In the beginning, 6-foot-7, 275-pound sophomore Kenneth Lofton Jr. picked up a nifty steal on the perimeter and then made like a mack truck in over-drive, dribbling the length of the floor for a layup.
But in the end, it wasn’t really the Lofton show as much as it was an Amorie Archibald highlight reel.
UTSA limited Lofton to 5 of 14 shooting from the field, only to see Archibald and the Louisiana Tech perimeter players get on a red-hot shooting roll in a 79-63 victory for the Bulldogs over the slumping Roadrunners at the Convocation Center.
Archibald, a senior guard, scored a game-high 31 points. He hit 12 of 14 shots from the field and 6 of 6 from three-point distance, helping his team sweep a two-game Conference USA road trip through Texas.
After downing the UTEP Miners in El Paso Thursday night, the Bulldogs came to San Antonio and toyed with the Roadrunners, knocking down 14 of 28 threes.
The performance sent UTSA reeling to its second-straight, C-USA loss of the week, both at home, and its fifth loss in its last six games overall.
Louisiana Tech 13-3, 4-0
UTSA 7-9, 0-3
A coach’s lament
In a post-game visit with reporters, UTSA coach Steve Henson didn’t sugar-coat his feelings, implying that his locker room speech to players may have been a little bit blunt.
But he also tried to stay positive with three straight road games looming.
“They know I’m not going to go in there and try to make ’em feel better,” Henson said. “You know, we lost a game and didn’t make enough plays to give ourselves a legitimate chance to win. I also told them there were some stretches, some things we can build on.
“We’ve got a great deal of respect for (LA Tech). They’re one of the two or three best teams in the league. They’ve got depth. They’ve got so many good players.”
UTSA dropped to 0-3 in conference for the second straight season. Last year, the Roadrunners pulled it together and finished 9-7 in the C-USA. Can they do something like that again? Let’s just say, there is a lot of work to be done.
Assessing the Bulldogs
How good are the Bulldogs?
They entered play ranked No. 70 in the NET rankings, the tool that the NCAA uses to sort out the relative strength of its 358 Division I teams. Going up against the Roadrunners, at No. 336, they were expected to win — and they did.
At the same time, it’s never easy to sweep a road trip in the C-USA, and they did it in workman-like fashion, winning at UTEP by 12 points and at UTSA by 16. In El Paso, they held the Miners to 33 percent shooting. In San Antonio, they shot 48.4 percent from the field, including 57.1 percent in the second half.
They led by as many as 23 mid-way through the second half after Archibald came out firing after intermission. Archibald was four-for-four from long distance in the half, and he celebrated after some of them by blowing kisses to the sky.
“My coaches and my teammates just tell me to keep shooting when I’m open,” he said. “Last game, I didn’t really play to the best of my abilities. I just wanted to come out and give my team my best effort.”
Archibald said he felt like the Bulldogs “played great” the day after a long day on the road.
“Coming from El Paso, that’s a lot of traveling,” Archibald said. “But I feel like we battled through the adversity. That’s what coach talks about a lot. You know, those (road) sweeps don’t really come a lot in Conference USA. So, we took that into consideration, that we could do it, and I feel like we executed.”
Louisiana Tech — Archibald, 31 points. Cobe Williams, 15 points, including 5 of 8 on three pointers. Lofton, 12 points and 16 rebounds in 27 minutes.
UTSA — Jordan Ivy-Curry, 22 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Jacob Germany, 17 points on 7 of 14 shooting. Also, 13 rebounds. Off the bench, Lamin Sabally, 10 points on 3 of 5 shooting, including 2 of 3 on three pointers. Darius McNeil, 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in 21 minutes off the bench.
The Roadrunners fell to 0-2 since they announced the departure of guard Dhieu Deing from the program. Deing had been averaging 15.3 points and 5 rebounds a game … Both Cedrick Alley, Jr., and Aleu Aleu were held to a combined three points. Pressured when he touched the ball on the perimter, Aleu went scoreless. He got off only one shot — a three-point attempt — and missed it. Alley was 1 for 7 from the field …
Defensively, UTSA did a good job with Lofton, a 2021 Conference USA all-freshman team member. The sophomore from Port Arthur came in averaging 17.1 points. Outside of a few plays, he never found a rhythm while being shadowed by the taller Germany and banged around by Phoenix Ford and others … In bench play, UTSA got a little more production than it had been getting, with freshman Lamin Sabally and senior Darius McNeil leading the way. The Roadrunners also played well offensively in the second half, shooting 51.7 percent and scoring 37 after intermission.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Louisiana Tech shooting guard Keaston Willis. Willis played last year at San Antonio-based Incarnate Word and led the Cardinals into the Southland Conference tournament. Willis finished with 3 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He was 1 for 8 from the field. Afterward, he met with some friends wearing the UIW red and black.
Jan. 13 — UTSA at Old Dominion.
Jan. 15 — UTSA at Charlotte.
Jan. 20 — UTSA at UTEP.
Jan. 23 — UTEP at UTSA.
UTSA freshman Lamin Sabally drives baseline to score. LA Tech leads 22-18 with 6:45 left in the first half. https://t.co/hyCDEtJ4sq pic.twitter.com/4Apk3Lc14y
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) January 8, 2022