Jhivvan Jackson shot 10-of-28 from the field against the Marshall Thundering Herd. – photo by Joe Alexander
The UTSA Roadrunners strapped a strong defensive and rebounding effort on the Marshall Thundering Herd in forging a 72-63 victory in Conference USA basketball Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
Jhivvan Jackson produced a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Roadrunners.
Former UTSA great Derrick Gervin, watching from the bleachers, holds the school’s single-season scoring record with 718 points set in the 1984-85 season. Jhivvan Jackson trails Gervin by 18 leading into Saturday’s home game against Western Kentucky. – photo by Joe Alexander
“We were working pretty hard defensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Had a few good stretches in the first half defensively. Had an eight or nine-point lead late in the half and then just had a horrible stretch. Second half we came out and I think we had 10 straight stops at one point.
“They had 17 points in a 13-minute stretch. We took away their transition and easy buckets. We were working pretty hard defensively.”
UTSA tied a school record with 67 boards, dominating the visitors 67-44. Atem Bio pulled down 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and Byron Frohnen had nine.
On the defensive end of an ugly game, UTSA held Marshall to 33 percent shooting, including 21.9 percent in the second half.
The Roadrunners struggled shooting the ball, as well. They connected on 30 percent from the floor and 11.5 percent from long distance.
UTSA hit only 3 of 26 on three-point shots.
The Roadrunners essentially won the game at the free-throw line, making 21 of 26, including 15 of 18 in the second half.
UTSA 12-14, 6-7
Marshall 12-14, 6-7
The Thundering Herd surged late in the half to build a 38-34 lead on the Roadrunners at intermission. Taevion Kinsey scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the first 20 minutes.
UTSA guard Knox Hellums sat out with a fracture in the tip of his right thumb. Hellums suffered the injury in a road loss at Charlotte last Saturday.
By scoring 25 points, Jackson pulled to within striking distance of two school records.
He has scored 700 points for the year and is 18 shy of Derrick Gervin’s single-season record of 718, set in 1984-85. He also has 1,897 points for his career, 25 shy of Devin Brown’s 1,922 established from 1998-2002.
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.
UTSA 13-10, 7-3
Marshall 13-10, 6-4
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.
“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.
The Marshall Thundering Herd won the Conference USA basketball title Saturday night in Frisco, holding off Western Kentucky 67-66 in Frisco.
With the victory, the Herd qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987.
Point guard Jon Elmore scored 27 points for the fourth-seeeded Herd (24-10).
Coach Dan D’Antoni’s team played well in the tournament, defeating the No. 5 UTSA Roadrunners, the No. 9 Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the No. 3 Hilltoppers on consecutive days at the Ford Center, in the Star.
Earlier this season, forecasters were projecting that both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky would make the NCAA tournament out of the C-USA.
But both might now be looking at accepting bids from the less-prestigious NIT.
No. 1 Middle Tennessee (24-7) lost in the quarterfinals, and Western Kentucky (24-10) fell in the championship game despite scoring the last 11 points of the game.
Trailing by the eventual final score, the Hilltoppers missed two shots in the final 30 seconds.
Pac-12 — Arizona 75, USC 61
Western Athletic Conference — New Mexico State 72, Grand Canyon 58
Atlantic Coast Conference — Virginia 71, North Carolina 63
Southland Conference — Stephen F. Austin 59, Southeastern Louisiana 55
Conference USA — Marshall 67, Western Kentucky 66
Big Sky — Montana 82, Eastern Washington 65
Big East — Villanova 76, Providence 66, OT
Big 12 — Kansas 81, West Virginia 70
Mountain West — San Diego State 82, New Mexico 75
MAC — Buffalo 76, Toledo 66
America East – Maryland-Baltimore County 65, Vermont 62
Playing from behind all night, the UTSA Roadrunners rallied furiously to pull within five points of the Marshall Thundering Herd in the closing minutes of the second half.
From there, the Roadrunners twice had chances to hit shots and make it a one-possession game.
But fourth-seeded Marshall held No. 5 UTSA scoreless on both tries, turning the stops into a 95-81 victory in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.
The tournament is being played in Frisco, in the Ford Center at the Star.
With the victory, Marshall (22-10) moves on to play ninth-seeded Southern Miss in a semifinal game set for 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Southern Miss (16-17) made the semis by shocking the top-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 71-68, in overtime.
For UTSA (19-14), its dream of a berth in the NCAA tournament has been dashed.
But an opportunity looms to play in another postseason event, perhaps the National Invitation Tournament, the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
Regardless, none of that was consolation to the Roadrunners, who put together their best season in six years, won the tournament opener Wednesday night against UTEP but then failed to sustain the momentum.
“Our guys are pretty disappointed in there, and I think that’s a good sign,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “They really believed we could come here and win a bunch of games and give ourselves a chance.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. You know, we wouldn’t want guys to be in there content or coming over to this tournament not thinking we’re going to win it.
“So, they’re a little disappointed right now. Their heads are down.”
Henson told KTKR radio that “we’re kind of planning on playing in (another) tournament” early next week.
“So, we’ll have to bounce back real quickly,” he said. “You got to put this one behind you. The dream of the Big Dance (the NCAA tournament) is behind us now. We’ll go play some more good basketball.”
Guard C.J. Burks led Marshall with 29 points, hitting 9 of 16 from the field. Forward Ajdin Penava added 22 points.
On the glass, Penava dominated with 12 boards and Burks pulled down nine. Point guard Jon Elmore ran the show with 15 points and 11 assists.
“They’re a good team,” Henson said. “They just spread the floor so well. They made good plays.”
Getting off to a fast start, the Thundering Herd raced to an 18-point lead in the first half.
UTSA cut it to 11 at the intermission. But Marshall stepped on the gas again, building a 15-point margin seven minutes into the second half.
At that juncture, the Roadrunners started to play their best ball of the night. They rallied to within 74-69 when Giovanni De Nicolao hit a jumper.
But that was as close as it would get.
UTSA made a couple of stops, only to come up empty offensively when Deon Lyle missed a three, followed by De Nicolao having his runner blocked by Jannson Williams.
Williams followed his block with a free throw, and then a three-point shot, boosting Marshall into a nine-point lead. UTSA never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Playing without injured Jhivvan Jackson, the Roadrunners probably didn’t have enough weapons to win the tournament.
But forward Byron Frohnen had his second double-double in two nights with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Forward Nick Allen and guard George Willborn III also scored 16, with freshman Keaton Wallace coming off the bench for 13.
Lyle was held to 2-of-15 shooting and five points.
UTSA’s Keaton Wallace shakes a defender to hit an 18-footer on Jan. 20 against UTEP.
UTSA freshman Keaton Wallace says he knows what to expect from the Marshall Thundering Herd.
“They like to play fast,” Wallace said. “They shoot a lot of threes, throw a lot of lobs.”
On the flip side, the Marshall coaching staff might not know exactly what to expect from Wallace and the Roadrunners when they meet tonight at 7 at the Convocation Center.
Is UTSA still the team that rushes the ball up the court and then allows one of its freshmen sharpshooters – Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson — to fire away from long distance?
Or, has UTSA’s fun-and-gun offense now been modified?
It’s hard to tell, after Wallace passed for a team season-high of 11 assists last Saturday in an eye-opening, 82-70 victory at Alabama-Birmingham.
As a team, the Roadrunners probably have never looked better in recent years than they did at UAB, when a crisp offense notched 24 assists on 32 field goals.
Wallace said it’s definitely the way he’d like to see the team play as it battles through the last month of the Conference USA schedule.
“That’s Roadrunner basketball,” Wallace said. “Moving the ball. Making open shots. Making plays for other teammates. Getting them open.”
But with powerful Marshall and Western Kentucky coming into San Antonio this week, can the Roadrunners keep it going?
“I feel like we’re locked in,” Wallace said. “We’re ready to play. I feel like we’re doing better things. We’re improving. We’re making better reads on offense and playing harder on defense, making the job easier for us.”
It’s certainly making the job easier for UTSA coach Steve Henson, who had been sweating a string of poor performances, particularly some poor offensive performances.
UTSA never looked worse this season than it did last Thursday in a 75-51 loss at Middle Tennessee State.
The Conference USA-leading Blue Raiders toyed with the Roadrunners, holding them to 34 percent shooting.
On the UTSA bench, Henson watched with some anxiety at the poor shot selection. So much so, that he spent all day last Friday trying to figure it out.
“You know, we kind of got tricked earlier in the year,” the coach said. “We had so many guys feeling good early, had so many guys shooting it well. You know, we just had easy shots.
“As the season went on, certain guys (weren’t) shooting it as well now as we were earlier, which affects everybody else.
“Defenses were getting better. Scouting reports were more specific. And we just (weren’t) running good offense.”
Shooting only 30.2 percent from the field in C-USA play, Wallace took the message to heart.
He emerged at UAB as a player intent on finding shots for his teammates.
In the first half alone, he passed for five assists, with four of them leading to three-point baskets.
How effective was he?
When Wallace entered the game, the Roadrunners led 4-1. When Henson took him out near the end of the half, they were up 37-22.
In the second half, the former backcourt standout at Richardson High School notched six more assists, with four resulting in layups.
As the team boarded the bus, they packed a few statistical oddities.
Giovanni De Nicolao, UTSA’s starting point guard and most consistent playmaker, had hit four three-pointers.
Wallace had only four points, but he had the most assists he’s ever had in a game in his life.
“Like I said, coach emphasized that we got to drive the ball more,” he said. “In previous games I’d been taking a lot of threes. So, he emphasized (that). He believes that I can drive the ball, that there’s more to my game than just shooting.
“I was driving it (against the Blazers), making the defense collapse and kicking it to my teammates. They were knocking down shots. So, credit to them.”
Wallace’s smooth shooting stroke from November and December still hasn’t re-emerged. He was only 2 for 7 against UAB. He took only one three pointer and missed it.
Henson, however, has hardly lost confidence in him.
The coach is staying with a player who has proven he can make a positive impact, one way or the other.
“When he locks in on trying to make shots for others, that helps him,” Henson said after Tuesday’s workout at UTSA. “He’s not going to lose his shooting ability. It’ll be big time when he gets all that stuff packaged together.
“Yeah, he’s got the ability to do what he did (at Birmingham). He did it today (in practice). He was really aggressive driving it.”
Wallace said, in a sense, the shooting slump has had its benefits in that it has sparked him in trying to improve in other phases.
“It forces you to adjust,” he said. “It forces me to think different. It forces me to do different things on the court.
“As far as not scoring as many points as I did before, now I have to think about getting a few more assists, a few more rebounds, so we can win those games.”
So, as his game evolves and the team faces a critical phase of its schedule, does he now consider himself more of a pass-first guard?
“Um, no,” Wallace said. “I wouldn’t say more of a pass-first guard. I would just say, making plays. A play-making guard.”
Freshman Keaton Wallace buries a three on Dec. 31 against North Texas.