Surprising UTSA set to play two today against No. 14 LA Tech

The UTSA Roadrunners have quietly started to drop subtle hints to the rest of Conference USA that they might be a factor in the postseason.

UTSA’s latest surprise came Friday night when it held on to beat the 14th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 7-5 in a road game at Ruston, La. It was UTSA’s third win in its last five games — all against Top 25 competition.

After the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the seventh to take the lead, they held on to win the first game of a four-game series behind the pitching of Hunter Mason and Arturo Guajardo.

Grant Miller earned the victory with 1 and 2/3 innings of work. Mason followed with scoreless innings in the seventh and the eighth. Guajardo, UTSA’s sixth pitcher, delivered with a scoreless ninth for the save.

Leyton Barry hit a two-run homer for the Roadrunners, who handed Tech starting pitcher Jonathan Fincher his first loss of the season. The Roadrunners and Bulldogs continue the series today in a 2 p.m. doubleheader. The finale is Sunday at 1 p.m.

Elsewhere:

Arkansas 6, Tennessee 5

Rankings: (1) Arkansas; (4) Tennessee
Friday’s rundown: Falling behind by five runs after the first inning, the top-ranked Razorbacks were sparked by home runs from Robert Moore and Brady Slavens to rally for the SEC road win.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 11 a.m., at Knoxville, Tenn.

Ole Miss 3, Vanderbilt 1

Rankings: (18) Ole Miss; (2) Vanderbilt
Friday’s rundown: Kevin Graham and TJ McCants homered for Ole Miss as the Rebels, playing at home, handed Kumar Rocker his second loss of the season.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 4 p.m., at Oxford, Miss.

Oklahoma 9, Texas Tech 8

Rankings: (7) Texas Tech
Friday’s rundown: Oklahoma scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th to take the first game of the Big 12 series. Jace Jung, from San Antonio MacArthur, slugged his 17th home run of the season for the Red Raiders.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 2 p.m. in Norman, Okla.

Archibald, Louisiana Tech romp past UTSA, 82-66

Guard Amorie Archibald was a perfect 4-for-4 on three-point shots in the first half Saturday night en route to a 22-point performance. Likewise, his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs teammates made it look easy in throttling the UTSA Roadrunners, 82-66.

While UTSA’s offense sputtered for most of the night, the Bulldogs sank 14 threes and shot 49 percent from the field to sweep both games from the Roadrunners in a Conference USA series at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.

The Bulldogs jumped on the Roadrunners early for the second time in two nights. On Friday night, they pushed out to a 25-12 lead, lost some momentum and the lead in the second half and then gathered themselves for a 77-66 victory.

A night later, they surged 17-3 at the outset, held a 20-7 margin with 10:10 remaining and went on to lead the rest of the way.

Once again, UTSA’s early shooting was not great. The Roadrunners missed their first 14 of 15 attempts from the field. Finally they got it going and finished the half, 13 of 37, including 8 of 16 from three. Keaton Wallace hit three long balls in the late surge, as the Roadrunners pulled to within five at intermission.

In the second half, the Roadrunners hung around and pulled within six with 7:15 remaining on a Jhivvan Jackson three-pointer. But the Bulldogs rattled off seven points in a row at that point to take charge.

Inexplicably, UTSA’s impatience on offense fueled the surge, taking three ill-advised shots in a row, one of them leading to an Isaiah Crawford three-pointer and another setting up another Crawford bucket, this one an eight-foot, stick back off an offensive rebound.

All of a sudden, LA Tech led 68-55 with 5:20 remaining. UTSA never got closer than eight the rest of the way to remain winless on the road (0-7) this season.

Louisiana Tech played for the second straight night without its leading scorer, guard Kalob Ledoux, who sat out with an injury.

Notable

UTSA finished with a season-low 33.8 shooting from the field (22 of 65). Jackson and Wallace combined to take 40 of the shots, making only 11. Wallace finished with 22 points and Jackson 14. Jacob Germany, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, had seven points on a 3 of 8 night afield. Louisiana Tech hit 25 of 51 as a team and spread out the scoring among several players. Crawford finished with 15 points and Kenneth Lofton, Jr., a freshman from Port Arthur, produced 12. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Lofton also pulled down 13 rebounds.

Quotable

“We started the game so poorly offensively…Hung in there. Hung in there. Yeah, they were bombing in threes the whole game. Never really stopped,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. The coach said some of Louisiana Tech’s open perimeter shots came as a result of UTSA double-teaming in the post, but others were cases where defenders “were there (in position to defend), just not aggressively enough contesting.”

After the poor start offensively, Henson said his players strung together some good possessions with ball movement. But in the second half, the decision-making was questionable. “We don’t get anything inside,” Henson said. “We can’t drive it and get fouled. That element is lacking for us. (If) we’re settling for hard, contested shots, it’s going to be rough.”

Records

UTSA 5-8, 1-5 (7th place in the 7-team C-USA West)
Louisiana Tech 11-4, 4-2 (tied for 3rd, C-USA West)
Note: Six teams from the West and East divisions qualify for the C-USA tournament)

Coming up

Southern Miss at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Southern Miss at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Louisiana Tech rallies at home for a 77-66 victory over UTSA

Chalk this one up as a missed opportunity.

Jhivvan Jackson was on fire. The UTSA Roadrunners were up by six with just under 10 minutes left. And the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were without injured leading scorer Kalob Ledoux.

It didn’t matter. The Bulldogs shut down the Roadrunners’ offense down the stretch and cruised to a 77-66 Conference USA victory at the Thomas Assembly Center, in Ruston, La.

Louisiana Tech closed on a 21-4 run in the final 9:18, improving to 10-4 on the season and to 3-2 in the C-USA. On the cusp of what might have been its first road win of the year, UTSA nevertheless fell to 5-7 and 1-4.

Amorie Archibald led the Bulldogs with 19 points, followed by Jacolby Pemberton with 18. Boosting the play of the two guards, 6-foot-10, 260-pound center Andrew Gordon scored 14 off the bench, including 10 in the last five minutes of the game.

Jackson, NCAA Division I’s leader in career scoring among active players, finished with 25 points to lead the Roadrunners. Keaton Wallace had 18. Jacob Germany, UTSA’s third leading scorer behind Jackson and Wallace, was held to two points.

Notable

UTSA’s offense was humming, having hit six shots in a row, when a drought cost the team the game. The Roadrunners connected on only 2 of 13 in the final 9:21. UTSA didn’t enjoy the best of fortune during the fateful stretch as Jackson hoisted three or four that looked like they were going in, only to dance around on the rim and then lip out.

Quotable

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it was a “difficult stretch” during which he thinks the Roadrunners lost some of their composure. “Just didn’t get good shots,” he told the team’s radio broadcast. “I mean, Jhivvan had the hot hand. Obviously, we tried to keep riding that when we could. Sometimes when a guy takes over like that, then everybody gets caught watching. We needed him to keep going. But we needed someone else to step up there. We couldn’t get that done.

“We talk about our concerns defensively. We got to be a better defensive team. I get frustrated with our offense. We’re in a position to win a game on the road against a great team. We come down there and don’t compete, don’t execute for a good shots. Again, Keaton and Jhivvan can hit shots that look hard. But we still got to get the ball moving and take the right types of shots in those situations.”

By the numbers

Among the UTSA starters, Jackson and Wallace combined for 43 points. But the three others — Jacob Germany, Eric Parrish and Erik Czumbel — scored only four between them. Cedrick Alley Jr., who has missed time lately with a groin injury, returned to play 17 minutes. He scored eight points on 3 of 5 shooting. Freshman guard Jordan Ivy-Curry finished with nine points on 4 of 7 shooting. He also had three rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes. With the loss, UTSA fell to 0-6 on the road. In conference play, UTSA has two road losses at Rice, a split at home against North Texas and now another road loss at Louisiana Tech.

Records

UTSA 5-7, 1-4
Louisiana Tech 10-4, 3-2

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m.

True to the nickname, ‘Juice’ brings a spark to UTSA

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry averaged 31.5 points last year as a senior for the Class 4A La Marque High School Cougars. — Photo by Joe Alexander

His given name is Jordan Ivy-Curry. But all his friends at UTSA call him “Juice.” As in, plug him into a basketball game and feel the electricity. How did he get the nickname?

“Around seventh or eighth grade, playing at a park in the neighborhood,” the UTSA freshman said. “You know, I was playing against some grown-ups. Shooting the ball. Making a lot of shots. It was like, ‘You got the juice.’ So ever since then, they been calling me ‘Juice.’ ”

Getting a nickname is a badge of honor in the Houston area, where Ivy-Curry grew up. Back in the ‘60s, they had David “Big Daddy” Lattin, who went on to lead the Texas Western College Miners to the 1966 NCAA title.

In the ‘80s, they had Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on a couple of Final Four teams at the University of Houston, along with Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Larry “Mr. Mean” Michaux.

Ivy-Curry started to turn heads on the playground when he was 11. Within a few years, he gravitated to games with players much older. With high school-age players. Though he was under-sized, he challenged himself.

“Yeah, I got some buckets,” Ivy-Curry recalled. “Two from half court.”

Years later, playing for the La Marque High School Cougars, “Juice” continued to shoot it. He had the green light and the skills to rack up more than 2,000 points in his career, eclipsing 50 points in a game three times as a senior last season.

At UTSA, the scoring machines in residence are seniors by the name of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. “Juice” plays off the bench in a supporting role for the Roadrunners, averaging a modest 5.8 points in 15.5 minutes per game.

But to a certain extent, those numbers belie his value to the team.

With the Roadrunners scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday at Louisiana Tech, the freshman has emerged as a player who has seen court time in the second half in all four of UTSA’s Conference USA games, including crunch-time minutes in a 77-69 victory over North Texas last Saturday.

In one memorable sequence, sophomore guard Erik Czumbel fired a skip pass cross the court to Ivy-Curry. As a North Texas defender ran at the UTSA freshman, he dribbled into open space and lobbed it up for center Jacob Germany, who dunked it.

“It felt good,” Ivy-Curry said. “I felt like, when I made that play, it brought the team energy up, the crowd energy up. We just had the momentum our way. Just a great feeling. Even though I had zero points (in the game) I felt like I had five points on that play.”

Germany called Ivy-Curry “a great player,” who will get better as the years go by. “In high school, he was a huge scorer, and I could see him doing that here in a year or two,” the sophomore from Oklahoma said. “For him, it’s just experience and confidence.”

When told that Ivy-Curry had mentioned playing against older players as a young man, Henson smiled, because he has seen some of that competitive fire from him in practices already.

“He’s got that right level of confidence, swag,” Henson said. “He respects Jhivvan and Keaton. He tries to get after ‘em in practice every day. He’s usually matched up with one of those two guys, and he fights and competes. Got a great deal of confidence. He just plays. It’s kind of refreshing.”

Continued Henson: “He reads situations well. His instincts offensively are very, very good. Defensively, he’s conscientious. He’s trying to learn our schemes. Trying to work on his habits. Yeah, he’s fun. He’s fun at practice.

“(We) had a practice prior to North Texas, and at the end of a segment he rattled off 10 straight. Two threes and two twos. Just like it was nothing. It doesn’t really even phase us that he does that. He’s just such a natural scorer.”

He is the “Juice.”

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6:30 p.m., Friday
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6 p.m., Saturday

Records

UTSA 5-6, 1-3
Louisiana Tech 9-4, 2-2

‘Bad Bird’ call: Henson hopes fans turn out for LA Tech at UTSA

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

UTSA coach Steve Henson on Wednesday thanked the fans for their continued support even through a slow start. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Coming off a lost week in Florida and preparing to host the powerful Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, UTSA coach Steve Henson issued an appeal to the Roadrunners Nation.

He said Wednesday that he’d like to see as many UTSA supporters as possible attend Conference USA home games on Thursday night against Louisiana Tech and on Saturday afternoon against Southern Miss.

“It’s early on in the race,” Henson said, “but we know that if we want to do something special, we’ve got to win our home games.

“We feel like LA Tech is one of the best teams (in the C-USA) … If they’re not the best team, at least they’re playing at that level, so it’s a very, very important game for us, to get back home.

“Home court advantage is really, really helpful.

“When the band is here, when the students are here, we feed off that. Because of the size of our building, it doesn’t have to be 100 percent full. We get that lower bowl filled up over there, it’s good.”

UTSA ranks 12th in the 14-team, C-USA in attendance, averaging only 899 (announced) through six home games.

Henson thanked the fans for their support even though the team hasn’t played as well as expected to this point.

“The season-ticket holders, the fans that sit behind us, have been out in pretty good force for us early in the year, particularly, considering we haven’t had a great start,” he said. “But our loyal supporters have been here.

“The students, we know they’ll get here when school starts. But, you know, they can come even when school’s not in session.”

With the first day of classes set for Jan. 21, UTSA students are still on break.

Nevertheless, Henson said he’s counting on the “Bad Birds,” a boisterous student group that sits behind the media on press row and travels to games in the local area, to give the team a lift.

“The Bad Birds helped us out at Texas State, I know that,” Henson said. “We just need a bunch more Bad Birds.”

Coming up

LA Tech (11-3, 2-0) at UTSA (6-9, 0-2), 6 p.m. Thursday

UTSA update

UTSA opened its C-USA schedule with losses last Thursday at Florida Atlantic (79-64) and at Florida International (90-83, overtime) … The Roadrunners allowed a three-point lead to slip away in the final eight seconds of regulation at FIU on Saturday night …

It is the first time in seven seasons of C-USA competition that UTSA has started conference with an 0-2 record…the Roadrunners haven’t started 0-3 since their one and only season in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-13 …

Forward Eric Parrish practiced in team drills with the Roadrunners for the first time this week … UTSA is waiting on a ruling from the NCAA to determine whether he can play this season … Henson said guard Adokiye Iyaye is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken right thumb … Forward Phoenix Ford went home to Florida to attend a funeral but is expected to be available against LA Tech.

Louisiana Tech update

LA Tech extended its winning streak to five games by routing Southern Miss at home (80-49) and on the road (78-50) to open conference last week … McNeese State transfer Kalob Ledoux comes off the bench to lead the Bulldogs in scoring (13.1). Starters DaQuan Bracey (12.6) and Amorie Archibald (11.9) also average in double figures … The Bulldogs are No. 62 in the NCAA’s NET ratings, the highest rating for a C-USA team.

The series

LA Tech leads UTSA 12-5 in the all-time series. However, under Henson, the Roadrunners hold a 3-2 edge against the Bulldogs over the past three seasons. All five games have been decided by 10 points or less … Here’s a look:

Feb. 16, 2019, at Ruston — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 67. DaQuan Bracey scores 23, and lead changes hands 13 times, with nine ties.

Feb. 24, 2018, at San Antonio — UTSA 74, Louisiana Tech 64. Deon Lyle scores 11 of his team-high 17 in the second half.

Jan. 4, 2018, at Ruston — UTSA 78, Louisiana Tech 76. Giovanni De Nicolao hits game-winning layup with one second left.

Feb. 11, 2017, at San Antonio — Louisiana Tech 72, UTSA 66. Erik McCree produces 25 points, 9 rebounds and a block for the Bulldogs.

Jan. 7, 2017, at Ruston — UTSA 69, Louisiana Tech 68. Jeff Beverly scores 27 and Giovanni De Nicolao hits a three in the last minute for the Roadrunners.

Bracey scores 23 as Louisiana Tech knocks off UTSA, 72-67

DaQuan Bracey scored six of his game-high 23 points in the final 1:35 Saturday to lift the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to a 72-67 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

UTSA’s hopes of a regular-season title in Conference USA took a major hit, as the Roadrunners made too many mistakes down the stretch and hit only 5 of 29 for the game on three pointers.

Old Dominion leads the C-USA title chase at 11-3. Western Kentucky, Southern Miss and UTSA are 9-5. UAB and North Texas are 8-6.

Coming up

UTSA next will complete the regular season with four games in the C-USA’s new bonus play format.

Group 1 teams in bonus play will include No. 1 Old Dominion, followed by No. 2 Western Kentucky, No. 3 Southern Miss, No. 4 UTSA and No. 5 UAB.

Projected pairings

A C-USA spokesman said earlier this week that No. 4 would host Nos. 1 and 5 and play on the road against 2 and 3.

Which means, presumably, that UTSA will host Old Dominion and UAB and play on the road at Western Kentucky and Southern Miss.

Trying to hold on for the regular-season title, Old Dominion is expected to host Western Kentucky and Southern Miss and play on the road at UTSA and UAB.

The official pairings and schedule are expected to be released tonight.

Records

UTSA 15-12, 9-5
Louisiana Tech 17-10, 7-7