For the UTSA Roadrunners, the stakes were high coming into a weekend series against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Sitting in last place in the Conference USA West division standings, the Roadrunners couldn’t afford to lose either of two games at home in the Convocation Center.
Lifted by the scoring of Jhivvan Jackson and a team effort that included clutch plays from two underclassmen, the Roadrunners completed their first C-USA sweep of the season Saturday afternoon with a 78-72 victory over the Golden Eagles.
Jackson scored 24 points and passed for six assists. Sophomore Jacob Germany blocked two shots in the last minute and, not to be denied, precocious freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to help fend off the visitors from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
UTSA coach Steve Henson was pleased to win two but he lamented his team allowing Southern Miss to make it so close down the stretch. The Roadrunners led by 15 with nine minutes remaining and then had to scramble at the end to avoid what might have been a crushing loss.
“It was a little more drama than we really needed,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Both games, really. We had too many good stretches to make it that difficult.”
Looking at it another way, the Roadrunners felt much better about themselves after their fourth series in the C-USA’s regular season. Two losses at Rice, followed by a split at home against North Texas, followed by another two road losses at Louisiana Tech had them buried at 1-5 and searching for answers.
Last week, Henson said he felt like the Roadrunners weren’t that far away from turning around their fortunes. He was right on that point. Against Southern Miss, Jackson flashed the form that has led to all-conference designations each of the past two seasons. On Friday, he had 25 in a 70-64 victory, and then he went off again on Saturday.
Playing in front of the home fans, his showmanship has become almost routine until you consider that he has scored 2,328 points in a little more than three years, boosting him into a tie for 139th in NCAA basketball history, according to a list published by sports-reference.com.
On Friday, Jackson was aggressive, drawing contact that put him on the free-throw line 13 times. On Saturday, he launched from long distance, nailing six of 10 from beyond the arc. More than anything, Jackson is buoyed by the improvement of a team desperate to get back into the mix of contenders in the C-USA.
“Like I was telling ya’ll yesterday, we need every win we can get,” Jackson said. “We fought hard today on defense. We didn’t make a lot of shots today — down the stretch, especially. But our defense kept us in. Free throws, as well. Today was more defense than offense.”
UTSA 3-5, 7-8
Southern Miss 3-5, 7-8
UTEP at UTSA, Thursday, 6 p.m.
Two young players on the UTSA roster stepped up when the team needed them most. Just as the rest of the C-USA was about to write off the Roadrunners who were 1-5 in conference coming into a two-game series against Southern Miss, sophomore Jacob Germany and freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry helped lead the team to a couple of much-needed victories. Germany had a double-double on Friday night and came back with 13 points and eight rebounds Saturday afternoon. Germany, a 6-11 center, added two blocks in the final minute. Ivy-Curry nailed a clutch three to stop a late Southern Miss run in Game 1, and then followed with 14 points and four rebounds in Game 2. The player known as “Juice” added an exclamation point by knocking down two free throws with 14.3 seconds left Saturday.
“We talked last year about Jacob’s poise … Some of those non-conference games against high major opponents, he was relaxed. Comfortable. Very, very poised. Juice is very, very comfortable. You know, the moment is certainly not going to be too big for him. The three-pointer that Juice hit last night was huge. Southern Miss had gone zone (on defense). We ran the play exactly the way we wanted the first zone possession and Jhivvan missed a three. Then we turned it over … All of a sudden, it was going to start wearing on us, and Juice was open, bangs a three and that was a huge play in the game … Jacob makes game-winning plays (with blocks, both games) … Juice just plays.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson.
UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson, 24 points on 8 of 18 shooting, including 6 of 10 from three. He also had four rebounds, six assists and three steals. Jordan Ivy-Curry, 14 points, including 3 of 5 threes. Jacob Germany, 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Eight rebounds. Two blocks. Keaton Wallace, 12 points on 4 of 19 shooting. Five rebounds. Four assists.
Southern Miss — LaDavius Draine, 19 points on 5 of 10 from three. Tyler Stevenson, 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jaron Pierre Jr., 12 points on four of eight shooting. Four rebounds. Two assists. Two steals. DeAndre Pinckney, 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks.
The Roadrunners were able to hang on Saturday in spite of making only two field goals in the final 8:48. One of the buckets can be seen in the video below:
— UTSA Basketball (@UTSAMBB) January 23, 2021
In a key second-half play, UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., runs the wing, takes a pass from Jhivvan Jackson and slams it on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.