a pull-up jumper as UAB went back in front by two.

Not to be outdone, UTSA’s Jordan Ivy-Curry made a play to tie it again. Defending at the top of the circle, Gaines stepped in front of the UTSA playmaker try to draw a charge. But Ivy-Curry got the call, went to the line with 25 seconds left and knocked down two free throws. Once again, it was deadlocked, this time at 76-all.

On the ensuing possession, the Blazers played it perfectly. As Gaines dribbled at the top, Johnson set up in one corner. As the clock ticked down toward 10 seconds, Johnson started to circle the perimeter, headed for the other side of the floor.

He caught the pass, rose up and swished it.

On UTSA’s last play, Fuller was inbounding the ball from the baseline. Video showed UTSA guard Isaiah Wyatt streaking down one sideline toward the other end, with Christian Tucker setting a pick near halfcourt to free him. A UAB player backed up, creating contact that sent Tucker sprawling to the court. There was no call.

Dre Fuller Jr. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Dre Fuller Jr. enjoyed a big game with 15 points. Fuller hit three of six shots from outside the 3-point arc. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Meanwhile, the Blazers had the inbounds covered effectively, with Gaines stepping into traffic to secure the steal — and the game.

Records

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

Notable

The Roadrunners have lost five straight conference openers. Their last victory in a conference opener came on Jan. 3 of 2019 in San Antonio when they beat the UTEP Miners, 75-60. Henson, in his eighth year with the Roadrunners, is 3-5 in games that have kicked off conference schedules … UTSA guard Adante’ Holiman went down with an ankle injury with 4:37 remaining when he was fouled on a e-point shot attempt. Despite the injury, he made two of three free throws and then had to come out of the game … The Blazers lead the series with the Roadrunners, 12-5. UAB has won six out of seven against UTSA under fourth-year coach Andy Kennedy. UTSA has lost five straight to UAB, with its last victory coming on Feb. 27 of 2021. On that day, the Roadrunners won 96-79 in the last game at home for former star guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

Individuals

UAB — Lendeborg produced 23 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks in 40 minutes. The 6-foot-9, 230-pounder stepped outside to knock down five 3 pointers. Also, guard Efrem Johnson, 17 points and four assists. Daniel Ortiz, 11 points, with three from behind the arc. Eric Gaines had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds.

UTSA — Jordan Ivy-Curry, 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in nearly 29 minutes. Ivy-Curry had to come out for a few minutes down the stretch when he picked up his fourth foul. Dre Fuller, 15 points on six of 12 from the field, including three triples. Also, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Christian Tucker, 15 points, six of nine shooting.

Key team stats

UAB outrebounded UTSA, 49-35, including 17-13 on the offensive end. The Blazers also knocked down 55 percent from 3-point distance, namely, 11 of 20.

First half

The Roadrunners played one of their better halves of the season as they emerged with a 40-39 lead going into the break at intermission.

UTSA’s pressure defense forced 11 turnovers and held an explosive offensive team to 38 percent shooting from the field.

On the other end, guards Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker used their speed and savvy to hurt the Blazers. Ivy-Curry had 10 points on four of seven shooting. Tucker, meanwhile, slashed inside to hit four of six from the floor. He had nine points at the half.

UAB stayed close in the game with its attack on the rim and nine of 10 free-throw shooting. UTSA wasn’t nearly as productive at the stripe, making one of four, with all of the attempts by Trey Edmonds.

Center Yaxel Lendeborg was big for the Blazers, producing 14 points and nine rebounds. Eric Gaines also emerged as a key player with 10 points.

JB’s video replay

Forward Trey Edmonds posts up and scores on a short hook with 57 seconds remaining against the UAB Blazers.

UTSA rebounds after a Jordan Ivy-Curry miss and gets the ball to Christian Tucker, whose drive to the bucket for a reverse layup lifted the Roadrunners into a 72-71 lead with 1:32 remaining.

UTSA’s Christian Tucker drives and dishes to Dre Fuller Jr. for an easy bucket.

UAB forward Yaxel Lendeborg buries a three on a pick and pop play early in the second half. Lendeborg led all scorers with 23 points. He hit five of six from 3-point range.

After whirlwind of a week, Roadrunners are set to play Sunday at Oregon State

Jordan Ivy-Curry. Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 73-64 on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Hard-charging guard Jordan Ivy-Curry is expected to play for the first time this season today at Oregon State. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

What a week it was. The UTSA Roadrunners will arrive on Sunday at Oregon State University as a team that is deeper and more talented, by quite a bit, than it was only a few days ago.

Guards Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna have been cleared to play for the first time this season after sitting out the first 10 games under NCAA transfer rules.

After a hectic week when a court case in West Virginia yielded a result that led to the addition of Ivy-Curry and Reyna to the travel squad, coach Steve Henson acknowledged the upgrade on his roster.

UTSA coach Steve Henson. UTSA defeated Incarnate Word (UIW) 90-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson on Saturday announced the addition of two players — Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna — who will be eligible for the remainder of the season. Both had sat out the first 10 games of the season under transfer rules. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“To add a player (in Ivy-Curry) who was a good player (for us) at the Conference USA level, it’s a big shot in the arm,” the coach said.

Additionally, Adante’ Holiman is expected to return after sitting out the past two games with concussion symptoms.

Naturally, the two players making their season debuts are eager to see what they can do to help the Roadrunners (5-5) win a game against the Beavers (6-3) of the Pac-12 Conference.

“I know our team has been missing, like, a little energy,” Ivy-Curry said Saturday morning in San Antonio. “I feel like, with me and Juan, we’re energy guys … I feel like we can do a great job of bringing more defense to our team and more offense.

“I feel like we’re going to have a great year,” he added. “We want to pick this thing up, and get this thing moving.”

Reyna couldn’t hide his excitement during an interview after practice.

Asked how it felt to be a few hours away from boarding a commercial flight to Oregon, en route to the locale where he will play his first game for the Roadrunners, the San Antonio native and former standout at Antonian College Prep unleashed an ear-to-ear smile.

“It feels great,” Reyna said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to play this year. It just feels great to have an opportunity to help contribute. You know, to help this team win.”

UTSA released the news on Ivy-Curry and Reyna just after the start of a 9 a.m. practice on the team’s home court.

Afterward, Roadrunners Henson said newcomer Justin Thomas also had an opportunity to start playing in games, as well, and he declined.

Thomas, one of the most talented players on the squad, instead will sit out the remainder of the season. He will have two years of eligibility remaining, starting in 2024-25.

Ivy-Curry and Reyna are eligible for the rest of this season and for all of ’24-25, the coach added.

How did this all happen? Weren’t Ivy-Curry and Reyna expected to sit out the year? They were. So, what give? Here’s a brief explainer:

Out of the blue

From a federal courthouse in West Virginia, the news came rumbling out of the hills. Or, as Henson said, “out of the blue.”

Basketball coaches around NCAA Division I could hear the sound, metaphorically speaking, because it stood to make so much of a difference in the quality of their teams.

For Henson, he had more on the line than most.

The eighth-year coach of the Roadrunners had three talented players sitting out as multiple-time transfers who might be able to start suiting up in games depending on the outcome of the proceedings in an antitrust lawsuit.

Initially, on Wednesday, the news was good for Henson. Lawyers for the plaintiffs representing a coalition of seven states argued, essentially, that the transfer rule represented a restraint of trade. The judge agreed, and so he issued a temporary restraining order.

What did it mean? It meant that Henson and others in his profession might be able to start to playing players who otherwise might never have seen the floor this season.

The Roadrunners suddenly started to feel optimistic, like they might be able to start playing games with Ivy-Curry, Thomas and Reyna, all of them considered as two-time transfers.

But as so often happens in court proceedings, more drama and uncertainty ensued. The judge said previously ineligible players could only participate in games over a 14-day period.

Then came Thursday and more concerning news.

Word out of the NCAA was that players who played in games during the TRO might face consequences. News flashed that if the court reversed itself, then those players could be finished for the season after playing in only a few games.

By Friday, the cloudy skies cleared, so to speak. Representatives of the seven states filing the lawsuit huddled with officials from the NCAA.

Even though UTSA had nothing to do with the case, the Roadrunners benefited immensely from the meeting of the minds, which yielded an agreement.

The two sides would request from the judge an injunction that would allow athletes affected by the transfer rule to play in games through the end of the season without concern that they might be ruled ineligible.

The request for an injunction from both sides of the lawsuit apparently is expected to be granted by the court.

It’s a sweeping change that will affect dozens of players nationally.

“All these multi-year transfers (around the nation) are eligible,” Henson said. “You know, this thing changed three times during the week. And a couple of our kids, their decisions went back and forth.”

Henson recalled a moment in time on Wednesday when the team was in Little Rock, and he and his staff tried to figure out how to defend the Little Rock Trojans.

“They had a two-time transfer,” Henson said. “We thought he was going to play. Our guys (Ivy-Curry, Thomas and Reyna) weren’t on the trip with us. We literally joked about getting them a flight and getting them there by that night.”

Guard Juan Reyna works in a defensive drill during a Saturday morning practice at the UTSA Convocation Center. The San Antonio native and former standout player for Coach Rudy Bernal at Antonian College Prep has been cleared to play for the rest of the season.

UTSA announces that Ivy-Curry and Reyna are eligible to play

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA basketball players Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna are eligible to play for the remainder of the 2023-24 season, starting with a road game set for Sunday at Oregon State University, according to an athletic department news release.

“Based on the latest guidance from the NCAA and the preliminary injunction regarding the residency requirement for multi-time transfers, UTSA men’s basketball athletes Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna are now eligible to compete for the remainder of the 2023-24 season,” the release said. “They will be available for competition beginning with Sunday’s game at Oregon State.”

Furthermore, UTSA coach Steve Henson said in the release, “We are very happy for our kids. These young men really wanted to be Roadrunners. Now they have the opportunity to suit up and help our program, immediately. They have both been practicing extremely well and they are very excited to compete.”

After a court case played out this week in West Virginia, all multiple-time transfers in NCAA sports became eligible through the spring. The three multi-time transfers for UTSA men’s basketball were Ivy-Curry, Reyna and Justin Thomas.

While Ivy-Curry and Reyna wanted to take the chance to play immediately, Thomas elected to sit out the remainder of the season, Henson said.

Making such a decision will allow the 6-foot-7 forward to have two years of eligibility with the Roadrunners — in the 2024-25 season and ’25-26.

Henson said that the Ivy-Curry and Reyna will have the remainder of this season and all of ’24-25 to complete their UTSA eligibility.

Court action could clear pathway for UTSA’s Jordan Ivy-Curry and Justin Thomas to play

Jordan Ivy-Curry. A&M-Corpus Christi beat UTSA 77-58 on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Developments in a West Virginia court case could crack open an opportunity for guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and forward for Justin Thomas both to play this season for the UTSA Roadrunners. As it is, both are sitting out under NCAA transfer rules, which are now being contested legally. Ivy-Curry is shown here in a photo from 2021-22. – File Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
News analysis for The JB Replay

Will UTSA basketball players Jordan Ivy-Curry and Justin Thomas be allowed to play this year? Will they perhaps make the road trip to play at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon? An athletics department spokesman says in a text that he can’t confirm the members of the traveling party.

Meanwhile, UTSA coach Steve Henson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Justin Thomas. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Justin Thomas averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee, of the Horizon League. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But after a motion in a West Virginia-based court case was filed Friday to request an injunction allowing for multi-time transfers to compete in games through the end of the season, I suspect that the wheels might be in motion for the Roadrunners to suit up both athletes.

If it’s not this weekend, then it might not be long afterward.

Over the past few years, NCAA rules on transfers have changed. First-time transfers were given the chance to play immediately. But it was announced this summer that athletes transferring for a second time or more had to sit out a year in residence. In response, seven states including West Virginia have challenged the multiple-time rule.

The initial decision by Judge John Preston Bailey on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order allowing multi-time transfers to play within a 14-day window. In the past few days, the states and the NCAA agreed to pursue an injunction that would extend the protections for athletes hoping to play while the case was being decided.

The NCAA said in a statement issued to ESPN and other media outlets Friday saying that, “given the unprecedented decision by the courts earlier this week, the NCAA has reached an agreement with the states to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction through the remainder of the 2023-24 NCAA championship season.”

Apparently, the judge has not signed off on the request yet. But if it indeed happens, it could be a huge development for the Roadrunners. UTSA (5-5) is scheduled to play at Oregon State (6-3) on Sunday and at home against Army and Prairie View A&M by the end of the calendar year.

The program’s first season in the American Athletic Conference begins Jan. 2 at home against the UAB Blazers.

Ivy-Curry, who played at UTSA for two seasons from 2020-22 before transferring to the University of the Pacific last season, is a 6-foot-3 guard from La Marque. He’s an offensive firebrand who can hit the three and can slash to the bucket. He averaged double figures in scoring each of his last two seasons, one at UTSA and then another at Pacific in California.

The 6-foot-7 Thomas is a versatile player who averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee, in the Horizon League. The Baton Rouge, La., native hit 42.9 percent from three. He looks like he could play shooting guard, but he is apparently being viewed as a small forward or power forward at UTSA.

Multi-time transfers for the Roadrunners include Ivy-Curry (who has played at UTSA, Pacific, and UTSA again), Thomas (Division II Queens University, N.C., Milwaukee, Wis., and UTSA) and guard Juan Reyna (Alabama State, Campbell, S.C., and UTSA).

I do not think that Reyna, formerly of Antonian High School, will play at UTSA this season. He apparently enrolled with a plan to redshirt in 2023-24 to further some long-range academic goals, so he apparently will continue to practice with the team as a walk on, with a plan to start his Roadrunners playing career in 2024-25.

As for Ivy-Curry and Thomas, they both probably would have been on the floor this season had it not been for the NCAA rule that is now being contested. But when both arrived at UTSA this summer, they knew the only way they could get into games right away would be if they received a waiver.

Ivy-Curry applied for one but reportedly had it rejected by the NCAA a few weeks ago. Now, because of the lawsuit filed by seven states on behalf of some other college athletes, Ivy-Curry and Thomas now both could be in a position to resume their careers soon if everything falls just right.

The story broke on Wednesday afternoon that Bailey had granted a restraining order. UTSA coaches and players were already in Little Rock, Ark., when the news stories started to be published on social media.

That night, the Roadrunners built a 14-point lead in the first half and then faded, eventually losing to the Trojans, 93-84.

Naturally, since Ivy-Curry and Thomas weren’t eligible when the team left town, they weren’t on the trip. In addition, guard Adante’ Holiman wasn’t there, either. He stayed home because of concussion symptoms.

But the fact remains that the Roadrunners, who had won three straight, simply ran out of steam and lost a game they could have won.

Another unsettling issue as they returned home on Thursday centered on the restraining order and what it would all mean. Coaches and players around the nation were all left wondering.

Initially, there was both confusion and trepidation about what would happen if teams played athletes affected by the ruling. For instance, Little Rock apparently had one player who had been sitting out like Ivy-Curry and Thomas, and he was on site. But the Trojans, only hours after the judge issued the restraining order, did not use him.

Adante' Holiman. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore guard Adante’ Holiman has been out the last two games because of concussion symptoms. His status for Sunday’s game at Oregon State is uncertain. But he did work out on his own late Thursday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It might have had something to do with rumblings from the NCAA that athletes who played games during the 14-day period might face a loss of a year’s eligibility if the decision was reversed. The thought was that the court might reverse itself in a hearing that had been set for Dec. 27.

Now, with the request for the injunction, athletes approved to play nationally will have 20 games or so to compete, plus postseason tournament games It’s apparently uncertain whether the Dec. 27 hearing will even be held.

“This action provides clarity for student-athletes and member schools for the remainder of the academic year — any multiple-time transfer student-athlete who competes this season will be subject to the same eligibility and use of a season of competition rules as all other student-athletes,” the NCAA said in its statement published in Metro News of West Virginia.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were among the first schools to take advantage of the reprieve.

UNLV played forward Keylan Boone, a multi-time transfer, in his first game of the season on Wednesday night shortly after the TRO was issued. Boone, whose twin brother is also on the squad, produced 10 points and six rebounds in the Rebels’ 79-64 victory over the eighth-ranked Creighton Blue Jays.

In the past few days, more teams including West Virginia have announced that previously ineligible players would become eligible to suit up for games.

As for UTSA, it’s not entirely clear what is going on in the Roadrunners’ camp. Apparently the call on Ivy-Curry and Thomas will be made collectively, decided by administrators, by the coaches and by the players and their families.

For Ivy-Curry and Thomas, the decision also needs to come fairly quickly. Because if conference play starts and a few weeks pass and their situations remain unsettled, then the two of them could be better off just waiting and starting over with a full slate of games in 2024-25.

I hope to learn more after a Saturday morning team practice.