By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The UTSA women’s basketball team is built around junior forward Jordyn Jenkins, the Conference USA Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
Ask anyone why UTSA has been able to forge a 9-3 record over the past six weeks, after starting the season with 15 losses in 19 games, and you will hear all about Jenkins, the best player in the program since Monica Gibbs led the 2008 and 2009 teams to a pair of conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances.
Just this week, however, fans have started to realize that UTSA is not a one-woman show.
The Roadrunners have started to blossom into a team that can play championship-caliber basketball even when Jenkins isn’t on her game or is saddled with foul trouble. Just yesterday, Coach Karen Aston’s ball club pulled itself out of a 15-point deficit to win its second game in two days at the C-USA tournament, rallying to beat the Rice Owls, 62-54.
In victories over Florida Atlantic and Rice in the past two days, Jenkins has played only 21 and 25 minutes, respectively. When she was not on the floor, the team did not cave in as sometimes happened back in November and December. The team keeps playing. Thus, UTSA will play tonight in Frisco against the WKU Lady Toppers in the C-USA semifinals.
Here is a look at a few players not named Jordyn Jenkins who have elevated the team into one of the four still alive and vying for the C-USA title:
Freshman point guard Sidney Love
Love is playing with confidence and doing what she does best, which is scoring. Utilizing her quickness and ability to dribble drive either to the right or left, the freshman from Steele High School hit eight of 16 shots from the field against Florida Atlantic and five of eight against Rice. She’s scored 33 points in the tournament, none more important than the 11 in the fourth-quarter comeback yesterday against Rice.
Junior guard Kyra White
Ms. Versatility is also one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever seen. White handles the ball, distributes, plays defense, rebounds. Everything. Even with a shaky first-half performance against Rice, she pulled herself together and continued to play hard in the third and fourth quarters. She even got a few shots to go down. Looked to me like she just willed it to happen, and it did.
Sophomore center Elyssa Coleman
The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Atascocita has 18 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots in two games at Frisco. Going back to the start of UTSA’s 9-3 push toward respectability, she’s been a defensive force. Not quite as fast as Jenkins, she can run the floor well and always causes problems for opponents driving the ball. Coleman isn’t always highly involved in the offense, but when she is, she seems to deliver. She was four of eight from the field against Florida Atlantic and four of 11 against Rice.
Guard Hailey Atwood
Hailey Atwood has emerged as Coach Karen Aston’s go-to defender against the opponent’s best perimeter threat. Atwood also brings a tremendous amount of energy. She started off slowly this year as she worked her way back in injury rehabilitation, but she is now entrenched as a valued starter. Other players in the rotation during the tournament have included Deb Nwakamma, Siena Guttadauro, Maya Linton, Queen Ulabo and a cameo yesterday by Madison Cockrell. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyleigh McGuire or Alexis Parker tonight against WKU, either.
Looks to me like center Nissa Sam-Grant will be a solid contributor next year. She is 6-4 and can run pretty well. She’s a transfer who sat out all this season.
C-USA women’s tournament
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.