UTSA women face two major challenges at home this weekend

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team cleared one hurdle last weekend with a Conference USA road victory at Louisiana Tech. Two more major challenges await the Roadrunners at home in the coming days.

Jordyn Jenkins. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins leads the UTSA Roadrunners into a Conference USA home game tonight against the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers. – File photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA is scheduled to host the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers tonight and the 21st-ranked Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders on Saturday afternoon.

Mired in 10th place in the 11-team C-USA, the Roadrunners (5-15, 3-8) have struggled with consistency.

Nevertheless, a team that has played more than a few freshmen in a rebuilding year has shown signs of turning the corner.

The win at Ruston last weekend was UTSA’s first outside of San Antonio this season.

UTSA junior forward Jordyn Jenkins leads the C-USA in both scoring (20.0) and field goal percentage (48.3). She’s also second in rebounding (7.5) and sixth in blocked shots (1.3).

The Roadrunners seem to be at their best when the ball moves and Jenkins’ teammates are involved in the offense, both of which happened in Ruston against LA Tech.

With Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Sidney Love all scoring in double figures, the Roadrunners shot a season-high 50.9 percent from the field. Of their 29 field goals, 18 came on assists, with guard Kyra White passing for seven and Jenkins four.

If they hope to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they’ll likely need a similarly solid effort tonight.

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Western Kentucky

The Lady Tops (11-9, 8-3) will arrive in San Antonio in second place in the conference, having won two straight and seven of their last eight. Their streak started at home on Jan. 7 when they rallied for a 77-69 victory over UTSA. Against the Roadrunners, freshman guard Acacia Hayes scored 31 points. She hit 10 of 11 shots from the field.

Last week, they won two close games at home, downing the FIU Panthers 67-63 and the FAU Owls, 66-65. Hayes (10.5 points per game) is a guard that likes to slash and get fouled. Jaylin Foster (9.9, 5.9 rebounds), Hope Sivori (8.6) and Mya Meredith (8.2) are also scoring threats. Western Kentucky leads the conference in both 3-point attempts (567) and 3-point makes (161).

Middle Tennessee State

The Lady Raiders (18-2, 11-0) lead the C-USA standings and have won 16 in a row going into a Thursday night matchup in El Paso against the UTEP Miners. Virginia Commonwealth transfer Kseniya Malashka, a forward, leads the Raiders in both scoring (16.5) and field goal percentage (47.3). Marshall transfer Savannah Wheeler, a guard, averages 16.2 points. Center Anastasiia Boldyreva is a force in the paint with 1.5 blocks.

Middle Tennessee hasn’t lost since Nov. 25 in Las Vegas, to Texas Tech. In their string of 16 victories, 13 have been by double figures, including an 80-41 rout of the Roadrunners on Jan. 5. Boldyreva had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against UTSA. Boldyreva is from Moscow, Russia. Malashka is from Minsk, in Belarus.

Well-traveled Massal Diouf finds a new home at UTSA

Massal Diouf. UTSA lost its Conference USA men's basketball opener to North Texas 78-54 on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Massal Diouf is a UTSA biology major who expresses fascination about things such as the makeup of cells. He wants to attend medical school one day and says he’s aiming to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

As a former youth sports phenomenon from a small town in The Netherlands, affable UTSA freshman Massal Diouf left home four years ago to chase his basketball dreams.

From arenas in Europe, to the West Coast of the United States, and then on to Canada and South Texas, the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder has played the game he loves and has since taken on a new passion — the study of biology.

Now three months shy of his 20th birthday, Diouf’s days are spent either in the gym, trying to defend the pick and roll, or in the UTSA classroom, pondering the nature of cell structure.

The Roadrunners’ pre-med student in the pivot has been so busy in his first year of college, in fact, that he hasn’t really had time to consider whether he misses being home.

“Obviously I’ve been away for a long time, at this point,” Diouf said Wednesday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say that I miss home, where I’d want to be home.

“It’s more so I miss certain things about home. Certain days, I’ll wake up and crave a certain type of food. Or, want to talk to my mom. Want to talk to my dad. See my brothers. That sort of stuff.

“It’s not like I want to be home. It’s more so I’d like to have a little bit of home with me.”

By age 15, Diouf traveled from his hometown of Gouda, in South Holland province, to both Finland and Denmark as a member of The Netherlands’ under-16 national basketball team.

A year later, the former soccer, tennis and judo athlete left home and moved to California to finish high school.

After graduation from The Athenian School in Danville, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Diouf hit the road again.

In order to play a year of prep school and gain more experience on the basketball hardwood, he relocated to Canada, in Edmonton, in the western province of Alberta.

Now, Diouf has spent a little more than four months in San Antonio, charming those around him with a smile and old-school manners.

“He thanks the coaches after practice,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Every day.”

Diouf is also blessed with a wry sense of humor.

Ask him how he has adjusted to his new surroundings in Texas, a home half-way around the world from where they sell Gouda cheese in Europe, and he just smiles.

“I was getting prepared for Texas (while living in Canada),” Diouf explained. “In Alberta, where my prep school was, that (is a place) described as the Texas of Canada.

“So, I got the soft-core version in Alberta — and then I was ready for real Texas.”

Well, then, how is Alberta like Texas?

“A lot of truckers,” Diouf said. “I feel like the culture is very similar. A lot of pride in their own culture. That’s what I see a lot in Texas, too. Go big, or go home. That sort of stuff.”

Asked if he had been to a Buc-ee’s yet, he said he hasn’t but that “it’s still on the bucket list.”

“I’ve seen the logos,” Diouf said. “Unfortunately, haven’t stopped there yet. I was able to cross Cracker Barrel (off the list) on the last (road) trip. So I got that one out of the way.”

Over the past few days, UTSA has been preparing to host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

The Roadrunners (6-8, 0-3 C-USA) will play the Blue Raiders (9-5, 2-1) tonight at 7 at the UTSA Convocation Center. Somewhat surprisingly, Diouf is expected to start his fifth straight game.

A player who wasn’t high on coaches’ list of candidates to be in the rotation when he arrived on campus in late August, Diouf has played double-figure minutes in four of his last six games.

If he keeps rebounding and playing defense at his current level, he could join the likes of Giovanni De Nicolao, Byron Frohnen, Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace as players who have started 10 or more games as freshmen under Henson.

How did this happen?

“He just kept working, doing things right every single day,” Henson said. “We had been cycling through that fifth starter every few ball games, anyway. A couple of different guys played the four (power forward) for us.

“Decided to take a look at him with his rebounding and his toughness, to slide him in at the five (at center) and move Jacob (Germany) to the four. It hasn’t translated (as we expected). We thought it might jump start Jacob offensively.

“That hasn’t happened, but Jacob’s rebounding it very well now. I think Jacob’s rebounding numbers are better when he’s got a bigger front-line guy in there with him.”

Even though the Roadrunners have struggled recently, losing both games on a C-USA road trip to Louisiana Tech and UAB last week to fall to 0-3, advance metrics have suggested to Henson that Diouf has earned the right to be on the floor.

“Massal, with his physicality and his defense, his plus-minus numbers are No. 1 on the entire team,” the coach said. “If you can go in and defend and rebound and don’t turn the ball over, you can impact the game.”

Diouf, asked if he is surprised that he is starting and playing for the Roadrunners in his first year out of the Western Canada Prep Academy, shrugged and offered a diplomatic response.

“For me, it’s pretty easy,” he said. “You just always got to want to play. You always got to be ready to play. But I also understood that I’m coming in as a freshman.

“So I didn’t have any qualms about waiting, sitting on the bench, supporting my teammates.

“I know that all these guys have a lot more experience. I mean, they’re way more experienced at the college level (than me). I’m just grateful to have an opportunity to play.”

In a recent interview with Andy Everett on the team’s radio broadcast, Diouf revealed his long-term goals — to go to medical school and then, hopefully, become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

“I know that’s a long way away before I can get there,” he said. “But I’m just going to take it step by step.”

Diouf called his pre-med plans an “obsession” that he hopes to undertake after his career in basketball.

“I could not tell you where the obsession comes from,” he said. “There is no one in my family that does it. I do not have any direct relationships with doctors. I didn’t watch doctor shows growing up that made me fall in love with it. Honestly, it’s just really interesting to me.”

Being from Europe, Diouf brings an interesting perspective to the program. He grew up in a nation that did not have sports in high schools and didn’t have the facilities that American athletes enjoy.

He said athletes who wanted to play in The Netherlands joined clubs. His original club was called Bouncers Basketball.

“(Playing college sports in the United States) gets described as a full-time job a lot,” Diouf said, “But it really isn’t, because we’re all just doing what we love to do.

“I think that’s where our stamina and work ethic come from. When we’re playing basketball, practicing, it doesn’t feel like work, per se, it’s more so, ‘We get to practice. We get to practice at this level.’ ”

“At the end of the day, when I was growing up, Bouncers Basketball did not have a gym like (the Convocation Center) to play in. We had to rent gyms, and then we would all come in together and play in those gyms.

“But, to have a gym like this (at UTSA), that I can play in every day, that’s something that I could never have dreamed of.”

Coming up

Men’s basketball: Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, 7 p.m.


Middle Tennessee (9-5, 2-1)
UTSA (6-8, 0-3)

Roadrunners move into second place in the C-USA standings

The UTSA Roadrunners cranked out four home runs to back the pitching of sophomore Daniel Garza Friday night, rolling to an early five-run lead en route to a 13-2 Conference USA victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

In a C-USA series opener at Reese Smith Jr. Field, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., UTSA’s Leyton Barry enjoyed a monster day with two home runs and five RBIs. Ryan Flores and Chase Keng also homered for the Roadrunners, who won their fifth straight game.

Garza (2-0) was masterful, throwing a career-high 85 pitches, while working into the sixth inning. In all, he pitched 5 and 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits. Garza walked one and struck out seven.

With the victory, the Roadrunners won for the 16th time in their last 19 games and moved into sole possession of second place in the conference standings, three games behind the fourth-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

The Blue Raiders entered the game on a hot streak, having won two of three last week at Louisiana Tech to claim their fifth straight series victory in the conference. But while Garza was shutting down the home team early, Leyton Barry hit a solo home run in the third inning.

Flores hit a solo of his own in the fourth, and Barry followed later with a three-run shot, boosting UTSA into a 5-0 lead against Middle Tennessee starter Zach Keenan.


UTSA 29-13, 13-6
Middle Tennessee 21-18, 11-8

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 16-3
UTSA 13-6
Louisiana Tech 12-7
Florida Atlantic 12-7
Old Dominion 11-8
Middle Tennessee 11-8

Coming up

Saturday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 3 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 11 a.m.

UTSA set to open road series at Middle Tennessee State

The UTSA Roadrunners will open a three-game Conference USA baseball series tonight riding a significant wave of momentum. They have won four straight. In their last 18 games, they have won 15, including a 14-8 victory at home Tuesday against seventh-ranked Texas State.

All the recent history notwithstanding, UTSA can’t afford to dwell on its own success. Because, in less than an hour’s time, they will get underway on the road against another C-USA program in the midst of a late-season run. They’re set to take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders tonight at 6.

The Blue Raiders (21-17, 11-7) have won consecutive series in the conference against the UAB Blazers, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the Marshall University Thundering Herd, the Charlotte 49ers and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Last weekend, the Blue Raiders beat the Bulldogs two out of three in Ruston, La., the first C-USA home series loss for LA Tech this season. Middle Tennessee won the opener, 7-3, behind a complete-game victory by pitcher Zach Keenan. The Bulldogs bounced back to win the second game, 4-2. But the Blue Raiders persevered and pulled out a 6-3 victory in 12 innings Sunday.

The Roadrunners (28-13, 12-6) are coming off a three-game sweep at home of the FIU Panthers. On Tuesday, they fell behind by three runs to Texas State and then exploded for an important 14-8 non-conference victory.

Going into the weekend, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles lead the conference at 16-2. Louisiana Tech and UTSA are tied for second at 12-6. Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic are next at 11-7 each.

In terms of the NCAA baseball ratings percentage index, the Golden Eagles have won 15 in a row and have soared to No. 10. Middle Tennessee is second at No. 48, while UTSA is third at No. 51. Louisiana Tech is next at No. 55.


UTSA 28-13, 12-6
Middle Tennessee 21-17, 11-7

Coming up

UTSA’s remaining schedule in conference includes a home series against Marshall (at home, May 6-8), Southern Miss (on the road, May 13-15) and UAB (at home, May 19-21).


The C-USA tournament will be held at Southern Miss from May 25-29. The winner of the C-USA’s postseason event will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA hopes to snap out of its funk at Middle Tennessee

The UTSA Roadrunners will play on the road tonight at Middle Tennessee State hoping to pull themselves out of a 2-12 tailspin that has spanned nearly two months.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The Conference USA game is a makeup of one scheduled for Dec. 30, when Covid issues in the Middle Tennessee program forced its postponement.

At the time, UTSA had lost two straight in non-conference but remained confident as the opener in C-USA play loomed. Since then, the Roadrunners’ problems have snowballed into nightmarish proportions.

UTSA is without a couple of key players who are lost for the season. Actually, the number of scholarship players lost for the season is three counting one that went down during camp practices in October.

Moreover, a couple of key players who missed time last month haven’t returned to form. All of which has promoted inconsistency that in turn has led to a dramatic fall — to 8-16 for the season and to 1-10 in the C-USA West Division.

On Saturday, the Roadrunners were humbled again. North Texas won 63-45, holding UTSA under 50 points for the second time this season.

Middle Tennessee has been much more stable, winning five in a row before its latest outing, a 97-75 loss Saturday in Alabama against UAB.

The Blue Raiders are 14-7 overall and 5-3 in the C-USA East. \

By the numbers

Middle Tennessee’s leading scorer is grad transfer guard Josh Jefferson, who averages 13.8 points and shoots 36.3 percent from three. Fifth-year senior guard Donovan Sims averages 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, with sophomore guard Eli Lawrence 10.1 and 4.2. Jefferson transferred from Wisconsin-Green Bay.

MT is averaging 74.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting from the field, including 31.6 from three. MT is also shooting 73.5 percent from the free throw line. Opponents, in turn, are averaging 67.7 points on 42.8, and 32.9 from three. Also, 73.0 from the line.