UTSA women engineer a monster comeback to win again in Frisco

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Basketball is their game, and they all play on the same team, but it has become clear in the last month or so that the UTSA Roadrunners are more than that. Way more. They’re a group of women who keep getting more remarkable by the day.

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Rice 66-53 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners have rebounded from a 4-15 record to win nine of their last 12 games, including six in a row. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They started the season with a string of frustrating losses, and now here they are, one win away from playing for the Conference USA postseason title.

“Gosh, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of this group,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said Thursday, after her sixth-seeded Roadrunners rallied from a 15-point, first-half deficit to stun the three-seed Rice Owls, 62-54, in the C-USA tournament quarterfinals.

With the victory, UTSA claimed its sixth win in a row and made a little bit of school history by winning for the second time in two days in the tournament being contested at The Star in Frisco.

Not only did the Roadrunners earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against the two-seed WKU Lady Toppers, but they also became the first UTSA women’s basketball team to win multiple games at a conference postseason tournament in 14 years.

The last one to do it? The Monica Gibbs-led 2009 Roadrunners, who swept three games in Katy to claim the Southland Conference postseason title and a No 15 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This time, it was Sidney Love, Kyra White, Jordyn Jenkins and others who created the magic. They stayed focused against the Owls even when it appeared as if they were more likely to be on the bus ride home to San Antonio later in the evening, rather than having dinner together and preparing a game-plan for the semifinals.

“The coaches said it in the locker room later,” Aston said. “The players kind of checked themselves at halftime. We didn’t play very well in the first half. We played … sort of how we played early in the year, and somewhere in the second half they sort of found themselves again. And remembered who they really are.

“I just thought we dug really deep,” the coach added. “Started to get stops. Obviously, got more aggressive. I thought Kyra and Sidney’s aggression in the second half was really the difference in the game. It opened up some stuff for the other players. So, really it was just a mindset. We changed our mindset in the second half.”

White, a junior guard from Judson, sat next to her coach in the postgame interviews and put her own spin on what she thought it was that changed for her teammates.

“The want to not go home,” she replied. “We just all wanted to be as connected as we could in the last 20 minutes and fight for one another. It’s too early to go home for us. So we just kept that in mind and kept (focusing) on the bigger picture.”

White’s inference might make some in the C-USA administration a bit nervous.

Could a team with a 13-18 record win two more games in Frisco and claim the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAAs? Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing, considering the talents of Jenkins, Love, White and others.

Jenkins, a 6-foot junior transfer from Southern Cal, brushed off foul trouble to finish with 22 points and seven rebounds. In the fourth quarter, the C-USA Player of the Year took over with 12 points, including nine in the last two minutes.

Backcourt mates Love and White also were very good when it mattered. Love had 11 of her 13 points in the fourth, including one stretch when she scored eight in a row. White finished her day with nine points, eight rebounds and five steals.

The 22-win Owls played well early, running off to a 29-14 lead with 3:56 left in the half. They also led 31-19 at intermission and 42-34 at the end of three quarters. But as it turned out, their tournament came to a close, as did their five-game winning streak.

India Bellamy and Ashlee Austin led Rice with 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Records

Rice 22-8
UTSA 13-18

C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Thursday’s quarterfinals

Middle Tennessee State 84, Charlotte 53
UTEP 64, Louisiana Tech 54
WKU 71, UAB 67
UTSA 62, Rice 54

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 WKU (18-12) vs. No. 6 UTSA (13-18), 7 p.m.

Saturday’s championship game

Friday’s winners, 4:30 p.m.

Notable

The Roadrunners have had their struggles this season, starting out 2-7 in the nonconference phase of the schedule. Entering C-USA play, things didn’t get much better. They played the first half of a 20-game conference slate and put down a 2-8 record. In the second half, the Roadrunners started to click, winning seven of their last 10. Now that they’ve beaten Florida Atlantic and Rice on back-to-back days at the tournament, it means that since the last weekend of January, they are 9-3.

Can the Rice women stay with UTSA on the boards today?

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Six-foot-three center Elyssa Coleman figures prominently in UTSA’s stature as one of Conference USA’s best rebounding teams. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The sixth-seeded UTSA Roadrunners will meet No. 3 Rice Owls today at 2 p.m. in Frisco in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.

Both the Roadrunners and the Owls have won five games in a row, setting up an intriguing third matchup between the teams this season.

Rice won by two points in the first meeting at Houston. UTSA returned the favor last month with a 13-point victory in San Antonio.

I’ll leave the coaching to UTSA’s Karen Aston and Rice’s Lindsay Edmonds. But as I sit in the living room waiting to watch this one on television, here are a few thoughts:

Can Rice stay with UTSA on the boards?

As one of the dominant rebounding teams in the C-USA, the Roadrunners out-muscled the Owls on the glass in both games this season. Even though Rice won 78-76 on its homecourt on Jan. 16, UTSA prevailed on the glass, 43-30. In UTSA’s 66-53 victory in San Antonio on Feb. 16, the Roadrunners won the boards battle again, 45-23. If the Owls plan to hold their seeding and win today, they’ll need to do a better job in this department.

Is UTSA’s turnover issue under control?

The Roadrunners need to be prepared to deal with pressure on the ball. They hurt themselves in both games against the Owls with turnovers. In fact, they turned the ball over 20 times in each game. UTSA had been doing a much better job in that department coming down the stretch of the regular season. But in the Roadrunners’ victory over the FAU Owls Wednesday, the turnover bug reared its head once again. They had eight miscues in the first quarter. UTSA will need to get it under control if they hope to beat the Owls.

Katelyn Crosthwait — Rice’s secret weapon?

Rice guard Katelyn Crosthwait averages only 9.4 points per game, so her name usually doesn’t jump out on the statistics sheet. But in Rice’s first game with UTSA this season, she buried seven 3-pointers and scored a season high 23 points. Don’t look now, but Crosthwait is getting hot again. The 5-10 senior from Purcell, Okla., has scored 11, 17, 6, 22 and 22 in her last five games. In her last two games, she’s hit nine 3-point shots combined. The Roadrunners may need to make her put it on the floor and, ideally, force her to take tough two-point field goals.

C-USA women’s tournament

Thursday’s quarterfinals

Middle Tennessee State beats Charlotte, 84-53
UTEP beats Louisiana Tech, 64-54

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10)

Rice eliminates UTSA in the first round of the C-USA tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA players celebrated for a precious few seconds Wednesday night on one of the two basketball courts set up inside The Star in Frisco.

Japhet Medor. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA point guard Japhet Medor, shown here competing against Rice in San Antonio on Jan. 16, led the Roadrunners in the C-USA tournament with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They thought they had beaten the Rice Owls in the Conference USA men’s tournament.

But in the end, game officials reviewed the last play and waved off a dramatic, game-winning shot by Japhet Medor because it was released from his hand after the buzzer.

Consequently, the Owls escaped with a 72-71 victory, eliminating the 11th-seeded Roadrunners in the tournament’s first round and bringing an end to a disappointing season.

No. 6 seed Rice will move on to play the third-seeded UAB Blazers in the quarterfinals on Thursday night.

A downcast UTSA coach Steve Henson, talking with radio play-by-play man Andy Everett on the postgame show, praised his players’ resolve to stay together through a tough season.

The toughest part of it, incidentally, being the last play.

“I’ve been a part of a few of those over the years, and it doesn’t get any easier,” Henson said. “We had one at UNLV. We had one in the conference tournament at Oklahoma against West Virginia. Buddy Hield hit a shot and we celebrated, and they went back and waved it off. It’s hard to take.”

In the final analysis, what will hurt the Roadrunners the most about the end of the game is that they executed nearly flawlessly and came up less than a second shy of what would have been a sweet victory.

Guard Quincy Olivari hit a driving bank shot to boost the Owls into a 72-67 lead with 1:19 remaining.

Even though Medor turned it over on UTSA’s next possession, the Roadrunners kept fighting, forcing a missed three by Owls forward Cam Sheffield.

UTSA rushed it up the court and went to center Jacob Germany, who hit a turnaround from six feet with 23 seconds left, bringing the Roadrunners to within 72-69.

After a timeout, Rice inbounded to Mekhi Mason, who was immediately trapped by Roadrunners guards Christian Tucker and D.J. Richards.

Richards got his hands on it for a held ball, which resulted in a Rice turnover and a UTSA possession.

The Roadrunners inbounded and looked for a three, but then Isaiah Addo-Ankrah saw a lane and drove it for a layup with eight seconds left, cutting the lead to the eventual final score.

On the inbound, UTSA fouled immediately, sending Olivari to the line for a one-and-one with 7.2 seconds left.

Olivari missed the free throw. UTSA secured the rebound and dished to Medor, who sped to the other end.

In traffic, he went up for the shot and banked it in, prompting the scoreboard to reflect oh, so briefly a 73-72 victory for the Roadrunners.

But not for long.

As officials started to review the play at the monitor, it became apparent during televised replays that Medor’s shot would not count. The ball clearly was still in his hands when the red lights around the backboard flashed, signaling no time left.

The shot didn’t count, and the Roadrunners’ season was over.

“Our guys are crushed and disappointed,” Henson said.

Records

UTSA 10-22
Rice 18-14

Individuals

Rice — Quincy Olivari, 18 points on seven of 18 shooting from the field. Also, eight rebounds. Mekhi Mason, 12 points and three assists. Cam Sheffield, 11 points and seven rebounds. Max Fiedler, 10 points on five of six shooting, six assists and four rebounds.

UTSA — Japhet Medor, 20 points on seven of 14 shooting. Also, six rebounds and six assists. D.J. Richards, 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Jacob Germany, 11 points on five of 13 from the field, and six rebounds.

Notable

UTSA finished with a 10-22 record for the second straight season. UTSA also has been ousted from the C-USA tournament in the opening game two years in a row. Last year, they were beaten 67-64 by the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

The loss to Rice marked the end of a 10-year run for UTSA men’s basketball in Conference USA. UTSA will move into the American Athletic Conference next season.

Roadrunners center Jacob Germany had one blocked shot against Rice, which tied him with McEverett Powers for third place on the career list with 105. If he has played his last game at UTSA, Germany will finish ninth in scoring with 1,293 points. He would also finish fourth in rebounding with 779.

First half

The Owls hit 50 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes and built a 42-33 halftime lead on the Roadrunners.

Striking early in the C-USA tournament opener for both teams, the Owls outscored the Roadrunners 8-0 in the first minute and never trailed. Cam Johnson and Quincy Olivari knocked down three pointers and Max Fiedler added a layup in the opening salvo.

UTSA went to the bench and plugged in a few reserves to turn it around. The Roadrunners had it going momentarily when Christian Tucker’s pullup cut the Rice lead to 10-9.

From there, the Owls went on an 11-1 run which was capped by an Alem Huseinovich three-point basket. Hoisted out of the corner, it gave the Owls 21-10 lead.

The Roadrunners trailed by as many as 12 in the half and never got closer than five before intermission. Richards buoyed the UTSA hopes with 11 points in 17 minutes.

C-USA men’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Wednesday’s results

WKU 73, UTEP 67
Louisiana Tech 81, FIU 76
Rice 72, UTSA 71

Thursday’s quarterfinals

No. 1 Florida Atlantic (28-3) vs. No. 8 WKU (17-15), 5:30 p.m.
No. 4 Middle Tennessee (18-13) vs No. 5 Charlotte (18-13), 6 p.m.
No. 2 North Texas (25-6) vs. No. 10 Louisiana Tech (15-17), 8 p.m.
No. 3. UAB (23-8) vs. No. 6 Rice (18-14), 8:30 p.m.

UTSA women host Rice tonight to open a busy five-day stretch

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team will open a critical late-season stretch of three games in five days starting Thursday night at home against the Rice Owls.

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners hope to build on the success of their last home game, a five-point victory over Middle Tennessee State, the No. 1 team in Conference USA. – File photo by Joe Alexander

After tonight, the Roadrunners will hit the road for two, one on Saturday in Alabama against the UAB Blazers and another on Monday in Denton against the North Texas Mean Green.

In facing the Owls, the Roadrunners will try to make amends for a game that they let get away from them on Jan. 16 in Houston.

UTSA built an eight-point lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 10 before Rice, now in fourth place in Conference USA, engineered a second-half rally to win, 78-76.

The Roadrunners, sitting in 10th place in the 11-team standings, have been and up-and-down team lately.

Against the Owls, they’ll try to keep alive a sense that they are making steady progress and can present a danger to any team that comes into their home arena at the Convocation Center.

In their last game at home, all C-USA candidate Jordyn Jenkins and the Roadrunners knocked off the first-place Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 58-53.

Jenkins, a 6-foot junior, had 20 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 4 as UTSA registered an upset victory over Middle Tennessee — the No. 21-ranked team in the nation at the time.

The Lady Raiders, who are trying to nail down the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament with a little more than two weeks remaining on the schedule, became the highest-ranked upset victim by a Roadrunners’ women’s basketball team in 42 years.

UTSA, coming off the signature victory, had a week after the game to prepare for its next outing and couldn’t capitalize.

In a game played at El Paso last Saturday, the Roadrunners stayed close against the UTEP Miners, trailing by three at halftime. Subsequently, UTEP blew it open, outscoring UTSA 29-7 in the third quarter en route to a 79-52 victory.

Given that the Rice game is the first of three in less than a week for UTSA, it’s importance is magnified, in the sense that only six games remain in the regular season.

After the season, all 11 teams — women and men — will gather in Frisco for the C-USA’s annual postseason event, which is set for March 8-11 at The Star. The winners will earn automatic bids to their respective NCAA tournaments.

The top five teams in the C-USA standings will have an advantage in that they will have a first-round bye, meaning that they will only need to win three games in three days to secure the postseason crown and the coveted NCAA berth.

The others, seeded six through 11, will need to win four games in four days. All that is why the game tonight is critical for Rice, currently in fourth place in the C-USA, with a one-game lead on Louisiana Tech and Charlotte.

Though UTSA isn’t out of contention for one of the top five spots, it would likely need win most — if not all — of its final six games to get one.

Records

Rice 17-6, 8-6
UTSA 6-17, 4-10

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UTSA at UAB, Saturday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at North Texas, Monday, 6:30 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at UTSA, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
Florida International at UTSA, Feb. 25, noon
UTSA at Charlotte, March 2, 5 p.m.

Notable

Tonight, UTSA athletics is hosting its first Pride Night, which will include special giveaways to fans and also recognition of various groups, including the San Antonio Pride Committee, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Governors of Human Rights Campaign Board and Pride San Antonio.

Olivari, Fiedler lead rally as Rice takes down UTSA in overtime

Japhet Medor. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Japhet Medor led the UTSA Roadrunners with a season-high 30 points on 11 of 21 shooting from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Guard Quincy Olivari tied his season high with 30 points and center Max Fiedler had a triple-double Monday night as the Rice Owls erased an 18-point deficit to down the UTSA Roadrunners, 88-81, in overtime.

Fiedler, a 6-foot-11 junior, hit 10 of 12 shots from the field and finished with 24 points. He also produced 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Playing with poise on UTSA’s home court, the Owls also received a boost from guard Travis Evee in the extra period. The 6-foot-1 playmaker buried a three on the end of a long possession with 1:56 remaining to help the visitors pull away.

Massal Diouf. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Massal Diouf (at right) had his hands full all night as he tried to check Rice center Max Fiedler, who finished with a 24-point triple double. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Evee finished with 19 points for the Owls, who improved to 13-5 on the season and 4-3 in Conference USA.

Japhet Medor scored 30 points to lead the Roadrunners. UTSA fell to 7-12 overall and 1-7 in the C-USA despite playing well for most of regulation. The Roadrunners played for the second straight game without injured center Jacob Germany, who is out with a concussion.

Rice coach Scott Pera said “it came down to defense” in climbing out of double-digit deficits that spanned much of both halves.

“I thought (assistant coaches) Van (Green) and Greg (Howell) did a great job making a huge adjustment for the second half,” Pera said in a video posted to Rice’s Twitter page. “We got just enough stops. I thought we could get good shots offensively.

“Obviously, we weren’t making ’em in the first half. Even in the second half, we just struggled. We struggled with things we are normally good at. But our kids are old enough now to stay with it. They also listened to the game plan down the stretch, and that was to own three feet and in.

“Keep getting that ball three feet and in. Get to that foul line, because they were in the double bonus. You know, Mekhi (Mason) hit a huge three when Quincy drove. Travis hit a huge three. And then Cam (Sheffield) made an unbelievable play to get us the ball late. And Travis hit a big shot — again (in the overtime).

“Just a great team win, and I thought our three older guys (Olivari, Fiedler and Evee) certainly carried us.”

For UTSA, the loss stung badly. It was the team’s fourth straight setback. It was also a lost chance for the Roadrunners to prove that they could beat one of the better teams in the C-USA.

In addition, they needed the momentum with two home games remaining this week, including a Thursday night test against the conference-leading FAU Owls.

They needed the win, but they couldn’t get it, despite holding an 18-point lead with four minutes left in the first half and a 13-point spread at intermission. When Christian Tucker hit a jumper with 7:06 left in the game, the Roadrunners hiked the advantage to 16.

At that juncture, things started to unravel for the home team.

DJ Richards. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman DJ Richards scored 14 points for his seventh straight double-figure scoring effort. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Owls, one of the better offensive squads in the nation, started to roll. Olivari hit a jumper with 6:47 remaining to start a 21-5 run by Rice to the end of regulation.

A couple of misses on the front end of one-and-one free-throw situations and a turnover against the Sheffield-led backcourt pressure in the final minute cost UTSA dearly.

In addition, Medor had a chance to win it for the Roadrunners with 1.1 seconds left, but he couldn’t get it done. With UTSA trailing by one, he went to the free throw line and missed the first attempt, and then he tied it 72-72 by knocking down the second.

Once the game reached overtime, the Owls took control. They played better defense and outscored the Roadrunners 16-9. With UTSA failing to generate offense on its own end, Olivari knocked down six free throws in the final 1:24 to seal it.

Asked about the mood in the locker room afterward, UTSA coach Steve Henson said it “was what it should be.”

“Our guys were devastated,” the coach said. “This one hurts bad. I wouldn’t expect any other response.”

Notable

Jacob Germany suffered the concussion sometime during the UTEP game last Wednesday in El Paso, Henson said. As a result, he sat out last Saturday at Charlotte and again Monday night against Rice.

Henson said he doesn’t expect Germany to to play on Thursday against the FAU Owls. He said “there’s a chance” that the 6-foot-11 senior will be ready by Saturday.

The timeline for the return of forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah is also murky. Addo-Ankrah has missed all eight conference games with a fracture in his left wrist. Henson said he could begin shooting some at the end of this week and could have the cast removed next week.

Records

Rice 13-5, 4-3
UTSA 7-12, 1-7

Coming up

FAU at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Individuals

Rice — Guard Quincy Olivari scored 30 and pulled down eight rebounds. He also had 30 points on Dec. 17 at home against Northwestern State and on Dec. 4 on the road at Texas State. Olivari hit nine of 18 from the field and five of 12 on three-pointers. Max Fiedler had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end. Travis Evee had 19 points and five assists.

Aleu Aleu. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

With Jacob Germany not playing, Aleu Aleu started at forward and contributed nine points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA — Japhet Medor scored 30 points, including 19 points on seven of 11 shooting from the floor in the first half. In the second half, he cooled off to three for eight, and then one for two in the overtime. On free throws, Medor was six for eight for the game, but he missed a couple in the final minute. DJ Richards scored 14 and John Buggs III 13. Aleu Aleu started and produced nine points, eight rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes.

First half

Playing without their starting center for the second straight game, the Roadrunners kicked up the tempo and raced to a 45-32 halftime lead on the Owls.

UTSA hit eight three-point shots en route to one of their best offensive halves in weeks. Buggs and Richards buried three triples each, and Medor had two. Medor led the way with 19 points and three assists.

The Roadrunners played with pace from the outset. Even though the Owls rank as one of the top-scoring teams in NCAA Division I, the Roadrunners didn’t back down from the challenge. With 4:07 remaining, they had built their biggest lead at 18 points.

UTSA played without injured senior center Jacob Germany for the second game in a row.

UTSA’s Jacob Germany ‘a game-time decision’ for Rice

The status of injured UTSA center Jacob Germany is uncertain leading into tonight’s Conference USA home game against the Rice Owls.

Jacob Germany celebrates as time runs out. UTSA beat Texas State 61-56 in men's basketball on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany and the UTSA Roadrunners host the Rice Owls tonight in the first of three home games this week. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A spokesman said Germany is “probably a game-time decision.”

Germany was hurt last Wednesday near the end of the Roadrunners’ game in El Paso. He sat out for the first time this season at Charlotte on Saturday afternoon.

UTSA plays at home three times this week instead of the usual two games, and the homestand starts tonight against the Rice Owls.

After facing high-scoring Rice, UTSA will also play the C-USA leading FAU Owls on Thursday night and the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

Germany averages 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds, so his health is significant given the extra game on the schedule and also the team’s struggles — the Roadrunners have lost three in a row and six of their last seven.

Records

Rice 12-5, 3-3
UTSA 7-11, 1-6

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, tonight at 7, at the Convocation Center

Notable

The Roadrunners are 7-4 at home this season. Their last victory was at home on Jan. 5 when they downed the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-72. On Jan. 7, the Roadrunners stumbled in front of the home fans, falling 74-64 to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

DJ Richards. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

DJ Richards has averaged 10.3 points as a UTSA freshman. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Last week on the road, they lost at UTEP, 69-57, on Wednesday. On Saturday, with Germany sidelined, they fell 72-54 at Charlotte, dropping them into 11th and last place in the C-USA standings.

UTSA freshman D.J. Richards continued his solid first season with the program, scoring a combined 10 and 14 points, respectively, on the trip. With his performance at Charlotte, he ran his string of double-figures scoring games to six in a row.

In games at UTEP and Charlotte, the 6-foot-5 guard from Houston hit nine of 20 shots from the field and four for 11 from three combined. For the season, he’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. His 38.4 percent accuracy from long range is second on the team to John Buggs III.

Rice downed UTEP 83-82 in Houston on Saturday. Guard Travis Evee hit a left-handed floater at the buzzer for the win. The Owls are 20th in the nation in scoring at 81.7 points per game. With talented long-range shooters, they spread out the defense by averaging 25 three pointers and nine made threes.

Winning in basketball on a disconcerting day: Texas beats Rice 87-81 in overtime

Capping a long and disconcerting day for the Texas Longhorns, the players stayed together, maintained level heads through an uneven start and then finished with a flourish to down the Rice Owls, 87-81, in overtime.

Guard Marcus Carr led seventh-ranked UT with 28 points, including eight in overtime, at UT’s sparkling new Moody Center arena. Sir’Jabari Rice also hit some key buckets in the extra period.

All night, though, it was coach Rodney Terry who stepped in under difficult circustances to steady the Longhorns against Quincy Olivari, Travis Evee and the hot-shooting Owls.

Arguably one of the worst days in UT’s basketball history started early Monday morning with the shocking arrest of Texas head coach Chris Beard, who was charged with felony family violence.

The arrest stemmed from an overnight altercation in which a woman told police that Beard strangled and bit her, according to the Associated Press, the Austin American-Statesman and other Austin media outlets which cited information in an affidavit.

In the wake of Beard’s afternoon release from jail on bond, the university announced that the coach had been suspended without pay “until further notice.”

With Beard’s status uncertain and Terry working as head coach on the bench, UT players, perhaps understandably, seemed a bit out of sorts initially.

The Owls played loose and free and jumped out to an early nine-point lead, and then after the Horns closed to within one, pushed it back to 10 points with two minutes left in the half.

Leading by four at intermission, Rice continued to hit perimeter shots and traded momentum with UT in a closely-contested match.

At the end of regulation, the Owls had a chance to win but missed a shot from the side in the final seconds, sending it to overtime.

“We showed a lot of grit,” Terry said on the UT’s postgame radio broadcast. “(We) battled through some adversity throughout the course of the day, in the game, earlier today, as well. I give my guys a lot of credit. I give our staff a lot of credit.”

With Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice leading the way, the Longhorns outscored the Owls 15-9 in the extra period.

Olivari led the Owls with 28 points, his third consecutive game with 20 or more, and Travis Evee added 19.

For the Longhorns, Timmy Allen scored 15, while freshman Dillon Mitchell produced 12 points and nine rebounds. Off the bench, Rice scored 11, and Brock Cunningham added six points and 10 boards.

“We’ve got an experienced staff that did a great job,” Terry said. “Again, our guys were right where they needed to be at winning time. We’ve been in that position. We’re going to be in that position all year. You know, we found a way to get it done.”

It’s not immediately clear how long Beard will be out.

The coach didn’t answer questions when he left the jail with his attorney, Perry Minton, according to the AP.

Minton declined comment but earlier told the American-Statesman that the coach is innocent.

“He should never have been arrested,” Minton told the newspaper. “The complainant wants him released immediately and all charges dismissed. It is truly inconceivable.”

UT said in a statement that it “takes matters of interpersonal violence involving members of its community seriously.”

According to the AP, the university did not commit to Terry as the acting coach for the Longhorns beyond Monday night.

Terry previously worked at UT as an assistant coach under Rick Barnes before moving on to become a head coach at Fresno State (2011-18) and UTEP (2018-21). He is in his second season as a UT associate head coach under Beard.

Editor’s note: This story was written from San Antonio with help from the UT radio broadcast and with supplemental statistical information from the school’s website.

Streaking UTSA hammers three home runs and downs Rice, 9-2

The UTSA Roadrunners on Friday backed the pitching of Luke Malone with three home runs, rolling to a 9-2 Conference USA baseball victory over the Rice Owls.

As Malone pitched into the seventh inning, the Roadrunners’ offense hummed with homers from Jonathan Tapia, Chase Keng and Shane Sirdashney on the home field of their C-USA rivals.

As a result, the Roadrunners (23-11, 8-5) won their fourth straight game. They also improved to 10-1 in their last 11.

Meanwhile, the Owls (10-25, 3-10) will try to turn it around in the second game of the series Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Houston, at Reckling Park. The series finale is Sunday at 1 p.m.

For Rice, Guy Garibay produced three hits and two RBIs. But the UTSA pitching duo of Malone and Braylon Owens held the upper hand. Malone (5-1) allowed only two runs on five hits in 6 and 1/3 innings.

Owens, a freshman, worked 2 and 2/3 scoreless to finish the game. He gave up two hits and walked three, but he also struck out four.

In addition, the Roadrunners’ defense played error-free baseball in winning for the sixth time in their last seven C-USA games.

Tapia led the offense with a three-for-five day and three RBIs. UTSA’s leadoff man supplied the big blow with a three-run homer in a four-run second inning.

Keng and Sirdashney were also three for five in a 13-hit attack.

Keng, from Deer Park High School, hit a solo home run in the third inning and Sirdashney, also a Houston area player from The Woodlands, added solo blast in the eighth.

Czumbel-led UTSA wins regular-season finale, beats Rice, 82-71

Erik Czumbel. men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Erik Czumbel scored eight of his career-high 22 points in the final 3:42, leading the UTSA Roadrunners to an 81-72 victory over the Rice Owls at the Convocation Center. UTSA plays Southern Miss on Tuesday night in Frisco at the the Conference USA tournament. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With the Rice Owls mounting a comeback in the second half, somebody on the UTSA Roadrunners needed to step up with a big effort in the final regular-season game.

Erik Czumbel and Dhieu Deing answered the call in leading the Roadrunners to an 82-71 victory Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

Dhieu Deing. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Dhieu Deing scored 19 points and drilled two key three-pointers in the second half after Rice had trimmed the lead to one. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Czumbel scored a career-high 22 points and Deing had 19 to help the Roadrunners break a three-game losing streak and build some momentum for next week’s Conference USA tournament.

“Feels great, man,” Czumbel said. “Third (game) in a row here (at home) and finally we get the dub. Everybody is so excited in the locker room. We just got to keep building on this.”

Deing had 16 points after intermission, including a pair of 3-pointers after Rice had trimmed UTSA’s lead to one.

Czumbel finished off the Owls with eight points and a key defensive stop in the final 3:42.

Securing their first victory since Feb. 17 at Southern Miss, the Roadrunners also had major contributions from Isaiah Addo-Ankrah with 14 points and Jacob Germany with 13.

Germany kept the Owls honest with his play in the paint and in the mid-range game, while Deing knocked down five of UTSA’s 13 3-pointers. Addo-Ankrah also hit four and Czumbel three from long range.

It was quite the turnaround from Thursday night, when the Roadrunners made only one three in a 59-48 loss to North Texas.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore walk-on Isaiah Addo-Ankrah hit four of seven 3-point shots and scored 14 against the Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We were so much better,” Henson said. “Shot a good percentage. Made threes. Shot a good 3-point percentage. That was terrific. Certainly, it makes it a lot easier. I was proud of the way we defended, too.”

On Feb. 3, in a game at Houston, the Owls shot 62 percent from the field as a team and rolled to a 91-78 victory over the Roadrunners.

In that game, center Max Fiedler and guards Carl Pierre and Travis Evee scorched the Roadrunners by combining for 57 points on 22 of 34 from the field. On Saturday afternoon, in San Antonio, those same three had a combined 37 on 13 of 25.

“Rice is a good offensive team,” Henson said. “They pose a lot of different problems. You got to guard their big guys in the post (Fiedler and Mylyjael Poteat). You got to guard their five out action. You got to guard their shooters, and they’re great in transition.”

UTSA will open play in the C-USA tournament on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. With a win, the Roadrunners would advance to play Florida Atlantic on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. All games are at The Star in Frisco.

The Roadrunners will need to win five games in five days to claim the title and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA's Phoenix Ford on senior day. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Phoenix Ford holds Genesis, his 2-month-old daughter, during a Senior Day ceremony. His wife, Alicia, and coach Steve Henson share the poignant moment before tip-off. — Photo by Joe Alexander

“This just boosts our confidence,” Czumbel said. “We can do it. We know it. We just got to keep playing the way we did today. Especially on defense. That was our biggest concern coming into this game, and we proved we can be a good defensive team.”

In November and December, Czumbel was not among the team’s primary offensive weapons. In his first 11 games, he took only 24 shots and hit six of them. He was 0 for 10 on 3-point shots until making his first trey on Jan. 3.

Lately, with Jordan Ivy-Curry having left the team to enter the transfer portal, the native of Vernona, Italy, has played a much more expansive role. Against Rice, he ran the point most of the afternoon, and he also hit eight of 16 from the field and three of eight from beyond the arc.

“My teammates kept telling me to be agressive,” he said of his offensive output. “It feels great, you know. It’s been a long year. I didn’t start the year shooting well. You know, just keep working on it and keep my confidence up.”

First half

UTSA started the afternoon’s proceedings with a spontaneous dunk contest in what usually is a standard layup line.

Later, just before tipoff, the Roadrunners honored seniors Adrian Rodriguez, Phoenix Ford and Darius McNeill on Senior Day.

Both McNeill and Ford started and contributed to a 12-point lead in the game’s first six minutes, and, ultimately to a 40-34 lead at intermission.

Offensively, it may have been one of the Roadrunners’ best halves in weeks. They shot 48.4 percent from the field. They had seven assists and 15 made field goals. They also hit six 3-pointers, including three of them by sophomore Addo-Ankrah.

Notable

The victory temporarily eased the pain of a tough season for the Roadrunners, who have produced only a 4-17 record in their last 21 games. UTSA has lost four players during the course of the season. In the second half, they lost two starters — power forward Cedrick Alley Jr. to academics and Ivy-Curry to the transfer portal.

Rice has lost six of its last seven games. The dropoff coincides with the loss of all-conference guard Quincy Olivari, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds in a 91-78 victory over UTSA on Feb. 3. Olivari broke his wrist on Feb. 5 and is out for the season.

UTSA leads Rice in the all-time series, 11-8. In games played as foes in Conference USA, UTSA leads 7-6. The Roadrunners have won seven of eight meetings against the Owls in San Antonio. Riceโ€™s only victory at the Convocation Center came in 2015 in a 76-74 decision.

Records

Rice 15-15, 7-11
UTSA 10-21, 3-15

Coming up

Conference USA tournament
Tuesday โ€” UTSA vs. Southern Miss, 7 p.m., at Frisco

Struggling Rice, UTSA play today at the Convocation Center

Two teams searching for consistency leading into next week’s Conference USA tournament meet today at the UTSA Convocation Center in the regular-season finale.

Once regarded as a candidate to finish in the top half of the C-USA standings, the visiting Rice Owls have lost five of their last six.

Rice’s slide has coincided with the loss of all-conference guard Quincy Olivari, who broke his wrist on Feb. 5 at home against UTEP. Olivari, a third-team, all-C-USA player last season, is not expected to return this year.

The Roadrunners have lost four key players at various junctures of the season. The two major blows within the past few months came when power forward Cedrick Alley Jr. became academically ineligible and guard Jordan Ivy-Curry entered the transfer portal.

Both players were starters. UTSA has dropped three straight games and eight of nine. Long-term, the Roadrunners have struggled with a 3-14 record since mid-December.

Tipoff today is at 2 p.m.

Records

Rice 15-14, 7-10
UTSA 9-21, 2-15

Coming up

Conference USA tournament
Tuesday — UTSA vs. Southern Miss, at Frisco

Rice at a glance

The Owls lost a heartbreaker Thursday at UTEP when the Miners made a few more plays in the final minute and won, 70-67. With less than a minute remaining, a key play unfolded. With the Miners leading by one point, Owls guard Carl Pierre drove for a basket that would have given his team the lead, only to be called for a charge. A transfer from the University of Massachusetts, Pierre finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds.

UTSA at a glance

Battling the top team in the conference, UTSA played a solid game at home Thursday night for about 27 minutes. They were within three points twice of the North Texas Mean Green. In the end, the Thomas Bell, Tylor Perry and Mardrez McBride-led Mean Green pulled out a 59-48 victory. It was UTSA’s third game with fewer than 50 points this season. One was against Oklahoma. The two others were against North Texas.

The series

UTSA leads Rice in the all-time series, 10-8. In games played as foes in Conference USA, the series is tied 6-6. The Roadrunners have won six of seven against the Owls in San Antonio. Riceโ€™s only victory at the Convocation Center came in 2015 in a 76-74 decision. On Feb. 3, in a game at Houston, the Owls shot 62 percent from the field as a team and rolled to a 91-78 victory. Led by Jacob Germany and Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, the Roadrunners were with two points with 11 minutes left but couldn’t sustain the effort. The Rice trio of Max Fiedler, Pierre and Travis Evee combined for 57 points. Those three players hit a combined 22 of 34 shots.