Karen Aston’s Roadrunners to play the SMU Mustangs in Dallas

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Charlotte 81-80 in double overtime in American Athletic Conference women's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Karen Aston will lead the UTSA Roadrunners into Dallas today to face the SMU Mustangs. UTSA is 10-8 on the season and 4-3 in the American Athletic Conference. – File photo by Joe Alexander.

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Karen Aston appreciates the progress her team is making. Every time her UTSA Roadrunners play well and win, she talks about how proud she is of her players for making it happen. At the same time, the coach isn’t content. Not by any means.

She wants more. Locked in a tie for sixth place in the American Athletic Conference standings and coming off a one-point loss, the Roadrunners will try to regain the momentum today when they play on the road against the SMU Mustangs.

At the turn of the new calendar year, the Roadrunners hit their stride. They knocked off Wichita State, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte and South Florida in succession.

Charlotte was undefeated in conference when UTSA registered an 81-80 victory in double overtime. South Florida came to San Antonio with the best program in the AAC over the last decade and it, too, went down to defeat.

The Roadrunners crushed the defending AAC regular-season champs, 65-42.

Last weekend, UTSA nearly made it five wins in a row. The Roadrunners traveled to Alabama and led most of the way against the UAB Blazers, only to give up the lead in the fourth quarter. UAB nipped UTSA, 54-53.

As a result, UTSA will hit the court today at Moody Coliseum, hoping to make strides in the other direction. With the Mustangs, the Roadrunners will face a team that is probably better than its record would indicate.

In their last two games, the Mustangs have displayed competitive fire. A week ago today, they traveled to face the East Carolina Pirates, an NCAA tournament team last year and this year’s conference favorite in the preseason poll.

The Pirates, who pounded the Roadrunners by 28 on Jan. 2, struggled against the Mustangs. Eventually, the Mustangs fell 68-61 even though they had neutralized most of the Pirates’ best scoring threats.

On Wednesday night, the contending Temple Owls tipped off against the Mustangs in Dallas. Temple was a team that out-muscled and out-played UTSA at Philadelphia. The Mustangs took care of the Wildcats, 68-66.


AAC women’s basketball:
UTSA 10-8, 4-3; SMU 9-10, 3-5


The UTSA men are also on the road today. Steve Henson’s Roadrunners, coming off an 89-88 victory at home over the Tulane Green Wave, will be in Tampa, Fla.

They’ll tip off at 3 p.m. against the South Florida Bulls. Within the past few weeks, the Roadrunners have had a chance to win twice against Top 25 competition in the AAC, but they lost both games in overtime.

In their last outing, they won in dramatic fashion.

Jordan Ivy-Curry hit a three with 2.3 seconds left, boosting the Roadrunners to an 89-88 victory over the Tulane Green Wave. With Ivy-Curry in the lineup, UTSA all of a sudden has the look of one of the most dangerous teams in the conference. He is averaging 18.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Another player who raised eyebrows against the Green Wave was 7-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr., who scored a career-high 31 points.

For UTSA, South Florida will provide another tough test. The Bulls, who have won 10 of their last 11 overall, have moved into title contention in the AAC. They’re tied in the loss column with the leaders and only a half game out of first place.


AAC men’s basketball:
UTSA 8-12, 2-5; USF 12-5, 5-1

Carlton Linguard Jr. UTSA defeated Incarnate Word (UIW) 90-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr. has hit 32 of 88 shots from 3-point distance this season. His 3-point percentage of 36.4 ranks as one of the best among big men in the AAC. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Shake Milton boosts SMU’s NCAA tournament stock

Just when you thought the SMU Mustangs might be back-sliding out of NCAA tournament at-large consideration, guard Shake Milton has answered with a phenomenal performance.

Milton scored 33 points on the road Wednesday night as SMU stunned seventh-ranked Wichita State, 83-78.

SMU (13-6, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) had lost to Tulane, Cincinnati and Temple coming in against the powerful Shockers.

A 66-64 loss to Temple on Jan. 10 stung the most as it snapped SMU’s 33-game, home-court winning streak.

With a week off to soul search, the Mustangs responded with their best effort since they beat Arizona and Southern Cal in late-November, early-December.

Milton was on fire with 11-of-14 shooting, including five three-pointers.

A few of those threes came from very long distance as video from the AAC attests.

As a result, SMU broke Wichita State’s 27-game win streak at Koch Arena. In all, the Shockers had won 67 of 68 at home before the Mustangs arrived.

SMU coach Tim Jankovich said in the days leading into the game that his team might need a “near perfect” performance to win.

“Might have been better than perfect,’ he told reporters after the Mustangs shot 63.8 percent from the field and committed only eight turnovers in front of a hostile crowd.

Before the game, Wichita State and Cincinnati had been pegged in various bracket projections as solid NCAA picks out of the American Athletic Conference even without an automatic bid.

In addition, Houston had been showing up in bracket forecasts, as well.

But after the Cougars (14-4, 4-2) lost by nine at Tulane Wednesday night, who knows what the next round of predictions will show?

What about SMU? What about Memphis (13-6, 4-2)?

The Tigers, after all, have won four in a row. Memphis on Tuesday night continued to raise eyebrows, hammering Connecticut at home by 24 points.

Furthermore, are we overlooking coach Mike Dunleavy’s Green Wave at Tulane (12-6, 3-3), with victories over both SMU and Houston of late?

All of which means that middle-of-the-road programs from the five big-money football conferences had better keep a close eye on the American.

The AAC is stating its case about sending four teams into the NCAA field of 68, especially if both Cincinnati (16-2, 5-0) or Wichita State (15-3, 5-1) fail to secure the automatic bid.

Or, perhaps, if teams can’t figure out how to stop Shake Milton.