To the point: UTSA’s Wallace shines in exhibition victory

Keaton Wallace had 14 points and 7 assists as UTSA beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace had 14 points and 7 assists as UTSA beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. – photo by Joe Alexander


As the UTSA Roadrunners trampled Division II Texas A&M International 89-60 Wednesday night in an exhibition at the Convocation Center, junior Keaton Wallace emerged as the team’s heir apparent at point guard.

Wallace, who has played off the ball for most of his first two seasons with the Roadrunners, handled the point with both precision and flair in a night’s work that spanned 27 minutes.

He did a little of everything well.

As a distributor, he passed for seven assists and didn’t make a turnover. As a defender, he disrupted the Laredo-based Dustdevils with four steals.

Most encouraging, Wallace did all of that while remaining a threat to shoot the ball, scoring 14 points on 4 of 10 from the field, including 2 of 8 from three.

Coming into the season, UTSA had a void to fill with three-year starting point guard Giovanni De Nicolao electing to finish school early so that he could play professionally in Italy.

In the wake of De Nicolao’s departure, UTSA coach Steve Henson has been looking to Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson, plus freshmen Erik Czumbel and Makani Whiteside, as options to play the position.

But it’s clear that Wallace, who brought the ball up court for most of the night in the exhibition, will take the reins when the Roadrunners open the regular season next Tuesday at Oklahoma.

“We’re going to have the ball in Keaton’s hands a lot,” Henson said. “He’s been playing the majority of the minutes at point guard for us. Jhivvan (Jackson), we want to get the ball in his hands. Erik (Czumbel) has been pretty steady there.

“If we need to get Keaton and Jhivvan off the ball, Erik can assume those (playmaking) duties. He’s very comfortable. He’s been a point guard his whole career.”

Wallace, who averaged 20.5 points per game last season, is embracing the opportunity to expand his role.

“Since we lost Gio last year, I decided to take my game to the next level, try to move to the one (guard), try to take on more of a leadership role this year,” he said.

The 6-3 guard from Dallas admitted that the move has been an adjustment.

“At first I was a little uncomfortable because I had to step outside of my shell and, you know, talk more, be more vocal, trying to get the guys more involved,” he said. “But now I’m feeling pretty good, being more comfortable.

“You know, I believe in the guys and the guys believe in me, so we had that trust. So, everything’s going good.”

Starting five

Henson started Atem Bior and Luka Barisic in the post positions, with Byron Frohnen on the wing, plus Jackson and Wallace in the back court. Barisic is a transfer from Highland Community College in Illinois. He is a native of Croatia.

The coach played all 13 players, including walk-on Austin Timperman.

Jackson, Conference USA’s leading scorer last year at 22.9 points per game, played predominantly off the ball and led the Roadrunners with 15 points in 16 minutes. He hit 3 of 11 from the field, 2 of 8 from three and 7 of 8 at the line.

Dance party

Freshman center Jacob Germany touched off a dance party by students behind press row when he soared for an alley-oop dunk in the second half. Germany, 6-10, from Kingston, Okla., finished with eight points and five rebounds.

As a team, the Roadrunners hit only 43.3 percent of their shots and were out-rebounded 45-39 by the out-sized Dustdevils. But UTSA made up for it by forcing 28 turnovers and holding the visitors to 36.2 percent afield.

Breaking out to a 49-30 lead at intermission, UTSA continued to pour it on and juiced the advantage by as many as 30 three times in the last five minutes.

Jhivvan Jackson had 15 points and 3 assists as UTSA beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson had 15 points and 3 assists as UTSA beat Texas A&M International 89-60 in an exhibition game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 at the UTSA Convocation Center. – photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA basketball to show off ‘depth across the board’

Steve Henson will lead his team into an exhibition game tonight at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson – File photo by Joe Alexander

Tonight, the popcorn will pop and the soft drinks will flow, and the UTSA Roadrunners will offer their fans the usual fare of concession food and drink in the foyer of the Convocation Center.

But unlike so many other exhibition openers in the nearly 40-year history of men’s basketball at the school, they’ll have more to offer than free admission, plus chips and sticky nachos.

This year, the Roadrunners also will unveil a team that might actually have the talent to be considered as an NCAA tournament contender.

As UTSA prepares for a 7 p.m. tipoff against Texas A&M International, fourth-year coach Steve Henson says it’s the best team he’s had on the Loop 1604 campus.

“It’s the most talented team since I’ve been here,” he said. “Biggest front line since I’ve been here, (with the) most three-point shooters.”

When Henson arrived at UTSA a little more than three years ago, the talent was not good.

The Roadrunners were coming off four straight losing records, including an abysmal 5-27 in 2015-16.

Since then, UTSA has completely revamped the program, posting a combined 37 wins in the past two years.

The back-to-back winning records of 20-15 two years ago, and 17-15 last year, are a first since 2010-11 and ’11-12, the program’s last two teams in the Southland Conference.

Last year, the Roadrunners challenged for the Conference USA regular-season title until the last few weeks behind the dynamic tandem of guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

Ultimately, they finished tied for second at 11-7 and earned a bye to the C-USA tournament quarterfinals in Frisco, where their road came to an end with a loss to the UAB Blazers.

In the season finale, the Roadrunners fell hard, giving up 50 points to the Blazers in the second half.

Leading by seven at intermission with senior power forward Nick Allen playing on a broken toe, they lost 85-76.

“People don’t give (senior) Giovanni (De Nicolao) and Nick enough credit for what they did defensively,” Henson said. “Those were the guys who, when things got tough, they would rally the troops … They were the talk the talk guys, and then walk the talk, and all that.

“I mean, they backed it up, and they were all about team, team, team.”

Henson will lean on Jackson and Wallace to assume the leadership responsibilities this year, in the program’s 39th season.

“We’ve got a pretty introverted team, a quiet team,” the coach said. “But those guys have provided the type of leadership that we need right now. (I’m) very pleased with that.”

UTSA at a glance

Program debut: UTSA started playing men’s basketball in 1981-82. NCAA tournament appearances: 1988, 1999, 2004, 2011. Last season: 17-15, 11-7 in Conference USA; lost in C-USA tournament quarterfinals.

Coach Steve Henson

Taking over a team that won only five games in 2015-16, Henson has coached UTSA to records of 14-19, 20-15 and 17-15. He’s finished 11-7 in conference each of the past two seasons.

Returning starters

G Jhivvan Jackson (22.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Keaton Wallace (20.2, 5.0), F Byron Frohnen (6.4, 6.8)

Newcomers to watch

C Jacob Germany, F Luka Barisic, G Knox Hellums, F Phoenix Ford, G Erik Czumbel, G Makani Whiteside

Notable

After the loss of three-year starter Giovanni De Nicolao, point guard duties are expected to be shared by Wallace, Jackson, Czumbel and Whiteside.

Quotable

“I think what really jumps out is just the competitiveness in practice,” Henson said. “It’s just a deeper (team), certainly bigger and stronger. Way more depth than we’ve ever had along the front line. It’s just very noticeable. You walk in and you see bigger and stronger guys … It creates a little more physicality in the paint. We’ve got good depth across the board. So when we go head to head, the games are pretty competitive.”

Jhivvan Jackson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson

Jackson, Wallace named to all-Conference USA squads

UTSA sophomores Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace both have been named to all-Conference USA teams, with Jackson taking home first-team honors.

Wallace was listed as a second-team selection.

Old Dominion swept the top honors with guard guard B.J. Stith getting player of the year and Jeff Jones coach of the year.

The C-USA tournament opens Wednesday in Frisco.

For the first time in six years in the conference, UTSA has earned a first-round tournament bye, and, as a No. 4 seed, will open play Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against either UAB or Middle Tennessee.

All-Conference USA basketball
First team
Jon Elmore, Marshall, Sr., G, 6-3, 185, Charleston, West Virginia
Ahmad Caver, Old Dominion, Sr., G, 6-2, 170, Atlanta, Georgia
B.J. Stith, Old Dominion, Sr., G, 6-5, 215, Lawrenceville, Virginia
Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA, So., G, 6-0, 160, Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

Second team
Jon Davis, Charlotte, Sr., G, 6-2, 200, Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Brian Beard Sr., FIU, Jr., G, 5-10, 180, Rancho Cucamonga, California
Cortez Edwards, Southern Miss, Sr., G, 6-2, 180, Kissimmee, Florida
Tyree Griffin, Southern Miss, R-Sr., G, 5-10, 175, New Orleans, Louisiana
Keaton Wallace, UTSA, So., G, 6-3, 175, Richardson, Texas

Third team
Anthony Adger, Florida Atlantic, Sr., G, 6-1, 170, Anderson, South Carolina
C.J. Burks, Marshall, Jr., G, 6-4, 195, Martinsburg, West Virginia
Antonio Green, Middle Tennessee, R-Jr., G, 6-2, 190, Tupelo, Mississippi
Ryan Woolridge, North Texas, Jr., G, 6-3, 175, Mansfield, Texas
Zack Bryant, UAB, So., G, 6-2, 183, Hastings, Florida
Taveion Hollingsworth, WKU, So., G, 6-2, 165, Lexington, Kentucky

All-freshman team
Taevion Kinsey, Marshall, Fr., G, 6-5, 177, Columbus, Ohio
Umoja Gibson, North Texas, R-Fr., G, 6-1, 160, Waco, Texas
Chris Mullins, Rice, Fr., G, 6-3, 170, Grand Prairie, Texas
Efe Odigie, UTEP, Fr., F, 6-9, 280, Houston, Texas
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

All-defensive team
Brian Beard Sr., FIU, Jr., G, 5-10, 180, Rancho Cucamonga, California Osasumwen Osaghae, FIU, Jr., F, 6-7, 250, Miami, Florida
Xavier Green, Old Dominion, So., G, 6-6, 200, Williamsburg, Virginia
Cortez Edwards, Southern Miss, Sr., G, 6-2, 180, Kissimmee, Florida
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

UTSA wins home finale, boosts hopes for C-USA tourney bye

So many emotions were flowing on Sunday morning within the UTSA Roadrunners basketball program.

It was Senior Day, with veterans Nick Allen and Giovanni De Nicolao both set to play perhaps their last game at home.

On top of all that, the Roadrunners were hosting the dangerous UAB Blazers, with both teams bidding for a top-four finish in the regular season and a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament.

Adding even more drama, both Allen and Jhivvan Jackson were less than 100 percent physically. Through it all, the Roadrunners emerged with a 76-70 victory in front of 1,259 fans.

“I thought we fought really, really hard,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Our defense was terrific … In the second half, (the Blazers) did knock down some three pointers. But overall our defense was great, our fight was great.

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners won their home finale Sunday, improving to 16-13 on the season and 10-6 in Conference USA. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“Nick got hurt in practice yesterday and really couldn’t put his shoe on this morning.

“(He) fought like crazy and made some big plays down the stretch (with) offensive rebounds. (He’s) one of the physically toughest players I’ve ever been around. I’m so proud of him.”

Henson was equally impressed with Jackson, the leading scorer in Conference USA, who couldn’t practice the last few days with a left shoulder that he injured in Thursday night’s loss to Old Dominion.

The loss to ODU left UTSA looking at the possibility of an 0-2 record to open C-USA bonus play in the five-team Group 1, with two games yet to play on the road to complete the regular season.

After the season, Group 1 teams will be seeded into the C-USA postseason tournament, with the top four earning first-round byes. Now, after Jackson scored 27 points and Keaton Wallace added 22, the Roadrunners put themselves in good position to earn a bye.

It’s especially important for UTSA, a team that plays with a seven- or eight-man rotation.

“(A bye) is big for anybody,” Henson said. “You win the tournament and you go to the Big Dance (the NCAA Tournament). It’s a much bigger chore if you have to win four days in a row, rather than three. Any of those top four seeds have a big advantage by not having to play that first day.”

C-USA Standings
Group 1

x-Old Dominion 13-3, 23-6
Western Kentucky 11-6, 18-12
UTSA 10-6, 16-13
Southern Miss 9-7, 17-11
UAB 9-8, 17-13

x-clinched regular-season title and top seed in the tournament

Senior Day

Before the game, UTSA honored seniors Allen and Toby Van Ry. They also honored juniors De Nicolao and Mitar Stanocevic, who are graduating early. De Nicolao said afterward that it likely would be his last regular-season game at home for UTSA. He indicated he likely would play professionally next season in his native Italy. UTSA also celebrated the contributions of student manager Danny Soto.

Individuals

UAB — Lewis Sullivan 18 points and 9 rebounds. Zack Bryant, 15 points and 4 assists. Makhtar Gueye, 11 points and 8 rebounds. Jalen Perry, 11 points off the bench.

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson, 27 points on 9 of 20 shooting. Also, 7 rebounds. Keaton Wallace 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists. Giovanni De Nicolao, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists.

Key stat

The Roadrunners took charge of the game early, holding UAB to 35 percent shooting in the first half. They also cashed in on the other end, hitting 53.6 percent, including 6 of 12 from three.

Coming up

UTSA finishes the regular season with road games Wednesday at Western Kentucky and Saturday at Southern Miss.

Notable

UTSA is shooting for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2011. The only way to get there is to win the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled March 13-16 in Frisco.

If the Roadrunners come up short of the Big Dance, Henson said a possibility exists that they could play in the postseason in one of the other events — the NIT, the CBI or the CIT.

Jackson and Wallace buried three-point baskets in the last minute of the first half as UTSA assumed a 36-26 intermission lead against the UAB Blazers.

At a pivotal moment in the season, the Roadrunners came out with energy and took control of the game almost immediately.

They shot 53.6 percent in the first half, with Jackson and Wallace combining for 23 points.

UTSA defeats FAU for its 10th straight win at home

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

Roadrunners coach Steve Henson admits he doesn’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

Records

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

C-USA leaders

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

Title chase rundown

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

Individuals

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

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

Second-half surge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notable

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

Wild times: UTSA outscores Marshall, 116-106, in OT

At one point Saturday night, the stars just didn’t seem to be aligned for UTSA coach Steve Henson to celebrate a happy birthday.

His team blew a four-point lead in the last eight seconds of regulation against the Marshall Thundering Herd.

But as it turned out, birthday No. 51 emerged as one for the books for Henson and the Roadrunners.

Keaton Wallace scored 14 of his career-high 45 points in overtime as UTSA knocked off Marshall, 116-106, in a Conference USA thriller at Huntington, West Virginia.

“Last game, coach got on us, so we knew we had to step up for him,” Wallace told a television reporter for Stadium College Basketball. “Today’s his birthday. We had to get a dub for coach.”

Two nights ago, Western Kentucky beat UTSA 96-88 in overtime to spoil a career-high 46-point effort from Roadrunners guard Jhivvan Jackson.

But on the back end of a memorable two-game road trip, Wallace broke the 40-point barrier for the first time in his career and Jackson scored 30, lifting the Roadrunners into a tie for second in the C-USA standings.

“Every time somebody asks me about Jhivvan, I talk about Keaton,” Henson told the television network. “Both those guys are doing great things for us this year. Keaton’s worked incredibly hard. He’s been special all year long.

“I’m not surprised that he would have a good game like that.

“It was good for our guys to gt that win after what happened to us on Thursday. The way it happened, it was pretty special for us.”

Old Dominion leads the C-USA at 8-3, followed by UTSA and North Texas at 7-3. UAB, Marshall and Western Kentucky are knotted at 6-4.

Records

UTSA 13-10, 7-3
Marshall 13-10, 6-4

Notable

The game featured two of the most dynamic backcourts in the C-USA — Wallace and Jackson for UTSA and C.J. Burks and Jon Elmore for Marshall. Burks scored 31 points and Elmore produced 29, including a four-point play to force the overtime. Elmore hit a three from the wing, got fouled by Atem Bior with 3.1 seconds left, and then followed with the game-tying free throw.

Quotable

“When we did not win in regulation, I was kicking myself over there,” Henson told UTSA’s radio broadcast. “Again, a couple of plays that we got to avoid. Plays we’ve got to make, to win in regulation … When it happens to you two times in three nights, it’s pretty hard to bounce back. I was really, really proud of the way they played really the whole second half, and especially overtime.”

And, finally …

Bior, a junior from Brisbane, Australia, produced his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He had eight defensive boards and four on the offensive end. He also had a steal and a blocked shot … UTSA snapped a string of three straight road losses, improving to 2-3 on the road in the C-USA … The Roadrunners are 10-3 in their last 13 games overall.

Jackson scores a career-high 46, but UTSA loses in overtime

Jared Savage knocked down three 3-point shots in overtime Thursday night as Western Kentucky Hilltoppers subdued the UTSA Roadrunners, 96-88, in Conference USA.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southeastern Oklahoma State 70-67 on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored a career-high 46 points, the third most in UTSA school history.

In the game played at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Hilltoppers overcame a career-high, 46-point effort from UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson.

UTSA’s Keaton Wallace scored 26.

Charles Bassey led the Hilltoppers with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Western Kentucky point guard Lamonte Bearden had 22 points and seven assists.

But it was Savage, a junior from Bowling Green, who hit the shots that mattered in the extra period.

His third in the overtime lifted the Hilltoppers into a 91-85 lead with 1:38 remaining.

UTSA made a crucial turnover in the final seconds of regulation that allowed Western Kentucky to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Byron Frohnen inbounded to Jackson, who tried to pass it back to Frohnen. But Bearden stepped in to make the steal.

Fouled on the play, Bearden went to the line and made one of two free throws, tying the game at 78-78.

The Roadrunners still had a chance as they rushed the ball upcourt, but a Giovanni De Nicolao runner was off the mark.

Record-setting effort spoiled

The loss negated one of the greatest individual performances in UTSA history.

Jackson hit 16 of 31 shots from the field, including 8 of 14 from three. The 6-foot sophomore from Puerto Rico was 6 of 8 on free throws.

In the end, he finished with the scoring record for an opposing player at E.A. Diddle Arena, the second most points in C-USA history and the third most in UTSA history.

Jackson drove for a layup and made a couple of free throws early in the overtime, but in the face of intense pressure from the Western Kentucky defense, he missed his last three attempts.

For Western Kentucky, Bassey sank 7 of 8 from the field and pulled down four rebounds off the offensive glass.

The 6-11, 245-pounder from Nigeria played two years at San Antonio’s St. Anthony Catholic High School before transferring to Aspire Academy in Louisville last season.

Records

Western Kentucky 12-10, 5-4
UTSA 12-10, 6-3

Notable

The Roadrunners had a four-point lead with a little more than a minute left in regulation and couldn’t close out the game. As a result, they were knocked out of first place in the C-USA standings.

Quotable

“(I’m) sick for our guys. You know, we got to find a way to win that game. Just finish it. We turned it over, missed a free throw, turned it over again. We put ourselves in a position (and then) they make a couple of threes, bank in a three, and we lose. That just can’t happen. We gotta find a way to win that game.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson, in comments aired on the team’s radio broadcast.

Western Kentucky coach on UTSA: ‘They’re 6-2 for a reason’

Calling UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace “two of the better guards … in the country,” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said it’s not surprising that the Roadrunners have surged into a tie for first place in Conference USA.

The coach made his remarks on the eve of his team’s C-USA home game tonight against the surprising Roadrunners in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“They’re 6-2 for a reason,” Stansbury said. “They’ve got two of the better guards — not just in this league — in the country.

“When you’ve got guys … that can shoot it like that, you can come back from 17 down with three minutes and 45 seconds left.”

Trailing by 18 points with 4 minutes and 43 seconds remaining last Saturday in San Antonio, UTSA wiped out the deficit and beat Old Dominion, 74-73.

Perhaps more remarkably, the Roadrunners were behind by 17 with 3:45 left and still beat the Monarchs, thanks to the shooting of Jackson and Wallace.

The 18-point comeback is said to be the second largest point differential ever erased in NCAA Division I for a team trailing with less than five minutes on the clock.

The record is believed to be a 19-point deficit that was wiped out by the Nevada Wolf Pack in 2017, when they beat New Mexico, 105-104, in overtime and on the road.

For the Roadrunners, the performance against ODU was the third double-digit deficit that they have erased this season in a winning effort.

Previously, they knocked off Houston Baptist after falling behind by 11. They also beat UTEP after trailing by 10.

Stansbury pointed out that the Roadrunners nearly did it at Middle Tennessee, two weeks ago, as well.

In that game, the Roadrunners were down by 21 in the second half and ended up losing by three.

“They’re a really explosive team, offensively,” Stansbury said. “Jackson and Wallace can score that ball in bunches, in a hurry. When you’ve got guards that can do that, you got a chance against anybody on a given night.”

Jackson is leading C-USA, averaging 22 points per game. Wallace is fifth at 18.9.

Two freshmen, Taveion Hollingsworth and Charles Bassey, lead Western Kentucky and make the Hilltoppers one of the most dangerous teams in the conference.

Hollingsworth leads the Hilltoppers with 15.2 points per game.

Bassey, a 6-foot-11 native Nigerian who played at St. Anthony in San Antonio, averages 14.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.

In what should be a revealing trip for UTSA, the Roadrunners play at Western Kentucky tonight and at Marshall, in Huntington, West Virginia, on Saturday.

Marshall was the C-USA’s representative in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Records

UTSA 12-9, 6-2
Western Kentucky 11-10, 4-4

UTSA stuns Old Dominion with a miracle comeback, 74-73

UTSA players celebrate after time runs out in the Roadrunners' come-from-behind 74-73 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA players celebrate after time runs out in the Roadrunners’ come-from-behind, 74-73 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by 18 points with a little less than five minutes remaining Saturday afternoon, the UTSA Roadrunners appeared well on their way to a blowout loss at home against the rugged Old Dominion Monarchs.

As it turned out, appearances didn’t mean all that much on a magical day at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA came back from 18 points down to beat Old Dominion 74-73 Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Keaton Wallace scored a game-high 29 points with nine 3-pointers, including the game winner with 15 seconds remaining. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

The Roadrunners rallied with a miraculous 25-6 run in the final 4 minutes and 43 seconds to defeat the Monarchs, 74-73, seizing a share of the lead in Conference USA.

“I’m at a loss for words,” UTSA guard Keaton Wallace said. “That was a great team win.”

A steal by Byron Frohnen set up the winning play for UTSA.

It gave one last possession to the Roadrunners, who watched as Wallace brought the ball up and circled into the right corner.

From there, he launched an off-balance three-pointer that swished with 15 seconds remaining to account for the final score.

Old Dominion immediately pushed the ball to the other end, only to miss on three shot attempts to win the game.

After the last miss by Justice Kithcart, the horn sounded, prompting the crowd to erupt with a roar.

With fans standing and cheering, UTSA players rushed off the bench to celebrate the program’s largest comeback since officials started charting such things in 2006-07.

In the final 4:43, Old Dominion had the game under control, leading 67-49.

Nick Allen promptly hit a three for UTSA. But B.J. Stith sank a two, keeping the Monarchs comfortably in front, 69-52, with 3:44 remaining.

The lead didn’t last long. UTSA started to pressure with its defense and play faster on offense, nailing six more threes.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA came back from 18 points down to beat Old Dominion 74-73 Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Jhivvan Jackson scored 10 points in UTSA’s 25-6, game-ending burst. – Photo by Joe Alexander

They came roaring back to win, generating significant momentum in the C-USA title chase along the way.

Knocking off a team that had held the lead in the conference was significant. It elevated UTSA into a three-way tie for first with North Texas and UAB, with all three at 6-2.

Old Dominion dropped to second at 6-3.

“We needed to win a game like this,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “North Texas has a good record. But to this point, we haven’t beaten many of the real good teams … This was a big win for us, from that standpoint.

“You know, Old Dominion is one of the favorites for the league title. You know, long way to go. But, we’re in a good spot right now. We’re healthy. Chemistry is fantastic. Guys are embracing their roles. That gives us a chance to win every night.”

Records

Old Dominion 16-6, 6-3
UTSA 12-9, 6-2

Notable

The Roadrunners swept the homestand, knocking off Charlotte 88-43 on Thursday night and then defeating Old Dominion with the historic game-ending rally. UTSA has won 9 of its last 11 and 12 of 16 leading into next week’s road trip to Western Kentucky and Marshall. The Roadrunners have won eight in a row at home. Wallace tied a career high with nine three pointers.

Quotable

“You know, I’m not even really sure what happened.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson in his opening remarks to reporters.

“We actually practice that shot, fading to the baseline. I already knew it was going in.” — UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson, on Keaton Wallace’s game winner.

Individuals

UTSA — Keaton Wallace, 29 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 9 of 15 on three-pointers. Jhivvan Jackson, 21 points, 7 of 24 from the field, 4 rebounds, 5 assists. Nick Allen, 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting, three 3-pointers.

Old Dominion — B.J. Stith, 23 points, 12 rebounds. Ahmad Caver, 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. Xavier Green, 17 points, 5 rebounds.


Guard Xavier Green drains a three-point shot early in the second half as the Old Dominion Monarchs start to pull away.

Grinding it out early

Riding the steady play of Stith and Caver, the Monarchs surged to a 40-36 lead on UTSA at halftime. Stith scored 17 points and Caver had 10 for Old Dominion. Much to the chagrin of the UTSA home crowd, the Monarchs aided their cause with 12 of 15 shooting at the free-throw line, including 8 of 9 by Stith. For UTSA, Jackson missed 11 shots from the field. But, fortunately for the Roadrunners, Wallace scored 17 in the half on five threes.

Falling behind

Old Dominion started to dominate the game after intermission. UTSA’s offense seemed stagnant, and ODU took advantage. In one stretch, the Monarchs outscored the Roadrunners 15-2, with point guard Ahmad Caver scoring seven of the points.

Mounting a comeback

With 4:43 remaining, Caver sank a jumper to give Old Dominion a seemingly insurmountable 67-49 lead.

From there, UTSA outscored the visitors 25-6 to the buzzer. During the run, the Roadrunners held the Monarchs to a field goal by Stith and four free throws. Fouled intentionally on most possessions, ODU made only 4 of 10 at the line down the stretch.

The Roadrunners, on the other end, were lighting it up with seven 3-point baskets. Wallace hit three of them, and Jackson and Allen hit two apiece. During the streak, Jackson scored 10 of his team’s points, with Wallace adding nine and Allen six.


Jackson hits the deck after his layup drew UTSA to within two with 32 seconds left.

Coming up big

Wallace was clutch in the last 90 seconds, hitting all three of his 3-pointers in that stretch. First, he nailed one that brought the Roadrunners to within five with 1:15 remaining. Next, he hit again with 42 seconds left to make it a three-point game.

On the other end, Stith answered with one of two free throws, giving Old Dominion a 73-69 edge wth 37 seconds left. Five seconds later, Jackson flashed to the basket, received a pass from Byron Frohnen and sank a twisting layup to pull the Roadrunners within 73-71.

At that point, Frohnen made another big play, forcing a Stith turnover, which set up Wallace’s game-ending dramatics. Wallace got to the corner and swished it for the game’s final points. On the other end, Xavier Green, Stith and Kithcart misfired for Old Dominion, giving the win to UTSA.


Emotions overflow on the UTSA bench and throughout the Convocation Center at the end of Saturday’s game. After Wallace hits out of the corner for the go-ahead basket, Old Dominion misses three times in the last 15 seconds, setting off a wild celebration.

Pride on the line as UTSA hosts first-place Old Dominion


Old Dominion players stage a dunking exhibition in warmups for today’s game at UTSA.

The Old Dominion Monarchs walloped the UTSA Roadrunners 100-62 a year ago in Norfolk, Virginia.

It’s still a painful memory for the Roadrunners, who remember that ODU guard B.J. Stith exploded for 28 of his game-high 36 points before halftime.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Southeastern Oklahoma State 70-67 on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA sophomore Keaton Wallace averages 18.8 points per game on the season but is scoring 19.7 in conference. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Monarchs led by 16 at intermission, broke out to a 29-point lead with 13 minutes remaining and then polished off a 38-point victory when a freshman, Marquis Godwin, hit a three-pointer with a minute remaining.

“That was a bad game for us,” UTSA guard Keaton Wallace said. “I remember that dude got hot on us. (B.J.) Stith ended up getting hot on us, and it was hard for us to come back after that, so we owe them.”

Payback is only part of the motivation today as the Roadrunners host the Monarchs at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

First place in Conference USA is also at stake.

“You know, we didn’t specifically talk to our players about it being for a piece of the lead,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “It’s a big game for a lot of reasons. Our guys respect Old Dominion. They’ve been a terrific program.”

Old Dominion is in first in the C-USA standings at 6-2, followed by UTSA, North Texas, Marshall and UAB, all tied at 5-2.

On Thursday night, the Roadrunners rolled to an 88-43 home victory over the Charlotte 49ers, while the Monarchs won on the road, 50-48, over the UTEP Miners.

Leading by 11 points with nine minutes lef, the Monarchs scrambled to hold off the Miners with two defensive stops in the final minute.

Coach Steve Henson (left) and assistant Mike Peck have led UTSA into a tie for second place in Conference USA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Today, they’ll show up at the Convocation Center with a swagger, led by Stith and Ahmad Caver, not to mention a deep pool of other quality athletes.

“You know, they do a good job,” Henson said Friday afternoon. “They’ve got an identity. They keep guys in their system. They have veteran guys. (They’re a) great defensive team, (with) two superstars.”

That being said, Henson acknowledged that the Roadrunners are feeling good, without too many nagging injuries and are playing with confidence.

“So, it’ll be exciting to see our guys respond,” he said.

This year, the C-USA’s schedule is different.

On Feb. 16, the conference will divide the 14 teams into three groups based on the standings, with teams in each tier, or pod, playing round robin to determine the final seedings for the C-USA tournament.

Wallace said he is keeping an eye on the standings every day.

“I’m trying to get that top five for the top-five pod,” he said, “so we can play for first.”

C-USA standings

Old Dominion 6-2, 16-5
North Texas 5-2, 17-3
UAB 5-2, 13-7
Marshall 5-2, 12-8
UTSA 5-2, 11-9
FIU 4-3, 13-7
WKU 4-3, 11-9
LA Tech 4-4, 14-7
Rice 3-4, 8-12
SouthernMiss 3-5, 11-9
FAU 2-5, 11-9
MiddleTenn 2-5, 5-15
Charlotte 2-6, 5-14
UTEP 1-6, 6-12

Today’s games

Old Dominion at UTSA, 3 p.m.
WKU at LA Tech, 4 p.m.
Marshall at Southern Miss, 4 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at North Texas, 5 p.m.
FAU at FIU, 6 p.m.
UAB at Rice, 7 p.m.
Charlotte at UTEP, 8 p.m.