By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
For UTSA women’s basketball players, the fourth day of February started off with sort of a March-like feel to it. Clear skies. Breezy. Temperature outside the Convocation Center warm enough for a T-shirt.
Inside the old arena, the day ended the same way, with a touch of madness in the air. With the game ball thrown up high at the final buzzer. With hugs for everyone. Oh, and with the fans standing and cheering in celebration.
Junior forward Jordyn Jenkins produced 20 points and 16 rebounds as the Roadrunners upended the 21st-ranked Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders, 58-53, for the program’s third Top 25 victory in 42 seasons.
Elyssa Coleman and Kyra White also contributed in a big way, with Coleman scoring 18 and White contributing 13 rebounds and eight assists. UTSA’s last victory over a Top 25 team came in March of 2016 with a 69-64 decision over No. 25 UTEP.
“Honestly, I hate to say this, because it might sound like I don’t appreciate … that they’re a Top 25 team,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said, “but really, this is about our team and … trying to find ourselves and grow, and I thought there was just such an enormous amount of growth between Thursday and today.
“When you see that happen … I’m not as outcome-oriented as everyone else is. I’m really trying to get everyone to understand what we’re trying to build here, and the culture we’re trying to build, and this was a really big step for us.”
The week started off the wrong way Thursday night as UTSA let a game slip away against Western Kentucky.
In response, Aston told her players on Friday “just to sell out” against Middle Tennessee and not worry so much about the results. More words from the coach? Give maximum effort. Be a good teammate. Try to control what “you can” control, Aston said.
“I think we did that today,” the coach added. “Super happy for them. You know, the fans are building. I think everyone that comes to this gym now can tell, even when we don’t win, they’re enjoying the process of seeing this program grow.”
In the last week, in its last three games, a UTSA team with one of the worst records in Conference USA has made tangible progress.
Seven days ago, the Roadrunners won their first road game of the season, knocking off Louisiana Tech, 66-63. On Thursday night, they played well again but fell 73-67 to Western Kentucky, the C-USA’s second-place team.
Against first-place Middle Tennessee, UTSA seemed undaunted and unruffled, even when it fell behind by 11 points midway through the third quarter. The Roadrunners rallied behind Jenkins and Coleman for the most significant win in Aston’s two seasons at UTSA.
“It was a big game for us, especially coming off a loss that we felt like we should have had,” said Jenkins, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter. “We just locked in on the court … We played for each other.”
Courtney Whitson had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Lady Raiders, who were swept by UTEP and UTSA in a two-game trip to Texas after winning 16 straight.
The Lady Raiders seemed to take control after halftime. After UTSA scored the first basket, the visitors responded with a 14-2 run, which was highlighted by three-point baskets from Alexis Whittington, Whitson and Savannah Wheeler.
Wheeler’s triple from the top of the circle lifted the Lady Raiders into a 36-25 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Unfazed, the Roadrunners answered with a 14-3 run of their own to tie the game. Down by two entering the fourth quarter, UTSA kept hustling, and it paid off.
UTSA players scrambled to cover shooters and forced the Lady Raiders into four of 18 shooting in the fourth. The Roadrunners also excelled on the offensive end, making seven of their last 12 afield.
In the fourth-quarter crunch time, Jenkins hit four buckets and White, a 5-9 guard enjoying her second standout game of the week, added three assists and four rebounds.
“Just coming into this game, we were due for one,” said White, who had 17 assists over two games this week and 24 in the last three. “We needed this one, to just help the team feel alive and just get the good energy coming back for us next week. It’s a great feeling today.”
White said she could not remember the last time she had 13 rebounds in game.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Coach made it an emphasis that everybody needs to get in there and get some rebounds. (My) shot wasn’t really fallling well. Just trying to do everything I could do to stay out on the court and produce — and just get the win.”
From the beginning, the Lady Raiders tried to bury the Roadrunners with 3-point shooting. But even with a mind-boggling 54 attempts from beyond the arc, they couldn’t do it.
They made 10 from long distance, which weren’t enough against a team that may have just wanted the game more.
With a 50-40 edge in rebounding, UTSA may have made a statement in that regard. “We have nothing to lose, honestly,” White said. “When you have nothing to lose, and you sell out for your teammates, good things happen.”
Middle Tennessee 18-4, 11-2
UTSA 6-16, 4-9
UTSA at UTEP, Feb. 11
Winning vs. the top 25
UTSA women’s basketball victories against Top 25 competition
Jan. 24, 2015 — UTSA 64, (24) Western Kentucky 63
Highlight: Mannasha Bell 10 points and 10 rebounds
March 3, 2016 — UTSA 69, (25) UTEP 64
Highlight: Sara Anastasieska 14 points, three for three on 3-point shots
Feb. 4, 2023 — UTSA 58, (21) Middle Tennessee 53
Highlight: Jordyn Jenkins 20 points, 16 rebounds
x-All three wins at the UTSA Convocation Center
Middle Tennessee held a 41-39 lead after three quarters but UTSA was energized by a late burst of energy.
After falling behind by 11, the Roadrunners rallied on a 14-3 run in a four-minute period.
Elyssa Coleman’s two free throws with 18 seconds left tied the game, 39-all.
In an unsightly offensive show by both teams, the Lady Raiders emerged at halftime with a 22-21 lead over the Roadrunners.
Middle Tennessee held the lead despite making only 8-38 from the field, including 5-33 from the 3-point arc. Many of the misses were wide-open looks that clanged off the rim.
Senior forward Kseniya Malashka came off the bench to lead the Lady Raiders with seven points on three of six from the field.
For UTSA, it was a good half, considering it stayed within one or two possessions of the 21st-ranked team in the nation.
But the Roadrunners’ offense also struggled, making only 6-23 shots, including 0-7 from three. Coleman led with seven points and Jenkins had five.
UTSA guard Sidney Love did not play against Middle Tennessee and apparently was not in the arena. She missed her second straight game. Asked about Love’s status late Thursday night, Coach Karen Aston declined to comment. Love, from Steele High School in the San Antonio area, has been a starter for most of the season and is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds. Madison Cockrell sat out for the third straight game with a knee injury.