Incarnate Word stuns Grambling State, 63-61, with a 35-second rally

The Incarnate Word Cardinals erased a five-point deficit in the final 35 seconds Sunday afternoon to knock off the Grambling State Tigers 63-61 in the 210 San Antonio Shootout at UTSA.

The UTSA Roadrunners are set to play the second game of the night against the Dartmouth College Big Green.

Grambling, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, built a 61-56 lead with 35.8 seconds remaining on two free throws by Shawndarius Cowart.

From there, the Cardinals worked some magic and won, improving to 2-0 in the four-day, four-team event. First, Brandon Swaby hit a long three to make it a two-point game. Pressuring on the inbounds, UIW forced a turnover, which led to a game-tying layup by Jonathan Cisse.

Grambling coughed it up again on the inbounds and fouled, sending UIW’s Trey Miller to the free-throw line. Miller hit both ends of a one-and-one to account for the game’s final points.

A length-of-the-court inbounds by Grambling was off the mark, and the buzzer sounded to end the game, with UIW players and coaches celebrating.

UIW opened its second game in the 210 San Antonio Shootout on Sunday with a solid first half, surging to a 13-point lead in the first 17 minutes.

The San Antonio-based Cardinals held on to take a 29-24 edge into intermission. All games in the event are being played at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UIW opened Friday with a 69-64 victory over Dartmouth College Big Green. Grambling entered its second game in the classic coming off a 75-55 victory over UTSA.

Records

Incarnate Word 4-3
Grambling State 3-4

UTSA notebook

Voters in San Antonio approved a massive city bond last spring that included $5 million earmarked for a men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball practice facility.

UTSA is expected to build a 49,774-square-foot structure adjacent to the Roadrunner Center of Excellence (RACE) on the west side of campus. Its cost is projected as $29.5 million.

An athletics department spokesman said in an email that there is no timeline yet on when construction would start or when the project could be completed.

20-point homecourt losses

Historically, it’s been tough to beat Coach Steve Henson on his home court at UTSA. Opponents have won only 29 out of 97 games against Henson-coached teams at the Convocation Center.

Even more rare are games in which an opponent has won by 20 or more. One of only two 20-point homecourt losses for Henson came Friday night against the Grambling State Tigers in the opener of the 210 San Antonio Classic.

Nov. 25, 2022 — Grambling State 75, UTSA 55
Nov. 12, 2018 — Oklahoma 87, UTSA 67

Grambling State rolls behind Gordon to a 75-55 victory over UTSA

The UTSA Roadrunners played with a certain edge in a recent three-game winning streak. In downing the St. Mary’s Rattlers, the Texas State Bobcats and the Prairie View A&M Panthers, they didn’t blow anyone off the court, but they also put together winning plays in key moments that allowed them to prevail.

Moreover, they found a potential go-to scorer in point guard Japhet Medor.

Coach Steve Henson. UTSA lost to Grambling State 75-55 in men's basketball on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson says: ‘We need other people to create a little bit more for us’ on the offensive end. – Photo by Joe Alexander

All that came to a disappointing halt on Friday night on the first day of the 210 San Antonio Classic. The visiting Grambling State University Tigers shut down Medor early in the game, successfully keeping him from doing much damage with his drives to the hoop en route to a 75-55 victory at the UTSA Convocation Center.

“They were switching a lot,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “I mean, first couple of possessions, he didn’t have any success. Then he did. He got in there and drew nine fouls. He found his way.”

Regardless, Medor couldn’t match his production from Tuesday, when he ripped Prairie View for 28 points, including 16 of 20 free throws. The jet-quick senior drew 14 fouls against the Panthers and hit six of 10 field goals. Against Grambling, he was limited to 12 points on four of eight from the line and four of six from the field.

“You know, we don’t have anything offensively that’s just automatic for us,” Henson said. “We’re counting on him to get a lot done. When shots are going in, sometimes it’s because of his penetration. We need other people to create a little bit more for us. Last couple of games, it’s become a pretty obvious area of need for us … to get other people making plays.

“That didn’t really happen all night.”

Grambling State, on the other hand, had plenty of people making plays. Forward Carte’are Gordon led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds. Cameron Christon hit three of five on 3-point shots and scored 13. Meanwhile, Shawndarius Cowart, Virshon Cotton and Quintin Murrell scored eight each.

Japhet Medor drives against . UTSA lost to Grambling State 75-55 in men's basketball on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Japhet Medor goes top shelf against Grambling State’s Cameron Christon. Medor had 12 points and seven rebounds against Grambling. – Photo by Joe Alexander

On the other end of the floor, the Tigers’ defense stifled a UTSA offense that had looked very good earlier in the week. Coming off 60 percent shooting in the second half against Prairie View, the Roadrunners couldn’t get anything going. Grambling held the Roadrunners to 25.9 percent in the first half and 29.6 percent shooting for the game.

The Tigers led by as many as 24 points in the before intermission and by 28 once in the second half. With 3:41 remaining, the visitors had the Roadrunners down 70-42 after Cowart hit a shot in the lane to cap a 14-5 run. Oddly, the eventual final score matched the score of UTSA’s last loss, which came at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 11.

It may well be that the Roadrunners could be a team that looks good against certain squads this season because of certain matchups. Then, not so good against others. For instance, they didn’t seem to have trouble with Prairie View. Conversely, against a team such as Grambling, with more overall size, athleticism and quickness, UTSA may find the going tougher.

“I don’t disagree with that,” Henson said. “But, we got to figure something out offensively. I mean, defensively, it wasn’t good enough. But offensively, it’s just too many hard shots. Too many turnovers. Our turnovers are not out of a selfish nature. Our guys are trying to do the right things.

“We got to keep searching a little bit and find a way to make easier plays. Stronger plays. Create separation off our screens. Off ball screens. On ball screens. And better slips. Tonight, they were switching. We knew we needed to slip a lot and we just didn’t get much of that done.”

Records

Grambling (3-2)
UTSA (4-2)

Jacob Germany. UTSA lost to Grambling State 75-55 in men's basketball on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA senior Jacob Germany produced eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. – Photo by Joe Alexander

First half

The Tigers bolted to a 24-point lead and held off the Roadrunners at the end to take a commanding 35-19 advantage into the intermission.

Playing stifling defense on one end and scoring with regularity on the other, the Tigers jumped out to take charge early at 7-0, 16-4 and then, with a little less than 11 minutes remaining, 21-4.

Erik Czumbel. UTSA lost to Grambling State 75-55 in men's basketball on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Erik Czumbel battles to save a possession against Grambling State. – Photo by Joe Alexander

They took their largest lead at 33-9 when Murrell hit a three with 4:23 left. The Roadrunners went on a 10-2 run to the buzzer.

Nine players scored for Grambling in the half, including Cotton with eight points and Christon with five. In the early going, the Tigers dominated, hitting nine of their first 17 shots, while limiting the Roadrunners at the outset to three of 19.

Incarnate Word wins, 69-64

Jonathan Cisse produced 22 points and seven rebounds to pace the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals past the Dartmouth Big Green, 69-64, on Friday afternoon at the UTSA Convocation Center.

In the opening game of the 210 San Antonio Shootout, UIW’s Davante Dennis added 17 points and seven boards, while Trey Miller scored 15.

Brandon Mitchell-Day had 14 points and six rebounds for Dartmouth.

With the victory, UIW improved its record to 3-3 on the season. Dartmouth dropped to 1-4.

The four-team event takes a break on Saturday before continuing with two games each on Sunday and Monday at UTSA.

Records

Grambling (3-2)
UTSA (4-2)

Sunday

Incarnate Word vs. Grambling, 5 p.m.
Dartmouth vs. UTSA, 7:30 p.m.

Monday

Grambling vs. Dartmouth, 3 p.m.
Incarnate Word vs. UTSA, 6:30 p.m.

Medor and Buggs combine for 46 points as UTSA downs the Prairie View A&M Panthers, 82-75

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

As pages on the calendar flip to November, as the weather turns cooler and as the Thanksgiving holiday comes around, native Floridian Japhet Medor always thinks about the taste of his mother’s macaroni and cheese.

For John Buggs III, his thoughts sometimes take him home to Louisiana and a heaping plate of Cajun turkey.

This year, Medor and Buggs will spend their first turkey day in San Antonio with their new family — with their coaches and teammates in the UTSA basketball program. It promises to be a good day, with a morning practice, followed by lunch at the home of head coach Steve Henson.

John Buggs III. UTSA beat Prairie View A&M 82-75 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Shooting guard John Buggs III rises up to let one fly over a defender on the way to 18 points against the Prairie View A&M Panthers. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The impending holiday was made all the more special Tuesday night when the surprising Roadrunners won their third straight game and their second straight against a solid, mid-major program in NCAA Division I.

Five days after UTSA downed the two-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion Texas State Bobcats, Medor and Buggs started to cook on high heat offensively in an impressive 82-75 victory over the Prairie View A&M Panthers.

Medor, playing in only his fifth game as a Division I player, followed a 16-point effort against the Bobcats with 28 against the Panthers of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Employing quick bursts into the paint and to the rim, he drew 14 fouls and hit 16 of 20 from the free throw line. On top of that, he added seven assists, for good measure.

Not to be outdone, Buggs scored 18 and matched teammate Isaiah Addo-Ankrah with four 3-pointers. As a team, the Roadrunners knocked down 11 from long distance, including two from D.J. Richards and one from Josh Farmer, to keep the Panthers on their heels.

Outside of nine second-half turnovers, the UTSA offense was about as good as coaches could have asked for.

The Roadrunners shot 60 percent from the field in the second half and 52 percent for the game. Additionally, in notching 13 assists on 24 baskets, UTSA underscored once again its emphasis on sharing the ball.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. UTSA beat Prairie View A&M 82-75 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah snapped out of a shooting slump by making four of seven from 3-point distance.
He had 13 points, two rebounds and two assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Asked about the meaning of a victory over a group of veteran players like the Panthers, who defeated the Pac-12’s Washington State Cougars last week, Medor didn’t hesitate with a reply. “It means that the sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “We have room to improve, and we’re making it happen. So I feel like the sky’s the limit for our team, and we’re going to get better every day.”

Seemingly, as Medor and Buggs have gained confidence, the players around them also have taken a few positive mental steps forward, as well.

“That’s what we talk about,” Henson said. “With Japhet, he did (tonight) exactly what our coaches said he did when (they) went to recruit him (last spring in Florida). I saw him practice. Our coaches saw him play in games. They came back and said he just draws fouls, puts pressure on the defense.

“He showed signs of that here and there (early this month). He had some stretches in the exhibition game (against Schreiner University), just serving everybody up. I mean, in the second half against St. Mary’s, when he took over the game … He’s had stretches before, and then obviously he took over tonight.

“Drawing 14 fouls,” the coach said, looking again at the stat sheet, “I don’t know if I’ve seen that very often.”

Records

UTSA 4-1
Prairie View A&M 3-2

Coming up

The Roadrunners host the 210 San Antonio Shootout this weekend. They’ll play Grambling State on Friday night (at 7:30), followed by games against Dartmouth on Sunday (7:30) and Incarnate Word on Monday (4:30).

Notable

Some in the program might be a bit surprised at the team’s record leading into Thanksgiving after a trip Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the second game of the season ended with a 75-55 loss. UTSA took a beating in the second half on that Nov. 11 evening on the Gulf Coast, giving up 50 points.

DJ Richards. UTSA beat Prairie View A&M 82-75 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman DJ Richards scored eight points in 18 minutes off the bench. He made two of five 3-point shots, giving him nine of 21 for the season. His 42.3 percent on threes ranks second on the team to John Buggs’ 45.2. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In one stretch covering 17:30, the Islanders pounded the Roadrunners, 47-19. What has changed since then? In a sense, not much. But, then again, maybe the game opened some eyes about what can happen when not everyone on the roster is dialed in and ready to play.

“I think that loss at Corpus kind of lit a fire under us, making us not want to feel that feeling again,” Buggs said. “We’re just doing everything we can to power through games and just push through to get the win.”

Individuals

Prairie View A&M — Guard Will Douglas had 19 points on six of 12 shooting. Douglas also hit seven of nine at the line. Guard Jeremiah Gambrell produced 18 points, seven of 18 from the field. He hit two of seven from long distance. Tekorian Smith had 10 points, three assists and three rebounds. Kortrijk Miles produced eight points and four steals off the bench.

UTSA — Japhet Medor had 28 points on six of 10 shooting from the floor. He made 16 of 20 at the free-throw line. In a dominant showing, the Roadrunners’ point guard made three fewer free throws than Prairie View made as a team. John Buggs III had a career-high 18 points and hit four of seven from three. Buggs has made 11 of 18 from distance in his last three games. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah also hit four of seven from distance. A long-distance specialist, he started the season three for 23 in his first four games.

Medor’s first half

UTSA unleashed Medor offensively in the first half, and the Florida native responded with a Jhivvan Jackson-like tour de force. Known mostly as a pass-first point guard at Hillsborough College in Tampa, he scored 18 points as the Roadrunners surged into a 36-32 lead.

The San Antonio Spurs' Keldon Johnson. UTSA beat Prairie View A&M 82-75 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

San Antonio Spurs guard Keldon Johnson, seated courtside at the Convocation Center, shares a laugh with a friend at the Prairie View-UTSA game. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Playing man-to-man defense, the Panthers simply couldn’t stay in front of the 6-footer, who consistently drove past his man. When that happened, he usually would draw contact from someone else, the whistle usually would blow, and then he’d go to the free-throw line.

“I was told to be more aggressive, and my teammates helped me out a lot,” Medor said. “They closed out on Buggs a lot, and they were denying a lot, so it made it a lot easier.”

Another issue faced by the Panthers’ defense revolved around 6-foot-11 center Jacob Germany, the Roadrunners’ leading scorer from last year. The Panthers seemed reluctant to cheat off Germany, which gave Medor more room to operate.

Buggs and Medor have been in San Antonio working out together since June. In that regard, nothing that Medor does on the floor in a game will surprise Buggs.

“I see this every single day in practice,” he said. “One way or the other, if he’s not having 10 assists, hey, tonight, ya’ll saw 28 points. There’s nothing he really can’t do. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Prairie View’s rise

Under Coach Byron Smith, the Panthers forged records of 22-13, 19-13 and 16-5 in three seasons from 2018-19 through the 2020-21. In 2019, they won both the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular and postseason titles and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Last season, they fell off to 8-19. But coming into San Antonio, they had won three of their first four games, including a 70-59 victory last Tuesday at home against Washington State.

Japhet Medor. UTSA beat Prairie View A&M 82-75 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Japhet Medor sank 16 of 20 free throws and scored a career-high 28 points as the UTSA Roadrunners downed the Prairie View A&M Panthers at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA makes just enough plays to hold off the St. Mary’s Rattlers

Coming off a 20-point loss to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, the UTSA Roadrunners entered their third game of the season Monday night needing a defensive spark, some solid execution on the offensive end and a quality shooting performance.

All of that, leading to a run-away victory, would have been nice. But in keeping with history in a rivalry that dates back nearly 40 years, the NCAA Division II-level St. Mary’s University Rattlers showed up at the Convocation Center with other ideas.

Division I UTSA survived a shaky start and a hand-wringing finish to polish off San Antonio-based St. Mary’s, 66-59.

John Buggs III. UTSA beat St. Mary's 66-59 on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Guard John Buggs III sparked UTSA’s 14-0 run to start the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, guard Japhet Medor, center Jacob Germany and freshman guard DJ Richards made a few plays at the end to salvage the victory. UTSA coach Steve Henson said in his postgame commentary that “there weren’t a ton of positives” to the performance.

“I can’t spin too positively,” the coach said. “St. Mary’s is good. I got a lot of respect for what they do and how tough they are. How well-coached they are. They did some things to keep it right there (within their reach).”

“The positive,” Henson added, “was that we found a way to get the win.”

St. Mary’s (0-2) played the game as an exhibition, so it didn’t count on the Rattlers’ record. But the game did count for UTSA (2-1) on a night when the Roadrunners were trying to bounce back from a poor performance in Corpus Christi.

Though the Roadrunners traveled to the Coastal Bend last Friday, it was hardly a day at the beach. UTSA held an eight-point lead in the second half on a 23-win, Division I NCAA tournament team from last year. After that, Corpus Christi romped 47-19 in the final 17 minutes to win 75-55.

As a result, Roadrunners guard John Buggs III fielded a few questions in the wake of the St. Mary’s game about the team’s inconsistency. His answer was the same. At times, he said, UTSA goes through “stretches” when things go wrong on both ends of the floor.

“We have to limit those windows,” Buggs said.

Added Henson, “We have a lot of work to do. A lot of work.”

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat St. Mary's 66-59 on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany sank 6 of 11 from the field and scored 14 points for the Roadrunners. John Buggs III also scored 14. — Photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners, who were shooting 37.8 percent from the field coming into the night, finished 25 of 55 for 45.5 percent. Hitting only 20.3 percent from three in their first two games combined, they were better in that department, as well, making 8 of 19 for 42.1 percent. Germany and Buggs led the team with 14 points apiece.

It’s a good thing that UTSA made some improvement, because its next opponent — the defending Sun Belt Conference champion Texas State Bobcats — will be dangerous. The Bobcats are set to pay a visit to the Convocation Center on Thursday night.

“Texas State is really good,” Henson said. “They got great identity-culture. You know they’re going to defend really aggressively. They’re super solid defensively. Offensively, they typically run great movement, great motion … They had a big win at Rhode Island a couple of nights ago.

“They’ve got a couple of really big challenges for us. The emphasis will be defending and rebounding. Offensively, we’re going to be a young work in progress. Still think we’ve got the potential to be a pretty good offensive team in time. Defensively, we’ve got to take some steps.”

For St. Mary’s, the game could serve as a springboard into the rest of its pre-Lone Star Conference schedule. The Rattlers were beaten twice in Colorado last weekend. They lost 87-65 to Colorado School of Mines on Friday and then came up short, 60-56, falling to Regis College, Colo.

St. Mary's Emmanuel Ewuzie. UTSA beat St. Mary's 66-59 on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

St. Mary’s forward Emmanuel Ewuzie had a big game with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Against the Roadrunners, the Rattlers seemed to hit their stride. Forward Emmanuel Ewuzie had a big night with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Guard Ryan Leonard finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Off the bench, Diego Gonzalez scored seven and John Dawson six.

St. Mary’s came out strong, executing the offense and scoring the game’s first five points. The Rattlers kept it going for most of the first half, pushing the lead to as many as eight with 2:47 remaining.

At that point, UTSA started to creep back into the game. The Roadrunners scored seven in a row at the end of the half and then roared away on a 14-0 run to start the second.

Buggs ignited the second-half surge, hitting a couple of threes and a two. Forward Josh Farmer, who made his first start of the season, capped the streak with a wild play. After Farmer missed a dunk, Richards rebounded it. Farmer finally put it in the hoop for a 46-33 lead.

Down the stretch, the Rattlers wouldn’t fold.

They continued to scrap for rebounds and dive on the floor for loose balls. They hit some difficult shots in traffic. UTSA was also energized. They hit the boards with much more aggression. UTSA also got a big call when St. Mary’s foward Tyler Caron made a shot but had it waved off for charg

On the other end, Richards hit a three for a 10-point lead. Undaunted, St. Mary’s kept coming. The Rattlers chipped away and, with 1:01 remaining, Ewuzie hit a free that pulled the visitors to within two.

From there, Medor orchestrated the finish for the Roadrunners. He worked hard against the Rattlers’ trapping defense, and the Roadrunners survived, going on a 5-0 run to finish the game. Germany knocked down a shot and hit a free throw. On a free-throw miss, Richards snared a rebound and was fouled, sinking both with 30 seconds left to seal it.

Records

UTSA 2-1
St. Mary’s 0-2

Notable

With the victory, UTSA improved to 11-3 all-time in the series against St. Mary’s. The series between San Antonio-based universities started in 1984 as the “Mayor’s Challenge Cup.” Played initially in a downtown arena in the 1980s, the games have always been close. Only four of the 14 games have been decided by margins of more than 10 points.

Coming up

Texas State at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Huston-Tillotson at St. Mary’s, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Hitting hyper-speed

Sabally to Aleu — for two

UTSA set to play on the road at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

The UTSA Roadrunners will face their first NCAA Division I opponent of the season tonight. Also playing on the road for the first time, UTSA (1-0) will play the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (0-1).

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at the Dugan Wellness Center on the A&M-Corpus Christi campus.

The Roadrunners, coming off a 74-47 victory over Division III Trinity University on Monday, hope to make a statement against a team that beat them by 19 points in San Antonio last year.

On Nov. 21, 2021, Steve Lutz-coached A&M-Corpus Christi registered a 77-58 victory over UTSA at the Convocation Center en route to a magical season, in which it won the Southland Conference postseason title and played in the NCAA tournament.

UTSA, on the other hand, suffered a down season and finished 10-22.

Led by guards Japhet Medor and John Buggs, the Roadrunners will present the Islanders with a different look.

Medor is a pass-first point guard and Buggs is capable of scoring in bunches from the perimeter.

UTSA didn’t play well offensively against Trinity, shooting only 40 percent from the field. But the defense was good for the second-straight outing, including a home exhibition against the Schreiner University Mountaineers.

Against Shreiner and Trinity, the Roadrunners have yielded only 107 points.

The Islanders will test the Roadrunners with largely the same personnel that posted a 23-12 record last season.

Guards Jalen Jackson, Simeon Fryer and Terrion Murdix will lead the attack, with 6-foot-5 rebounding force Isaac Mushila at one forward and De’Lazarus Keys at the other.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi opened its season on the road Monday, at Starkveville, Miss., and lost 63-44 to Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference.

The Islanders led the game by 12 points in the first half and by five at intermission before the Cowboys rallied to put the game away.

Notable

A&M-Corpus Christi is a non-football playing program in the Southland Conference. The Islanders are coached by Lutz, who played at San Antonio’s East Central High School and at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.

UTSA plays football and all other sports in Conference USA. It’s the last season for UTSA in the C-USA as it prepares to move next year into the American Athletic Conference. The Roadrunners are led by seventh-year head coach Steve Henson.

Coming up

Both teams play again on Monday night. A&M-Corpus Christi will host Trinity at the American Bank Center. UTSA will host the Division II St. Mary’s University Rattlers in a matchup of San Antonio-based schools at UTSA.

After a dominant win over Trinity, UTSA’s players start talking about Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

The UTSA Roadrunners celebrated a 74-47 season-opening victory against the Trinity Tigers Monday night, in part, by initiating a conversation about their next opponent.

As players filed into the dressing room after the opener at the Convocation Center, the talk turned quickly to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders.

Japhet Medor. UTSA opened the men's basketball season with a 74-47 victory over Trinity on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Japhet Medor continued his strong play with five points, five rebounds, three steals and seven assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA will play Game Two on its schedule at A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday night in a rematch of a contest played last year in San Antonio.

It’s a memory that isn’t a pleasant one for the Roadrunners’ veterans, because the Islanders dominated, 77-58.

UTSA players may also know that A&M-Corpus Christi went on to enjoy a storybook season, which ended in a Southland Conference title and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Roadrunners newcomer Japhet Medor said some of his teammates have already told him about the Islanders’ style and personnel.

“They deny a lot of stuff,” Medor said. “They’re pretty aggressive, but we play aggressive, too. We like it.”

Medor said he thinks some of his teammates may take a scheduled off day and come in to work on their game.

“Tomorrow is an off day, and we got to treat it like it’s not an off day, to get our bodies right and get ready for Corpus Christi,” he said.

Lachlan Bofinger. UTSA opened the men's basketball season with a 74-47 victory over Trinity on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Junior forward Lachlan Bofinger came off the bench for four points and seven rebounds in a little more than 10 minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Medor said he knows how teammates who played in the game last year are feeling.

“Yeah, they want some get back,” he said. “Everybody’s motivated. We’re trying to change everything. We’re trying to win. So, of course we’re ready for Friday.”

Entering the regular season, UTSA had played only one exhibition. It was a game played last Wednesday against the Schreiner University Mountaineers. In doing so, the Roadrunners revved the offense and roared to a 93-60 victory.

Like Schreiner, Trinity is also an NCAA Division III program. But against the Tigers, the Division I Roadrunners had a tougher time putting points on the scoreboard. Much tougher.

UTSA shot 51.5 percent last week against the Mountaineers, including 42.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. Against the Tigers, the Roadrunners’ percentages didn’t look nearly as pretty on field goals (40.8) or on threes (16.7).

In fact, UTSA sank only 5 of 30 from long distance against Trinity’s zone defense.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, big men Josh Farmer (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Jacob Germany (15 points, six boards) played with poise and aggression and got the job done against the much smaller visitors.

For Farmer, it was a breakout game, his first double-double. The former Houston schoolboy averaged only 1.2 points per game last season.

Against Trinity, he scored a season high on 8 of 13 shooting from the field. In addition, he also saved several possessions with his hustle, including six offensive rebounds.

The Tigers, a 23-win team last year, were held to 30.5 percent shooting. Enzo Sechi, Trinity’s leading returning scorer, was on the roster but did not play. Ben Hanley, A.J. Clark and Grayson Herr scored six points apiece.

Records

UTSA 1-0
Trinity 0-0
x-Game played as an exhibition for Trinity. It does not count on the Tigers’ record.

Coming up

UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Friday, 7 p.m.

Jacob Germany. UTSA opened the men's basketball season with a 74-47 victory over Trinity on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Jacob Germany notched 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting. He also pulled down 6 rebounds.. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Long arms of the law? Coaches encourage UTSA forwards to bring intensity, defense

Aleu Aleu. The UTSA men's basketball team lost to Louisiana Tech 79-63 on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Aleu Aleu says UTSA is ready “to surprise the outside world” as the new season opens Monday night with a home game against Trinity. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The video did not lie. About five minutes into an exhibition game at the Convocation Center last Wednesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners imposed their will to create a highlight-reel moment. The play was significant for a few reasons.

First, it started with a drive to the bucket by Japhet Medor, a 6-foot newcomer who has shown on numerous occasions a knack for bringing out the best in his teammates. As Medor drove to the bucket on the right side, he threw up a floater that caromed off glass and rim. From there, 6-9 Josh Farmer made a play on it, tapping it out.

Josh Farmer, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Houston Sharpstown, at the first day of UTSA men's basketball practice. - photo by Joe Alexander

Josh Farmer, a 6-9 sophomore from Houston, is regarded as one of the team’s most improved players. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally, at 6-8, grabbed the ball and promptly dished under the basket to Aleu Aleu. In the chaotic aftermath, a few Schreiner bodies went down like bowling pins, and the 6-8 Aleu powered up and threw down an emphatic, two-handed dunk. It was an energy play that reverberated for, basically, the rest of the half.

For the next 15 minutes or so, the Roadrunners outscored the outmanned Division III Mountaineers by 28 points. Schreiner was lacking athletically in many ways against UTSA, as expected, but it still was a good sign for the home team to see a play unfold with such dramatic effect.

“You seen the game,” Aleu said. “It was back and forth for a little bit. Then you (saw) me, Josh and Lamin come in, and coach told us to pick it up. So we got a lot of stops and converted on the offensive end. Really glad we could bring the energy. That’s what we’re here for, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

After downing Schreiner 93-60 in the exhibition, UTSA hopes to continue pressing the action, and Monday night, the regular season starts for real. Once again, the opponent is a Division III foe. It’s the cross-town Trinity Tigers, in the house for a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Convo.

Most of the attention in UTSA camp since the players reported for fall semester duties has centered around Medor and John Buggs III, two transfer guards who seem to have solidified the entire program after a 10-22 season a year ago. But in the wake of the Schreiner exhibition, the potential for the long-armed trio of Aleu, Sabally and Farmer has sparked some discussion, as well.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally, a 6-8 sophomore, is bidding to play a bigger role after averaging 12.3 minutes last year. – Photo by Joe Alexander

While the three of them had a limited impact last season, the potential now seems pretty clear. If they can learn to play under control and play without fouling, they could give Henson all sorts of options on personnel groupings moving forward.

Henson and staffers talked to each player individually and to some in groups recently. The discussion centered on roles. With the three fowards, Henson said, “We kind of challenged ‘em collectively. (We asked) what would happen if you three went to the scorer’s table together and walked in, arm and arm, and said, ‘We’re going to make a big impact on this game with our defense and our length.’ ”

Aleu said the players got the message. They’ve been having good practices in that vein for several weeks now, anyway. “We kind of processed it, like, ‘OK, these are three long guys,” he said. “All quick. All can jump. All athletic. Can move. Can play defense. And we just … we get in the game and it’s hard for people to score.

“At practice, looking back on it, every time we’re on the court together, it’s hard for the blue team to get in their offense,’ Aleu added. “We’re blowing everything up. Josh is protecting around the rim. It’s a pretty good lineup, pretty big. With Japhet and Buggs and the three of us, we just shut everything down. We definitely take pride in that.”

For Aleu personally, this is a season in which he’d like to make up for lost time. Last season, he played in only 10 of 32 games, limited by right knee and left quadriceps injuries in the fall and then later, another right knee injury in January that knocked him out for the season.

It was an ordeal that tried his resolve. Aleu acknowledged that it was tough to make it through the days following the injury, which happened in UTSA’s Jan. 15 road game at Charlotte.

“My knee was stuck,” he said. “It was stuck for about three or four days. I couldn’t unlock it because the meniscus had flipped over. They couldn’t unlock it until I got into the surgery. Yeah, that was a lot. A lot.”

In explaining his situation, Aleu said it was a “bucket handle” meniscus injury to his right knee. He said it was his understanding that if the meniscus had been removed, he might have faced a knee replacement in two or three years.

“So the best thing to do is repair it, and just stitch it back together,” he said. “That’s what kept me out for so long. You got to let it heal. It took me about seven months to rehab. We went into the summer and Ji (trainer Jiana Hook) told me we’d just take our time with it.”

Aleu acknowledged that it was difficult to make it through the days following the injury, which happened in UTSA’s Jan. 15 road game at Charlotte. It was also painful to sit and watch the team implode at the end of the season.

“It felt bad just to sit there and watch my teammates go through what we went through,” he said. “So, I’m just happy to be back and (I hope) to do whatever I can to help the team, and not repeat what happened last year.”

Aleu’s return to full speed progressed gradually. He was limmited in late August and September. By the start of official preseason drills, the native of Kenya, who played in high school in Austin and in junior college at Temple, had ramped up to full-speed work.

A few weeks ago, Aleu raised eyebrows when he caught a pass on the fast break and tried to tomahawk dunk over freshman Massal Diouf. The ball didn’t go down, as Diouf hustled back to get a piece of it. But UTSA teammates took notice.

“Aleu, he just got to stay healthy,” guard Isaiah Addo-Ankrah said. “Aleu always could hoop. I call him my African Splash Brother. He just got to stay healthy and keep getting confident. Today, he went up and tried to dunk on somebody. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the Louie I know.’ ”

Henson said he was impressed with how hard Aleu practiced last month after being out for so long in rehabilitation.

“Then he had a stretch where he was shooting the ball so well,” the coach said. “(If) he mixes those two things and carries the shooting over to the games, he could have a huge impact for us. Because, he can play a couple of positions. He can guard multiple positions. Can pass it. Attack. Block a few shots. Rebound it. Defend.

“So, transitioning it from practice to the games, is kind of the key there.”

Aleu said he’s encouraged by the team’s play in general.

“Our confidence is pretty high,” he said. “I think that goes back to the guys around you. Everybody’s pretty supportive of each other. We encourage everybody to play their game and be themselves. That makes everyone feel confident. We’re past last year. But it’s, like, in the rear-view mirror. We also still think about it sometimes. It fuels us to keep getting better.”

If the Roadrunners win this year, it won’t be a surprise to them.

“For sure,” Aleu said. “We know what we can do. We’re ready to surprise the outside world, for sure. I think it’ll be a good season, and we won’t be surprised at all. We all know the work that we put in. We all know the sacrifices we’ve made.”

Kevin McCullar Jr. set to play for the defending NCAA champion Kansas Jayhawks

A summer of transition has long since passed for Kevin McCullar, Jr.

After testing his value in the NBA market, he elected to return to college basketball. In making that move, he transferred from one Big 12 power program to another. McCullar decided to move on from the Texas Tech Red Raiders to join the Kansas Jayhawks.

McCullar, a former San Antonio-area standout from Wagner High School, played three seasons in Lubbock for the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-6 guard is now ready to suit up for the defending national champions, with Kansas scheduled to open the season at home on Monday night against Omaha (Neb.)

Editor’s note

On the eve of Monday night’s season openers around the nation, here is a list of athletes from the San Antonio area on Division I men’s rosters. I’ve done my best to make this as comprehensive as possible, but, it’s likley that I’ve missed a few names. I’ll update accordingly when new information comes to light. Thanks, Jerry.

OK, here’s the list:

Adam Benhayoune, LSU, a 6-5 sophomore guard from O’Connor HS

Trey Blackmore, Cal State-Fullerton, a 6-2 freshman guard from Cole HS

Marques Gates, Houston Christian, a 6-0 redshirt freshman guard from Clemens HS

x-Vincent Iwuchukwu, Southern Cal, a 7-foot freshman center, formerly of Cole HS, La Lumiere, Ind., Montverde Academy, Fla.

Jalen Jackson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a 5-11 senior guard from Wagner HS

Ja’Sean Jackson, Abilene Christian, a 6-0 sophomore guard from Wagner HS

Ellis Jefferson, Lamar, a 6-0 senior guard from Brandeis HS

Gerald Liddell, Alabama State, a 6-8 senior forward from Steele HS; transfer from Texas

Carlton Linguard Jr., UTSA, a 7-foot junior center from Stevens HS, transfer from Temple JC and Kansas State

Silas Livingston, University of the Incarnate Word, a 5-9 freshman guard from Cole

Langston Love, Baylor, a 6-5 redshirt freshman guard, formerly of Steele HS, Montverde Academy, Fla.

Jayden Martinez, North Texas, a 6-7 senior forward from Steele; transfer from New Hampshire

Jordan Mason, Texas State, a 6-2 freshman guard from Clark

Kevin McCullar, Jr., Kansas, a 6-6 senior guard, formerly of Wagner High School, a transfer from Texas Tech.

Austin Nunez, Arizona State, a 6-2 freshman guard from Wagner HS

Ze’Rik Onyema, UTEP, a 6-8 sophomore forward from Jay HS

Dre Ray, Incarnate Word, a 5-9 freshman guard from Cole HS

Brendan Wenzel, Wyoming, a 6-7 guard from O’Connor HS; a transfer from Utah

Dalen Whitlock, Texas State, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Clark HS

Players with San Antonio roots who attended high school out of the area

Zach Clemence, Kansas, a 6-10 forward from Findlay Prep (Nev.) and Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.)

Micah Peavy, TCU, a 6-7 junior forward from Duncanville, transfer from Texas Tech

Notable

x-Seven-foot center Vincent Iwuchukwu isn’t practicing and hasn’t been medically cleared to play at Southern Cal following a reported cardiac arrest during a workout in July.

“This past summer I had a sudden cardiac arrest during a workout,” Iwuchukwu told Matt Norlander of CBS sports in a story published on Sept. 29. “Since the event, I have received optimal care from the university, and my personal expert medical team. Currently, I am adhering to the standard protocol designed to ensure my health and safety. I’m feeling great and my recovery and rehabilitation remain positive.”

In both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Iwuchukwu led the Noe Cantu-coached Cole Cougars to consecutive UIL state tournament appearances.

UTSA’s Medor bolsters his career through support from a big family

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

On the court, UTSA senior Japhet Medor likes to consider himself as a pass-first point guard, a distributor of the basketball. A team player. First and foremost, he wants to win and to see his teammates, his brothers, have fun.

1 Japhet Medor UTSA basketball at photo day on Sept. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Japhet Medor is preparing to make his NCAA Division I debut with the UTSA Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Off the court, he’s a businessman, promoting his own clothing line, the “Top Floor Boyz.”

But perhaps more to the point of his own identity, Medor is a family man. As the youngest of seven siblings, he expresses gratitude for the guidance of his parents and all of his real-life brothers and a sister, who always provided him with a safe haven.

“It was like, for me, being around them, they’ve been in the same situations I’ve been in,” said Medor, 23, from Wellington, Fla. “A lot of them played sports and a lot — well, all of them — own a business for themselves.

“So just being able to pick their brain and know what and what not to do, growing up, was good. It was good for me. When there’s a hurricane day, you get to have fun with your family (and) stay in.”

Medor has always looked up to hoops icons like Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry.

But, his career as a ball player all started with his sister, Vanessa, and his brothers, including Chris, Evens, Greg, Fred and Dean, all of them supplying him with the steady encouragement that he needed.

“My older brother (Greg) was definitely my mentor. (He) trains me, coaches me,” Medor said. “He always helps me out. My other brothers, they always pick my game apart. Like, if I’m playing, they’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong. (They’ll say) what I’m not doing right.”

By all accounts, the UTSA newcomer is getting it right on a pretty consistent basis in his first year of NCAA Division I. Chris, Evens, Greg and the others in the Medor clan should really have few worries about the baby of the family.

In fact, Medor is pushing during fall camp practices to become the Roadrunners’ starting point guard when the season opens in a few weeks.

UTSA coach Steve Henson has been happy with his progress since the summer. On Thursday, during a fast-paced practice that included about an hour of five-on-five, the 6-foot playmaker stood out as perhaps the best player on the floor at the Convocation Center.

“Today, I thought Japhet just had a different explosiveness about him,” Henson said. “I thought he had an extra gear today.”

It’s been a long, long journey through the basketball landscape for Medor, who was one of the nation’s top scorers and assist men in junior college last year at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla.

All told, the 2018 graduate of Lake Worth High School spent one year in prep school and three in community colleges, toiling away to make a name for himself.

Now, with the season set to start Nov. 2 in an exhibition against Schreiner and then a Nov. 7 home opener against Trinity, Medor is on the verge of realizing his dream. He’ll be a Division I point guard. Is he feeling the adrenaline? You better believe it.

But in keeping with his personality, he steers the conversation away from his own feelings and talks instead about his teammates. About the team’s dreams.

“With the feeling we have (on) the team right now … the coaching staff and the players, it’s got us fueled up and excited for the season,” Medor said. “Just seeing what everyone is doing right now (in practice), it’s amazing what we can put together.”

Medor is expected to set the tempo for UTSA’s attack with his speed.

“He sees the game and feels it,” Roadrunners associate head coach Mike Peck said. “He really wants to try to set up his teammates (by) hitting the open guy. He sees things before they happen sometimes. He makes plays for other players. Puts shooters in position to … catch and shoot. Which is huge for us. He’s been great in that regard.

“We knew he was fast. But when you see it up close and in person when you’re on the floor with him, it’s at a different level.”

UTSA coaches have also talked during the fall about the maturity and leadership that transfer guards such as John Buggs III and Medor will bring to the program. Peck said Medor’s maturity likely stems from the player’s close-knit family, but also from traveling a hard road to Division I.

“He spent three years at the junior college level,” Peck said. “So, he’s seen some things and dealt with some things … He’s gone through the junior college route where they don’t get much. And you got to fight for everything.

“Coming here and having the resources, I think he has an appreciation for that, and that just adds to his maturity.”

UTSA assistant coach Scott Thompson made the initial contact with Medor last spring. Peck followed up with a visit and started to push to get him on the team as soon as possible. According to reports, he picked UTSA over Valparaiso, Stetson, Fordham and a few others.

Just as Medor made a careful decision on where to attend school this fall, he’s also wise to the world, Peck said.

“He’s definitely got that free-enterprise mindset,” the coach said. “He likes fashion and what’s trendy. He’s tuned into that, like a lot of kids. But even more so with him.”

Medor said he and a friend started the Top Floor Boyz business through a casual conversation a few years ago.

“Like, when we were around each other, we’d always say (it), Top Floor Boyz,” he said. “About 2018, we started an LLC for it, and we started pushing it. Wherever I go, I’ll wear Top Floor Boyz. I’ll push it. I’ll wear my own brand. Stuff like that.”

Medor is also expected to push the pace for the Roadrunners’ offense. Combined with Christian Tucker, the UTSA attack will have two problems for which opposing defenses will need to contend.

In Medor, the Roadrunners have a player who knew from an early age how he wanted to play the game. He was a teammate in high shool with Trent Frazier, a former star at the University of Illinois.

Watching Frazier helped Medor understand how much impact he could have on a game just by hitting the open man with a sweet pass.

“It’s an exciting feeling,”he said. “Just seeing your team happy and working with you. To get a stop on defense and go down to the other end … It just feels good with everyone playing together. You want everyone playing together and being happy together.”

Referees add spice to a UTSA fall camp basketball practice

For the first time this fall, the UTSA Roadrunners took the court with referees blowing whistles on infractions against the rules.

The Roadrunners, led by senior guard Japhet Medor, seemed to adapt well during a spirited Thursday afternoon workout. Coach Steve Henson said he thought it was a positive experience.

“I thought we’d be fouling a lot more, because we’ve been very aggressive in practice,” Henson said. “I was glad to see they didn’t call a ton of hand-checks on us. They called a couple of moving screens, which was not surprising.

“There (were) a few fouls we need to clean up. But I think players knew we were going to have officials here toda, so they were a little excited. Felt more like a scrimmage day than a practice day.”

Henson said the team overall had good energy.

“I thought the ball really moved,” he said. “We made some good plays, some really good plays, for each other. Got some wide open looks. Three-point shooters knocked down shots today. That was really good to see.”

Noting that the Roadrunners “weren’t always the most athletic” team in Conference USA last year, the coach was pleasantly surprised at some of the aesthetics.

“We had two or three possessions where we had two or three guys above the rim, tapping,” he said. “(We had) some big-time offensive rebounda from different guys. I was pretty encouraged.”

The duel between speedy point guards was entertaining, with Medor and sophomore Christian Tucker taking turns either setting up teammates or making shots.

“We’re obviously talking a lot about Japhet,” Henson said. “We know (Erik) Czumbel can slide over there and help us, as well. But Christian’s had a good stretch of practices. He’s done a heck of a job.

“He did fine this summer, but I think he’s gotten a lot better the last two or three weeks. Now today, I though Japhet just had a different explosiveness about him, early on in practice. I thought he had an extra gear today.”

Medor, a 6-footer, alternately would use his speed either to burst into the paint or to jump a passing lane for a defelection. Tipping one errant pass, Medor took it three quarters of the length of the court, with Jacob Germany following along.

Germany ended up dunking it.

UTSA practice at a glance

Slicing and dicing