A student defeats her teacher as North Texas downs UTSA

UTSA coach Karen Aston. North Texas beat UTSA 51-48 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Karen Aston surveys the action Thursday night against the North Texas Mean Green, who are coached by one of Aston’s former assistants, Jalie Mitchell. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Veteran UTSA Roadrunners women’s basketball coach Karen Aston knew that her counterpart, University of North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell, would have her team prepared coming into San Antonio.

Aston was right.

North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell. 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

Coach Jalie Mitchell’s North Texas Mean Green improved to 7-13 overall and to 4-6 in conference. – Photo by Joe Alexander

One of Aston’s closest allies in the profession, Mitchell devised a defensive plan that her players executed well for four quarters in a 54-51 Conference USA victory.

“I have a lot of love and respect for Jalie,” Aston said.

Twenty five years ago, Aston, then an assistant at North Texas, recruited Mitchell to play for the Mean Green.

Mitchell accepted the offer but never got to play under a coaching staff that included Aston, who left Denton in 1998 to take an assistant’s job with the Texas Longhorns.

As it turned out, Mitchell did well as a player, playing four years for a program that went 77-39, including 42-4 at home.

The Mean Green made back-to-back appearances to the WNIT in 2001 and 2002, and in that last season, Mitchell was honored as Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

Five years later, she was inducted into the North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame, along with former teammate Rosalyn Reades. Transitioning into coaching, Mitchell later worked on staffs led by Aston at both North Texas and Texas.

“She’s had an unbelievable career at North Texas,” Aston said. “She’s a dear friend, but she’s a competitor. There’s a reason why her jersey is up in the rafters up at North Texas, because of how competitive she is.

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

UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins rebounded from a slow start to finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Once the ball is tipped, you kind of forget about all that. But I’m proud of her. I’m really, really proud of what she’s been able to do there. She went to the (WNIT as coach) last year. She’s one of our own.”

Mitchell, in her eighth season as head coach at her alma mater, acknowledged that it’s always poignant to coach against someone she has known and admired for decades.

“She’s my mentor and has been for a very long time,” said Mitchell, who played in high school at Duncanville. “As you say, she recruited me (to college). We’ve had a relationship for over 20 years. She’s a great coach, and I learned a ton from her.

“Just about everything I know, I learned from Karen Aston.”

The latest game coached by Mitchell and Aston went down to the final few possessions. North Texas guard Quincy Noble sank a driving layup with 1:30 remaining, and the Mean Green held on in the final minute to stop a skid that included four losses in their last six games.

In all, Noble scored 16 points to lead the Mean Green (7-13, 4-6),while Tommisha Lampkin came up big at the end, scoring six points on three buckets in the paint over the last five minutes.

Trailing by the eventual final score, UTSA (4-15, 2-8) had a chance to tie on its last possession but couldn’t get off a three-point attempt.

“We wanted to make sure they couldn’t get a three off, which, I thought we defended really well,” Mitchell said. “They put it on the floor for the drive and obviously you don’t want to foul in that situation and give up an and-one. I’m thankful we did not.”

Sidney Love. 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

UTSA freshman guard Sidney Love, considered one of UTSA’s bright prospects, suffered through a cold-shooting night. The Steele High School graduate made only one of 10 from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners never were able to get any type of rhythm going against a variety of looks that the Mean Green presented defensively.

With players packed inside, UTSA didn’t have much success early going to forward Jordyn Jenkins, though the UTSA junior did come alive in the middle quarters and finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Jenkins was strong at the end, finishing the fourth period with 12 points and six boards.

Overall, UTSA’s all-conference candidate hit seven of 16 shots from the field and 12 of 13 at the free-throw line.

Other than Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Kyra White scored six apiece, and that was about it. Faced with a full-court press part of the time, the Roadrunners turned it over 25 times and shot 30.2 percent from the field.

White and Sidney Love, two starters in the backcourt, were a combined three of 22 from the field. Even though the Roadrunners hit a couple of triples in the fourth quarter to make it interesting, they finished three of 16 from beyond the arc.

“Our slow start, I don’t know that I have an explanation for it,” Aston said. “I thought we seemed really ready to play in the locker room. Maybe not being able to score a couple of buckets early, we let the ball not going in dictate our demeanor and how hard we play, and that just can’t be the case.”

North Texas led 15-7, 25-21 and 39-32 after each of the first three quarters. The Mean Green’s biggest lead was 10 points with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter.

Forward Hailey Atwood started and finished with five rebounds. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Hailey Atwood started and finished with five rebounds, including four off the offensive glass. – Photo by Joe Alexander

First half analysis

Jordyn Jenkins led a 12-4 run in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, helping the Roadrunners get back into the game. When Jenkins sank a driving layup with 3:36 left in the half, UTSA pulled into a 19-19 tie with North Texas.

At that point, the Mean Green pushed back. Consecutive baskets by Kendall McGruder and Jaaucklyn Moore allowed North Texas to fend off the home team. Later, with 1:15 remaining, freshman Ereauna Hardaway nailed a pull-up jumper in the paint.

As a result, North Texas carried a 25-21 lead into the third quarter.

UTSA finished the half shooting 9 of 29 from the field, including zero for eight from three-point distance. The Roadrunners also committed 13 turnovers, some of them forced in the back court against pressure or at the end of disjointed journeys to advance the ball.

Records

North Texas 7-13, 4-6
UTSA 4-15, 2-8

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 1 p.m.
Western Kentucky at UTSA, Feb. 4, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at UTSA, Feb. 6, 2 p.m.

As a cold wind blows outside, North Texas’ Ousmane rains 37 points on UTSA

John Buggs III. 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

Guard John Buggs III led a second-half charge for the UTSA Roadrunners, but the North Texas Mean Green stopped the rally and puilled away for a lopsided victory in the Conference USA opener for both teams. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Mother Nature directed an Arctic blast of cold air at San Antonio on Thursday afternoon, just about the same time that the North Texas Mean Green and UTSA Roadrunners tipped off in a Conference USA opener at the Convocation Center.

Steve Henson. 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

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners fell to 6-6 on the season and to 0-1 in Conference USA after losing 78-54 to North Texas Thursday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

At the end of the night, North Texas forward Abou Ousmane emerged as a force of nature himself. He rained a career-high 37 points on the UTSA Roadrunners in leading the Mean Green to a 78-54 victory.

Ousmane hit 15 of 19 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds as North Texas (10-2) won its fifth in a row on the season. In addition, the Mean Green added to their recent dominance of the Roadrunners, improving to 9-2 against UTSA over the past eight seasons.

Ousmane, a 6-foot-10 Brooklyn native, was the talk of post-game interviews. Coming in, he was averaging a little more than 11 points. His previous career high was 23.

“I was most impressed with his patience,” North Texas coach Grant McCasland said. “He was 15 of 19, and I thought he was composed. And then when he took his time and our team was patient on the offensive end, I thought we got the shots we wanted. That showed in 17 assists and nine turnovers.”

Jacob Germany. 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

UTSA center Jacob Germany, playing on a recently sprained ankle, contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes against North Texas. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA (6-6) didn’t shoot well in the first half but still managed to stay within reach of the visitors, trailing by 11 at halftime. Led by Japhet Medor an John Buggs III, the Roadrunners hit a few threes, attacked the basket and pulled to within one point twice early in the second half.

A driving layup by Josh Farmer capped a 19-9 run and pulled the Roadrunners to within one point, 43-42, with 12:46 remaining.

From there, the Roadrunners started to settle for jump shots, lost a little of their edge on each possession and watched as the Mean Green exploded for 17 unanswered points. A dunk by Ousmane capped the streak and made it an 18-point game, 60-42, with 6:55 remaining.

UTSA never got closer than 15 the rest of the way and lapsed again in the final minutes, as North Texas rolled up as much as a 27-point lead. It all left UTSA coach Steve Henson and his staff searching for answers.

Asked what he told his players in the locker room, he said, “I was pretty honest with ’em. It’s not acceptable. You know, it’s a home game. It’s a conference game. We were in pretty good shape there midway through the second half and ended up losing badly. You can’t feel good about that.

“If they feel good about that right now, then something’s not right. It’s just not good enough. You know, we gave up 50 percent (shooting) to them. We shoot 33 percent. Turned it over too much and got out-rebounded.

Japhet Medor. 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

UTSA’s Japhet Medor battles to create space on a drive to the hoop. Medor finished with 12 points, four assists and three rebounds – Photo by Joe Alexander

“You know, there’s not many phases of the game left. Again, proud of certain stretches of the ball game. I still love this team. I love our guys. I like their attitudes, for the most part. But we’ve got to play harder.”

Injuries played a role in the lopsided margin. UTSA was playing its first game of the season without forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, one of the team’s best three-point shooters. Addo-Ankrah, who scored 14 in his last outing, was sidelined after being diagnosed earlier this week with a wrist fracture.

Additionally, UTSA center Jacob Germany also was less than full speed. Germany twisted an ankle badly in a home game on Sunday and wasn’t himself in a couple of days of practice coming into Thursday night.

Germany had a good first half in some respects, with eight points and seven rebounds. But matched against Ousmane, it appeared he had some trouble springing off the floor and with lateral movement.

Regardless, he played with significant heart and finished with 11 points and 12 boards. Medor led the Roadrunners with 12 points and John Buggs III had 10.

Foul trouble plagued UTSA freshman standout DJ Richards. Richards had three in the first half and picked up a fourth early in the second half. He finished with eight points on three of 11 shooting. Richards was two of eight from three.

In scoring 54 points, the Roadrunners fell 16 shy of their season average. They also shot 32.7 percent from the field, which was also down from their 41.2 percent reading through the first 11 games.

Records

North Texas 10-2, 1-0
UTSA 6-6, 0-1

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Dec. 29;; UTSA at UAB, Dec. 31.

Notable

Former UTSA great Devin Brown was a face in the crowd at courtside. Brown, No. 3 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,922 points, led the Roadrunners to the 1999 NCAA tournament. He later played in the NBA and won a championship with the Spurs. Brown was recently named to the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.

JB’s video replay

Posting up to score

Double-clutching on the drive

Taking it inside

First half

With North Texas forward Abou Ousmane scoring 2o first-half points and the Mean Green clamping down defensively, the Roadrunners found themselves down by 11 at intermission. North Texas held UTSA to 32 percent shooting and surged at the break to a 34-23 lead.

UTSA’s offense never got untracked in the half, shooting 9 of 28 from the field and 1 of 7 from three-point distance. Germany led the Roadrunners with eight points and seven rebounds at the break.

UTSA’s Steve Henson: ‘I think we’re locked in and ready to go’

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Bethune-Cookman 90-69 in men's basketball on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners not only will need to hit some shots tonight, they’ll likely need to hit the defensive glass hard to have success against the North Texas Mean Green. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Starting Conference USA play without one of his top three-point shooters and with his starting center likely hindered by a sprained ankle, Coach Steve Henson and the UTSA Roadrunners will host the North Texas Mean Green tonight at 7.

Henson said his players are ready.

“Our mindset is pretty good right now, excited,” the coach said Wednesday. “It’s kind of another start. You kind of go through different phases in a season. Certainly the start of league play is a big deal. Guys have had some good practices. I think we’re locked in and ready to go.”

In their last game, the Roadrunners (6-5) found an offensive groove in downing the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 90-69. Since that Sunday afternoon game, the team has had to face up to some adversity, with three-point shooting specialist Isaiah Addo-Ankrah ruled out for four weeks with a wrist fracture.

Also, center Jacob Germany twisted his ankle against the Wildcats, so the 6-foot-11 senior might not be full speed for the Mean Green (9-2). It’s not a great time to be at less than full speed, because North Texas has won 20 or more games in four of the last five seasons.

They won 25 last year. In doing so, the Mean Green claimed the regular-season title in the C-USA with a 14-2 record. They went on to play in the NIT, downing Texas State and then falling to Virginia in the second round. This season, the Mean Green look as salty as ever.

They’re holding teams to 51.6 points per game, which ranks second nationally behind only the Houston Cougars. Also, they’re 18th in offensive rebounding and 23rd in field goal percentage defense.

“We’ve got a great deal of respect for North Texas,” Henson said. “It’s a huge test for us right out of the gate.”

Under sixth-year coach Grant McCasland, the Mean Green play a deliberate style designed to wear down and frustrate opponents. They beat UTSA twice last year using that very formula, holding the Roadrunners to fewer than 50 points in games played in Denton and San Antonio.

This year, they’ve held opponents under 50 four times. The Saint Mary’s Gaels solved the Mean Green mystery earlier this season, winnning 63-33 in Moraga, Calif. But the Gaels, incredibly, are the only team to eclipse 60 points on North Texas thus far.

“It’s a whole combination (of things),” Henson said. “It all fits together very well. Pace gets your attention initially. Yesterday, KenPom (advanced metrics) had them as the second-slowest team in the country in number of possessions.

“You know, part of that is that they’re hard to score on. So that affects the number of possessions. It’s not just about them having long possessions offensively, but they also do that. So it’s a bunch of factors. It’s a very unique style of play.”

Players to watch

North Texas — Guard Tylor Perry, a first-team all C-USA pick last year, leads the Mean Green in scoring at 17.7 per game. He’s adept at knocking down jumpers late in the shot clock. Also, newcomer Kai Huntsberry is enjoying a solid season in his first year in Denton. He’s second in scoring at 12.6. Forward Abou Ousmane, who played with UTSA’s John Buggs III in prep school, averages 11.2 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds. Ousmane, Aaron Scott and Jayden Martinez (from Steele HS) are all significant threats on the offensive glass.

UTSA — Point guard Japhet Medor leads UTSA with 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Jacob Germany, who tweaked his ankle in the second half Sunday against Bethune-Cookman, averages 11.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. Without injured Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, John Buggs III and D.J. Richards will need to hit some perimeter shots to keep UTSA in contention tonight. Buggs is averaging 9.8 points and Richards 9.5. Richards leads the team in three-point percentage at 41.4.

Buggs-Ousmane friendship adds a layer of intrigue to the UTSA-North Texas rivalry

John Buggs III. A beat Bethune-Cookman 90-69 in men's basketball on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s John Buggs III says his good friend Abou Ousmane of the North Texas Mean Green has been playfully ‘talking noise’ on the eve of tonight’s game at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If you ask John Buggs III a question, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get an interesting answer, around which he almost always spins a yarn about his life in basketball.

For instance, I asked Buggs yesterday about playing tonight at the UTSA Convocation Center against the North Texas Mean Green.

It’s the Conference USA opener for both Buggs and the UTSA Roadrunners and the Mean Green, who have been a dominant force in the league for the past five seasons.

As a newcomer in the UTSA program, Buggs has yet to experience what it’s like to host the Mean Green at the Bird Cage.

Other than last season when North Texas dominated in a 59-48 victory, the UTSA-North Texas games played in San Antonio recently have been close, coming down to one or two possessions in the final minutes.

The crowd, as you’d expect, has usually been animated and vocal.

I was curious to get Buggs’ take on the rivalry, and what the game means to him at this juncture of an up and down season for the Roadrunners.

Also, what it means to him, to get a crack at the defending conference regular-season champions on opening night.

“I feel like we’re very excited,” Buggs said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity that we have. We can definitely open a lot of eyes by getting a win, you know.”

It’s been a tough deal for UTSA to get many wins against North Texas lately.

In five previous seasons under Coach Grant McCasland, the Mean Green have posted a 6-2 record against the Roadrunners, including 3-2 in San Antonio.

Since 2017-18, North Texas has won handily in all three games against UTSA in Denton, all by double digits. In San Antonio, as mentioned, the games have been hotly contested for most of the 40 minutes on the game clock.

For instance, in December 2017, UTSA freshmen Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace and Co. battled to the end before North Texas made a few plays and won, 72-71.

In January 2019, Jackson hit a memorable, spinning jump shot in the final seconds to lift the Roadrunners to a 76-74 victory.

Two years ago, during the pandemic season, North Texas played at UTSA on back-to-back nights. The Mean Green pulled out a 77-70 decision on the front end of the double dip.

But UTSA bounced back the next night to exact revenge, winning 77-69 against a North Texas team that would go on to play in the NCAA tournament.

Last season, North Texas was all over UTSA at the Bird Cage with a smothering defensive effort. It was all Mean Green down the stretch in a 59-48 drubbing.

Buggs likely doesn’t know all the history, but he does know a little about this year’s North Texas squad based on film study.

He knows North Texas is a quality team, one of the best in the nation defensively, and that a win tonight for UTSA could really alter the trajectory of the season.

“I’m really excited,” Buggs said, a smile creasing his face. “One of my (former) teammates plays on their team, so we’ve been talking back and forth a little bit.”

Who does he know?

“Abou Ousmane,” Buggs replied. “We played together for a year at prep school.”

In Connecticut, in the 2018-19 season, right?

At the Putnam Science Academy?

“Yeah, he’s a little younger than me,” Buggs said. “But we were at the same prep school for a little while. Last year, when I was at Juco (at Hill College, in Hillsboro) I went to watch him play (in Denton) many, many times.

“(Ousmane) was one of my best friends in prep school. So, you know, we got a little duel going on (this week).”

If you think about it, the Buggs-Ousmane reunion is quite a hoops coincidence. Buggs is from northwest Louisiana and Ousmane, a 6-10 forward, is from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Both played together at the prep school in northeast Connecticut for one year, became friends and now they’re on opposite teams for a bragging-rights type game, scheduled to be contested in San Antonio, a few days before Christmas in 2022.

“We definitely have kept in touch,” Buggs said, smiling. “It’s going to be a show (tonight) for sure.”

So, have you talked to him or texted in the last several days?

“Yeah, I talked to him two days ago?” he said in an interview Wednesday at UTSA. “Actually before the Bethune-Cookman game (last Sunday), he was calling, talking noise. You know, he was throwing (verbal) shots. I said, ‘We ready.’ It’s going to be a good test for us tomorrow.

“Definitely.”

Wrist injury is expected to sideline UTSA’s Isaiah Addo-Ankrah for four weeks

Quietly, UTSA forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah served as an inspiration to his teammates for all the extra time he spent working on his game in the offseason.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. A beat Bethune-Cookman 90-69 in men's basketball on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah played in all 11 games this season and averaged 7.3 points before an X-ray revealed a wrist fracture that would keep him out four weeks. — File photo by Joe Alexander

In early September, for instance, the UTSA women’s basketball team usually worked out in the morning hours, followed by the women’s volleyball squad in the early afternoon, followed later in the day by Addo-Ankrah and his friends in men’s basketball.

Sometimes, a visitor would show up in the morning thinking that Coach Karen Aston’s women’s basketball squad would be on the floor, only to discover that it was a scheduled day off.

Instead, the visitor would walk in to a nearly empty gym to the sound of squeaking shoes, with a couple of Coach Steve Henson’s men’s team players taking advantage of the open court to get up extra shots.

One day, it was Addo-Ankrah, who explained later that he’d committed to complete a couple of challenges from coaches — to make 10,000 3-pointers, outside of scheduled practices — in two different segments of the offseason.

As a consequence, the Houston native was in the gym up to three times a day from June through September. It was disheartening, in that regard, for the Roadrunners to learn recently that a fractured wrist 11 games into the season will sideline Addo-Ankrah for four weeks.

“It’s really disturbing to hear that,” UTSA guard John Buggs III said on the eve of the team’s Conference USA opener against North Texas. “Isaiah’s probably one of the more hard-working players on our team.

“He doesn’t have as many (natural) gifts as other people athletically, but, man, his work ethic … It’s just so heartbreaking for him. We hate that for him. Hopefully he’ll get well as soon as possible.”

The renewal of the hotly-contested, in-state rivalry between the Roadrunners and the Mean Green will take place on Thursday night at UTSA. Fortunately for UTSA, center Jacob Germany is expected to play.

Germany suffered a nasty-looking ankle sprain on Sunday afternoon in the Roadrunners’ 90-69 victory over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. UTSA (6-5) had a day off on Monday and then practiced Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the defending C-USA regular-season champions.

Led by guards Tylor Perry and Kai Huntsberry, North Texas (9-2) has won four in a row on the season. In addition, the Grant McCasland-coached Mean Green have won six out of eight against the Roadrunners in the series over the past five seasons.

Henson discussed his team’s preparations and his personnel issues after a two-hour drill Wednesday afternoon.

“We didn’t do much, up and down, either day,” Henson said. “As much as we’d love for there to be some pace in the game tomorrow, we don’t anticipate there will be a lot of pace, so we did a lot of stuff on the halfcourt, offensively and defensively. Jacob was able to do most of it both days.

“He looked progressively better today than he did yesterday, so I don’t think he’ll be 100 percent, but he’ll play.”

Addo-Ankrah apparently had been playing with some discomfort in his left (non-shooting) wrist for some time. Because of lingering pain, a new X-ray was ordered. It revealed a fracture.

“He’s going to miss about four weeks,” the coach said.

The circumstances on how Addo-Ankrah suffered the injury weren’t immediately clear.

“He injured it a long time ago,” Henson said. “Initially, it didn’t show a fracture. He started feeling a little better. But he wasn’t quite getting over the hump there, so they re-X-rayed and they found a small fracture.”

For the season, Addo-Ankrah had played in all 11 games with eight starts. A three-point shooting specialist, he was fifth on the team, averaging 7.3 points.

Though Addo-Ankrah made a season-high four triples on Sunday afternoon against Bethune-Cookman, his shooting percentages were down from last season, as he was hitting .366 from the field and .313 from three.

Henson didn’t specify how he planned to fill the 23.5-minutes per game void. But, likely, players such as Aleu Aleu, Lamin Sabally and Lachlan Bofinger will need to step up.

“I think (Isaiah’s) presence will be missed as far as spacing the floor and creating driving lanes, that type of thing,” Buggs said. “But we have other guys that can get in the lane or attack the paint, affect the game with offensive rebounding, that type of stuff.

“I think we have guys that are ready to step up and take on a bigger role.”

Buggs said it’s a good sign for the team to see the efforts that Germany made to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

“It just sends a message that we’re all about being tough and trying to grind it out, and do whatever we need to do to win,” Buggs said. “I feel like, with Jacob playing, that puts us in the best position to win.”

Coming up

North Texas at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Records

UTSA 6-5
North Texas 9-2

Notable

North Texas’ top players are guards Perry and Huntsberry, with 6-10 power forward Abou Ousmane playing inside. Buggs said he was Ousmane’s teammate years ago in Connecticut at the Putnam Science Academy.

“He was one of my best friends in prep school,” Buggs said.

Buggs said he talked to Ousmane recently, likely in the days before the Bethune-Cookman game. “He was calling, talking noise,” Buggs said. “He was throwing (verbal) shots. I said, ‘Hey, we ready.’ It’s going to be a good test for us tomorrow. Definitely.”

The Mean Green have won at least 20 games in four of the past five seasons under McCasland. They reached the NCAA tournament in 2021 and advanced to the round of 32.

Last year, they finished 25-7 and 16-2 in the C-USA. North Texas played in the NIT, defeated Texas State and then lost to Virginia in the second round.

North Texas downs UTSA 59-48 for its 15th straight victory

Steve Henson. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson showed some raw emotions on a tough night, during which his team was denied a victory against the North Texas Mean Green, the No. 1 squad in Conference USA. The slumping Roadrunners host the Rice Owls in the regular-season finale Saturday afternoon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In a record-breaking season, the North Texas Mean Green just keep grinding on opponents until they fold.

They did it to the UTSA Roadrunners Thursday night, executing with precision in the final 13 minutes to win 59-48 for their school-record 15th straight victory.

In some respects, the Mean Green beat the Roadrunners at the 3-point line.

Jacob Germany. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany produced 17 points and 10 rebounds but also picked up a technical foul in the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

North Texas, which has already clinched the best record in Conference USA, overcame less-than-stellar free-throw shooting with seven 3-pointers, all while hounding UTSA into a 1-of-11 performance from beyond the arc.

“We didn’t have our best game tonight … but, give UTSA some credit. They played with a purpose,” North Texas coach Grant McCasland told the team’s radio broadcast.

Trailing by 13 points late in the first half against a team that has lost only once since Thanksgiving, the Roadrunners enjoyed their best stretch in the first eight minutes after halftime, getting consistent scoring from center Jacob Germany and cutting the lead to three on two occasions.

A three-pointer by Erik Czumbel trimmed the Mean Green’s lead to 35-32 with 12:42 remaining.

From there, North Texas outscored UTSA 10-2 in the next three minutes, boosting their advantage to 11. Baskets by Thomas Bell and Tylor Perry capped the run for the Mean Green.

North Texas coach Grant McCasland. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

North Texas coach Grant McCasland has led his team to 23 victories, including a school record 16 of them in conference play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After that, the Roadrunners ran out of steam. They failed to come any closer than eight the rest of the way and lost their third game in a row.

The hard-luck Roadrunners have also dropped eight out of nine and 14 of 17 in falling to 9-21 on the season.

“Good team,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Got to give them credit. They’ve been good for a couple of years now. Their style of play is very difficult to play against. Their defense is really good. Their offense just grinds you and grinds you and shortens the game.

“They don’t play many guys. Guys they do play can all go get a bucket. They’re a good team.”

With the victory, North Texas swept two games from UTSA in the season series, increasing its lead all-time to 19-12. The Mean Green have won eight of their last 10 against the Roadrunners since 2015-16.

With the regular-season finale set for Saturday afternoon at home against Rice, UTSA doesn’t have much time to get its game together before next week’s Conference USA tournament.

“Right now we’re pretty frustrated,” said UTSA guard Erik Czumbel, who played point guard most of the night and had eight points and three assists. “I think we were close to making (a) comeback and to be able to flip the switch. (But) we were not quite able to do so.

Darius McNeill. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Darius McNeill scored 12 points for the Roadrunners against the North Texas Mean Green. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“So, I mean, right now, it’s just frustration. We just got to flip to the next page tomorrow and think about Rice.”

Over the last two and a half months, everything that could go haywire has gone haywire for the Roadrunners — everything from player defections, to injuries and at least one key defensive component lost to academics.

Not to mention a rash of Covid-19 disruptions.

“It’s hard when you have a season with so many challenges (and) you’re losing,” Czumbel said. “The most important thing is staying together. We haven’t had any fights or anything, and that’s what matters, I think.”

Records

North Texas 23-4, 16-1
UTSA 9-21, 2-15

Coming up

Saturday — Rice at UTSA, 2 p.m.
(end of regular season)

Conference USA tournament

Tuesday — UTSA vs. Southern Miss, at Frisco

By the numbers

North Texas — Thomas Bell, 16 points and seven rebounds. Five of 10 shooting from the field. Tylor Perry, 12 points. Four of eight shooting. Two 3-pointers. Mardrez McBride, 11 points, on four of nine. Also, two threes.

UTSA — Jacob Germany 17 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. Seven of 16 shooting. Darius McNeill 12 points on five of 12 from the field. Dhieu Deing, six points on three of eight. Deing was 0-for-4 on 3-pointers. Walk-on Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, perhaps the team’s most consistent perimeter threat over the past month, was held scoreless. In 21 minutes, he took one shot and missed it.

First half

The relentless Mean Green held the Roadrunners without a field goal for the final 6:49 of the first half and took a comfortable 28-17 lead into the dressing room at intermission.

Playing on UTSA’s home floor at the Convocation Center, North Texas limited the home team to only five field goals, while forcing eight turnovers.

Pre-game

Coming in, the streaking Mean Green had won 14 games in a row and had posted a 20-1 record since Thanksgiving.

In their last outing, they had clinched the Conference USA regular-season title by beating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 56-49 in Denton.

With the victory, coming last Saturday before an announced crowd of 8,522 at the Super Pit, North Texas set a school record with its 15th conference win and matched the school record for the longest winning streak.

Slumping UTSA is coming off a 68-56 loss at home last Thursday to UAB. The Roadrunners have lost two straight and seven of eight.

After losing two players to season-ending injuries, another as an academic casualty and a fourth to the transfer portal, they have dropped 13 of their last 16.

UTSA and North Texas played on Feb. 5 in Denton, with the Mean Green winning 69-45.

North Texas is 18-12 against UTSA in the all-time series.

The Mean Green have prevailed consistently through the last few years, winning 7 of 9 against the Roadrunners since the 2015-16 season.

Sixth-year UTSA coach Steve Henson is 2-6 against North Texas. Fifth-year UNT coach Grant McCasland is 4-2 against UTSA.

North Texas downs UTSA, 69-45, to win eighth straight

Eight wins in a row? No problem. The North Texas Mean Green methodically built a 17-point halftime lead and then cruised to a 69-45 victory at home Saturday over the UTSA Roadrunners.

Playing at the Super Pit in Denton, the Mean Green won their season-high eighth straight game and improved to 14-1 since Thanksgiving by holding UTSA to 29.2 percent shooting from the field, including 20 percent in the first half.

Center Abou Ousmane had 17 points and six rebounds for the Mean Green, who shot 54.8 percent in a slow-down offense. Guard Tylor Perry came off the bench to score 16 points, while Mardrez McBride added 12.

Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 15 for the Roadrunners, who lost their third straight game and their 12th out of 14 overall.

UTSA coach Steve Henson credited the Mean Green, a team that is playing for a second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

“They really manhandled us,” Henson told the team’s radio broadcast, “kept us from running anything … Kept us from passing. Kept us from screening. They just totally dictated with their defense.”

A series of blows to the UTSA roster in January have proven costly.

The Roadrunners lost forwards Cedrick Alley, Jr., and Aleu Aleu for the season. Alley, who is academically ineligible, was a dogged defender who could also score in a complementary role.

Aleu, sidelined with a knee injury, was a multi-talented player who could shoot from distance, drive and defend. Without them, the Roadrunners don’t seem capable of standing up to many teams in Conference USA, let alone the C-USA’s best.

UTSA is 1-5 without Aleu and 1-7 since Alley played his last game.

Ivy-Curry and Dhieu Deing also sat out games last month, the former because of Covid protocols and the latter because he briefly considered turning professional.

Since their return, both of the Roadrunners’ most talented perimeter players have had a tough time finding a groove.

Against North Texas, Ivy-Curry hit 5 of 17 shots from the field, making him 8 of 34 in two games on the current road trip. In the same two games, at Rice and North Texas, Deing is a combined 5 of 18. Deing was limited to 2 of 10 shooting and nine points against the Mean Green.

Center Jacob Germany, UTSA’s other primary threat, led UTSA with 20 points at Rice. He was held to six points and four rebounds against North Texas.

Essentially, the Mean Green kept the ball out of the 6-foot-11 center’s hands. But even when Germany could get off a shot, it wasn’t falling. He finished 1 of 5 from the field.

First half

In the first half, North Texas showed precision in execution on both ends of the floor.

Unfortunately for the UTSA Roadrunners, they didn’t really counter any of it. As a result, the Mean Green emerged with a 34-17 lead at intermission.

Notable

UTSA’s field goal percentage was its third lowest of the season and its fourth below 30 percent. On the road against Oklahoma, the Roadrunners shot 22.7 percent. Also, at home against UT Rio Grande Valley (25.7), at North Texas (29.2) and at Charlotte (29.4).

The 45 points were the second fewest in a game this year, next to the 44 scored in the 96-44 loss at OU on Nov. 12, in the second game of the year. Against North Texas, UTSA almost hit the season’s low-scoring mark before Isaiah Addo-Ankrah sank a layup with two seconds left.

Records

UTSA 8-16, 1-10
North Texas 16-4, 9-1

Coming up

Monday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee.

Roadrunners prepare for road test against C-USA champs

Looking for a fresh start to a season gone awry, the UTSA Roadrunners will face the streaking North Texas Mean Green today at the Super Pit in Denton.

Tipoff is at 5 p.m.

Slumping UTSA has lost two in a row and 11 of its last 13. North Texas has won seven straight to take the lead in the Conference USA West division.

The Mean Green hold a 17-12 edge against the Roadrunners in the all-time series, including 8-4 in Denton.

North Texas is coming off a season in which it won the C-USA postseason title to advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Mean Green claimed the conference championship in stunning fashion, winning four games in four days at Frisco.

Moving on to the national tournament, Coach Grant McCasland steered 13th-seeded North Texas to an overtime victory in the first round against the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers.

The Mean Green were finally ousted from the tournament in the round of 32 by the Villanova Wildcats.

UTSA, meanwhile, is working to piece together a respectable second half of the C-USA schedule. In January, the Roadrunners experienced several roster disruptions, forcing the team to reorganize virtually each week.

Last weekend, UTSA snapped a six-game losing streak with a 73-66 victory at home over the FIU Panthers. Two days later, the FAU Owls made all the plays in the last three minutes and won 73-64 on the Roadrunners’ home floor.

This week started with a trip to Houston, where the Rice Owls handed the Roadrunners a 91-78 loss.

UTSA shot a season-best 50 percent from the field but couldn’t stop Rice, a free-flowing offensive club that put five players in double figures and hit 62 percent.

Against North Texas, the Roadrunners will face an entirely different style.

The Mean Green’s plan is to take advantage of every second on the shot clock, make the opponent work and then aim for high-percentage looks at the basket.

They have won seven in a row, but in only one of the victories have they scored as many as 70 points.

In their last outing, the Mean Green erased a 17-point, second-half deficit on the road at Louisiana Tech and won 63-62 when Tylor Perry hit a three with six seconds left.

Records

UTSA 8-15, 1-9
North Texas 15-4, 8-1

Coming up

Monday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee

Beating the blues: UTSA whips North Texas to snap three-game skid

UTSA's Jhivvan Jackson celebrates with teammate Jaja Sanni after the Roadrunners' 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson celebrates with teammate Jaja Sanni after the Roadrunners’ 77-69 victory over North Texas. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Another bout with the basketball blues loomed for the UTSA Roadrunners.

One more week with a bad feeling in the pit of the stomach, followed by grinding practices and lingering questions about the viability of the ball club.

Trailing by one point at home against the North Texas Mean Green with 3:38 remaining, the Roadrunners were on the brink of getting swept in a two-game series for the second week in a row.

It didn’t happen. In perhaps a pivotal moment in their season, they deployed a small lineup, executed well on both ends of the floor and claimed a 77-69 victory Saturday over the Mean Green for their first win in Conference USA.

UTSA center Jacob Germany throws down a dunk with 2:18 left to give UTSA a 69-65 lead in a 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany throws down a dunk with 2:18 left to give UTSA a 69-65 lead. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It was great,” UTSA guard Keaton Wallace said. “We had guys making good plays. We were knocking down shots and getting stops. All the way down to the end.

“Those are the type of games that feel good, that you worked really hard for. That was a good victory right there.”

Guard Jhivvan Jackson led the way with 31 points, including 26 in the second half. He also had six rebounds. Center Jacob Germany scored 16 and Wallace 14. Javion Hamlet had 18 for the Mean Green, but he was held in check with 5 of 14 shooting. As a team, the Mean Green hit only 38 percent, well below their season average of 49.5.

A bumpy ride

Despite an erratic summer caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, UTSA entered the season feeling good about its chances. But ever since games got underway in the last week of November, it’s been a bumpy ride. The team endured a couple of ugly losses at UT Rio Grande Valley and Oklahoma, and then rebounded with two straight victories leading into the C-USA phase of the schedule.

Last week in Houston against the Rice Owls, the Roadrunners gave up a combined 179 points and lost twice.

Returning home, they played better on the defensive end Friday night but watched at the end of the game as the Mean Green pulled out a 77-70 victory. With the decision, UTSA dropped to 0-3 in conference for the first time in the Steve Henson coaching era.

UTSA coach Steve Henson talks to an official after a foul called on the Roadrunners in the final minutes of their 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson talks to an official after a foul called on the Roadrunners in the final minutes. Henson went with a four-guard lineup down the stretch. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Moreover, the Roadrunners didn’t have much time to adjust for Game 2 against the defending C-USA champions. They were back on the court early Saturday morning for a shootaround and then reported to the arena a few hours later for a 3 p.m. start. None of it mattered.

Trailing by three at intermission, UTSA outscored North Texas 46-35 in the second half, including 15-6 in the final three minutes, to make something of a statement. So, instead of traveling winless in conference to Louisiana Tech next week, the Roadrunners (5-6, 1-3) they will travel with some confidence.

Making progress

“It’s really big,” Henson said. “In this context, it feels like it’s more than one game, simply because of the nature of it. You go on the road, lose two to Rice. Looking ahead, you see North Texas on the schedule. Then you see LA Tech on the schedule. It was pretty important. You know, LA Tech’s loaded. We understand that.

“It was very, very important (to win today). It reinforced what we’ve been telling them. We think we’re making progress.”

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

Keaton Wallace hit two three-point buckets in the Roadrunners’ closing run. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson paused to consider the statistics sheet, particularly the second-half numbers. He liked what he saw.

“Second-half field goal percentage for them — 30 percent,” he said. “Second-half field goal percentage for us — 60 percent … That gives us something to hang our hat on.”

Playing small ball

With the teams trading runs for most of the second half, North Texas got into foul trouble, sat down big man Zachary Simmons and went with a smaller lineup. Henson answered by going small himself, using Jhivvan Jackson, Erik Czumbel, Jordan Ivy-Curry and Wallace, along with either Phoenix Ford or Jacob Germany.

The Roadrunners clicked. In the final three minutes, Ivy-Curry found Germany rolling to the rim and lobbed it up high for a dunk. Wallace hit a couple of threes. Jackson knocked down three of four free throws.

Records

UTSA 5-6, 1-3
North Texas 5-5, 1-1

Coming up

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


UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson, the school’s all-time leading scorer, leaps to block a shot by North Texas guard JJ Murray midway through the second half. Jackson played all 40 minutes of games Friday night and Saturday afternoon. He scored 31 points Saturday, finishing his weekend’s work with 57.

Sorting through a few issues before North Texas-UTSA, Part II

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA lost to North Texas 77-70 in Conference USA action on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Weaving his way through traffic, pulling up for floaters or hitting from deep, Jhivvan Jackson scored 26 points in 40 minutes Friday night. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Good afternoon, all.

I wanted to drop a few opinions here in the lead-up to North Texas-UTSA, Part II. The Mean Green defeated the Roadrunners 77-70 in Game 1 of a two-game, Conference USA series Friday night at the Convocation Center. The two ball clubs meet again today, in the same arena, on UTSA’s home floor. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.

First of all, North Texas looks like a team capable of winning another championship. The Mean Green have everything. A point guard who runs the show. Players who can pass it and catch it. Players who are smart and know what to do when they’re under pressure. Players who defend aggressively. Point guard Javion Hamlet? He’s a handful. Forwards Thomas Bell and Zachary Simmons? I don’t remember them being game-changers last season, but they were Friday night.

Keaton Wallace had 12 points in the second half and 14 for the game for UTSA in Friday's Conference USA loss to North Texas at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace

Next, I go back and forth between notions that the Roadrunners can be a good team this year, or, alternately, that they lack the right pieces in place to make a serious run in March. When my my thoughts drift to the second part of that notion, I think, what are they missing? Well, maybe they need a creative point guard, a distributor, an assertive force who can take over a game without shooting.

In Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Erik Czumbel, they have three really talented combo guards. Jackson and Wallace are at their best when they can roam the perimeter for catch-and-shoot opportunities. The faster the pace, the better.

Wallace and Czumbel are excellent defensively. But the offense tends to bog down when either runs the point for too long. Jackson is the best distributor and is the most creative of the three on the dribble. But if he brings it up time after time, his effectiveness as one of the nation’s best scorers decreases.

Alternately, I tend to think that the Roadrunners may, in time, work all this out in the coming weeks. Maybe they’ll mesh all their talents together and rip off a series of victories. It has a chance to happen, I think, if a couple of things happen. First, I’d like to see Jackson start at an off-guard position as he did Friday night. Give him the green light to shoot until he gets hot. Same with Wallace.

Both are smart enough players to be able to keep their teammates involved. But the team is built on their talents. Let them go to work. As for Czumbel, he’s starting to get more aggressive when he brings the ball up or when he runs the half court offense. Just give him some time to grow.

Next, they’ll be instantly better on defense when Cedrick Alley, Jr., returns to full speed. Right now, he’s limited with a groin injury. Remember, last week at Rice, Alley enjoyed a great first half before the groin tightened up on him. Get him back in the flow, and he could become a force as a two-way player, an aggressive defender and rebounder, and also one who can also knock down shots.

Today, the Mean Green probably have the edge. Jackson played 40 minutes Friday night. Weaving his way through traffic, finding open spaces, rising up for clever shots in the mid-range, UTSA’s all-time scoring leader was as good as he’s ever been. It may be too much to ask him to do that again in 18 hours. So, others will need to play well. But, as mentioned, North Texas looks like it’s built of championship timber. UTSA is still building.