On a frightening day in America, UTSA’s season ends

Clinging to a one-point lead in the last minute, the UAB Blazers knocked down six straight free throws down the stretch to hold off the UTSA Roadrunners 74-69 Wednesday night in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.

With the loss, UTSA’s season has come to an end. The Roadrunners finished 13-19. The Blazers will move on to play Western Kentucky Thursday night in the tournament, which is being played at Frisco.

The game was played against the frightening national back-drop of a threat from COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus.

During the day, the NCAA Tournament took a hit when it was announced that fans would not be allowed to attend the games.

Several conferences, including Conference USA, also announced that they were closing their tournaments to all except for players, players’ families, coaches, staff and credentialed media.

In addition, the most shocking development came when the NBA announced it had suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, the 10th-seeded Roadrunners were playing to extend what had been a disappointing season, finally coming up short to the No. 7 Blazers.

Keaton Wallace scored 28 points to lead the Roadrunners. Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA’s all-time leading scorer and the No. 1 scorer in the C-USA, was held to 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting.

Records

UTSA 13-19
UAB 19-13

Notable

It was a tough day for Jackson, who had enjoyed the best individual, single-season scoring effort in school history. He never found a rhythm, tying for his second-lowest point total in 32 games.

UTSA coach Steve Henson, interviewed on the team’s post-game radio show, expressed some frustration at how the team was able to get Wallace on a hot streak, while Jackson struggled.

Quotable

“Jhivvan’s been so good here, and Keaton’s been struggling as of late,” Henson told Andy Everett on KTKR radio, The Ticket. “So we just talked to ’em real briefly. We didn’t have a ton of practice time. We just talked about sliding Keaton off the ball, just maybe trigger that thought.

“Knew it really wouldn’t play itself out that much, in terms of how often Jhivvan was the point (guard) and Keaton was off. I still think that’s a little bit overrated. But, maybe that clicked for Keaton.

“He didn’t have to initiate the offense for the first two or three minutes. We got some screens for him and got his first few shots to go down. That part was terrific. Downside was Jhivvan never got going.”

UTSA to take on the UAB Blazers in tournament play

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA came from behind in the second half to beat UAB 66-59 in a Conference USA bonus play game Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson, the nation’s second leading scorer, averages 27.2 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Roadrunners.

The UTSA Roadrunners will play the UAB Blazers on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in Frisco in the first round of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament, officials said.

The tournament is being played at The Star in Frisco.

UTSA will need to win four games in four days to earn the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Roadrunners earned the 10th seed in the C-USA tournament and a date with the No. 7 Blazers. The teams split two games this season, both of them in San Antonio.

If UTSA wins the opener, it would advance to the quarterfinals Thursday against No. 2 seed Western Kentucky.

Jackson-led Roadrunners rally late, down the UAB Blazers, 66-59

Jhivvan Jackson scored 28 points to lead UTSA past UAB on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center in a Conference USA bonus play game. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 28 points to lead UTSA past UAB on Sunday at the Convocation Center in Conference USA basketball. – photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by nine points with 4:53 remaining Sunday afternoon, the UTSA Roadrunners didn’t seem to have the spark necessary to win on the first day of March.

But, you know what they say about March and college basketball.

Jhivvan Jackson exploded for 14 points in a maddening 16-0 run as the Roadrunners rallied for a dramatic 66-59 victory over the UAB Blazers.

Sophomore forward Adrian Rodriguez made his first career start as UTSA beat UAB 66-59 in Conference USA bonus play on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore forward Adrian Rodriguez produced five points and seven rebounds in his first career start. – photo by Joe Alexander

“I think once we started getting stops in the second half, that gave us that little intensity to get back on offense,” Jackson said. “We started making easy shots. I made a couple of shots.

“I got a couple of looks, and they went in. Coach gave me the trust just to go to work. I was kind of hot, and the shots went in.”

For most of the day, Jackson wasn’t his usual self, missing 15 of his first 20 shot attempts and picking up a technical foul mid-way through the second half.

But in a riveting span of 2 minutes and 24 seconds at the end of the game, he hit four three-pointers, sank two free throws, assisted on a basket and made a steal.

Near the end of the explosion, the nation’s second-leading scorer hit threes on consecutive possessions that had the home crowd at the Convocation Center roaring in approval.

On the first one, he drifted into the corner, jab-stepped inside the arc and then stepped back outside the line before drilling the shot.

With the crowd still energized, he did it again with 2:07 left, swishing a 25-footer over 6-foot-10 Makhtar Gueye for a 62-55 lead.

UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez credited Jackson for shooting the ball well under pressure.

“It happens all the time,” said Rodriguez, who started the first game of his career at power forward. “It’s insane. That kid has a lot of talent. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Records

UTSA — 13-16, 7-9
UAB — 17-13, 8-9

What it means

For UTSA, the victory provided a boost to morale after a rough stretch in which the team had lost two straight and five out of seven.

With Jackson shooting poorly for most of the afternoon and some calls from the officiating crew not going their way, the chances for victory going into the last five minutes were not promising.

In that regard, it was an impressive showing to come back and win, and much needed, especially with the final two games of the regular season and the Conference USA tournament looming.

“Players are tired at this point in the season,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Officials are tired. Yeah, you got to stay together. You got to stay focused.

“This was an important win for us, just to get us re-charged. It would have been tough to bounce back (ordinarily) but I’ve been very impressed with our guys’ resiliency.

“I’ve mentioned that, almost every time we come off a loss, our guys have done great with that … We needed this one, for sure.”

Coming up

UTSA at Old Dominion, Wednesday at 6 p.m. Marshall at UTSA, Saturday at 3 p.m. (End of regular season.) UTSA at the Conference USA tournament, March 11-14, at Frisco.

By the numbers

UTSA — Jackson had 28 points on 10 of 26 shooting, including 5 of 6 in the last five minutes. Keaton Wallace added 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Byron Frohnen had three points, four assists and seven rebounds. Rodriguez had five points and seven rebounds.

UAB — Tyreek Scott-Grayson 18 points, eight rebounds. Tavin Lovan, 13 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Will Butler, four points on two of four from the floor. Lovan had 19 points and Butler 18 in a 76-68 victory at UTSA on Jan. 30.

First half recap

Struggling early in the game, Roadrunners tightened up on defense and emerged with a 23-23 tie.

UAB dominated in the opening minutes with a couple of dunks in forging a 9-3 lead. From there, UTSA started playing well, forcing the Blazers into awkward possessions and churning out a 14-0 run.

When Jackson hit a driving layup, the Roadrunners held a 17-9 edge.

Just as fast as the momentum shifted for UTSA, however, the visitors turned it around for themselves.

The Blazers kept Jackson bottled up during a 14-4 spree to produce a 23-21 lead going into the final minute.

Jacob Germany dunked on an alley-oop play for UTSA’s final bucket.

Notable

UTSA shuffled its starting lineup, with Rodriguez getting the start alongside Germany on the front line.

Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson started in the backcourt, along with Frohnen at small forward. Guard Erik Czumbel, a starter at point guard for most of the season, came off the bench and played 25 minutes.

Defensively, UTSA played well, holding UAB to an NCAA Division I opponent-low for scoring this season.

UAB dominates on the glass in a 76-68 victory over UTSA

Byron Frohnen. UAB beat UTSA in CUSA on Thursday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Byron Frohnen moved past Jeromie Hill to become UTSA’s career rebounding leader on a night, ironically, when the Roadrunners got out-rebounded 46-24. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UAB Blazers on Thursday night handed UTSA its first home loss in Conference USA play this season, out-muscling the Roadrunners, 76-68.

UAB won the battle on the boards, 46-24.

The Blazers pulled down 14 offensive rebounds and outscored the Roadrunners 38-22 in the paint and 15-2 in second-chance points.

Tavin Lovan produced 19 points and six rebounds for the Blazers. Wil Butler, playing out of the low post, hit 8 of 10 from the field and added 18 points.

Guards Keaton Wallace scored 26 and Jhivvan Jackson 20 for the Roadrunners, who entered the game with a 4-0 record at home in conference.

Jackson, the nation’s second-leading scorer, hit 6 of 16 from the floor. He was 2 of 9 in the second half.

Records

UTSA — 10-12, 4-5
UAB — 13-9, 4-5

Notable

Frohnen, a senior from Las Vegas, had four points, four rebounds and two assists. The effort gave him 845 rebounds for his career, which moved him past Jeromie Hill and into the No. 1 spot in the school’s record books. He also rose to No. 2 in career starts with 122.

With the loss, the Roadrunners fell to 8-2 at home in the Convocation Center. They had won seven straight at home. Their last loss at the Bird Cage came on Nov. 30 against the Prairie View A&M Panthers (79-72).

UAB rallies to oust UTSA from C-USA tournament, 85-76

The UTSA Roadrunners wanted to play all weekend in Frisco, if they could.

And, for most of the first half Thursday night, it looked as if they might have the right mojo to make a strong run in the Conference USA basketball tournament.

The UAB Blazers had other ideas.

Guard Zack Bryant produced 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the fifth-seeded Blazers, down by seven at intermission, rallied to eliminate the No. 4 Roadrunners, 85-76, in the tournament quarterfinals.

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson – File photo by Joe Alexander

Coming on strong late in the game played at The Star in Frisco, the Blazers shot 50 percent from the field and hit six three-point shots in the second half.

As a result, UAB will advance to take on the top-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs in Friday’s semifinals.

Jhivvan Jackson led the Roadrunners with 35 points on 9 of 24 shooting from the field. Keaton Wallace shot 5 of 14 from the floor and finished with 12 points.

Jackson left the game for a few minutes early in the second half after turning his ankle. It was a key sequence for the Roadrunners, who lost the lead and never recovered.

UAB held UTSA to 11 of 33 shooting from the floor after intermission.

First-half recap

Jackson came out firing in his first C-USA tournament game.

The 6-foot guard from Puerto Rico scored 21 points in the first half as the Roadrunners built a 42-35 lead.

Trailing by 12 points early and by 11 on a few more occasions, the Blazers rallied with a Tyreek Scott-Grayson-fueled 6-0 run in the last few minutes.

Scott-Grayson hit two shots in the run. UTSA answered with a Giovanni De Nicolao layup with 29 seconds to account for the final points in the half.

Records

UAB 20-13
UTSA 17-15

Coming up

It’s possible that UTSA could get a bid to either the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. But UTSA coach Steve Henson didn’t say for certain that the team would play again this season. As for the Blazers, they’ll face the Monarchs in Friday’s C-USA semifinals. Old Dominion escaped Louisiana Tech, 57-56, on a three in the final seconds by point guard Ahmad Caver.

Notable

UTSA was limited at the outset with Nick Allen trying to play on a fractured toe. But things got worse as the game went on, with Atem Bior getting in early foul trouble and then Byron Frohnen and Adrian Rodriguez suffering minor injuries in the second half. Taking advantage in the paint, UAB outrebounded UTSA, 42-30, including 17-9 on the offensive glass.

Quotable

“They just exerted their will and just crushed us on the glass (in) both halves. Drove it at us. Drove it at us. Drove it at us. And they mixed in some threes … Just overpowered us. You know, rebounding, driving at us and getting to the free-throw line … They dictated everything in the secod half in terms of physicality.’ — UTSA coach Steve Henson

UTSA wins home finale, boosts hopes for C-USA tourney bye

So many emotions were flowing on Sunday morning within the UTSA Roadrunners basketball program.

It was Senior Day, with veterans Nick Allen and Giovanni De Nicolao both set to play perhaps their last game at home.

On top of all that, the Roadrunners were hosting the dangerous UAB Blazers, with both teams bidding for a top-four finish in the regular season and a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament.

Adding even more drama, both Allen and Jhivvan Jackson were less than 100 percent physically. Through it all, the Roadrunners emerged with a 76-70 victory in front of 1,259 fans.

“I thought we fought really, really hard,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Our defense was terrific … In the second half, (the Blazers) did knock down some three pointers. But overall our defense was great, our fight was great.

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners won their home finale Sunday, improving to 16-13 on the season and 10-6 in Conference USA. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“Nick got hurt in practice yesterday and really couldn’t put his shoe on this morning.

“(He) fought like crazy and made some big plays down the stretch (with) offensive rebounds. (He’s) one of the physically toughest players I’ve ever been around. I’m so proud of him.”

Henson was equally impressed with Jackson, the leading scorer in Conference USA, who couldn’t practice the last few days with a left shoulder that he injured in Thursday night’s loss to Old Dominion.

The loss to ODU left UTSA looking at the possibility of an 0-2 record to open C-USA bonus play in the five-team Group 1, with two games yet to play on the road to complete the regular season.

After the season, Group 1 teams will be seeded into the C-USA postseason tournament, with the top four earning first-round byes. Now, after Jackson scored 27 points and Keaton Wallace added 22, the Roadrunners put themselves in good position to earn a bye.

It’s especially important for UTSA, a team that plays with a seven- or eight-man rotation.

“(A bye) is big for anybody,” Henson said. “You win the tournament and you go to the Big Dance (the NCAA Tournament). It’s a much bigger chore if you have to win four days in a row, rather than three. Any of those top four seeds have a big advantage by not having to play that first day.”

C-USA Standings
Group 1

x-Old Dominion 13-3, 23-6
Western Kentucky 11-6, 18-12
UTSA 10-6, 16-13
Southern Miss 9-7, 17-11
UAB 9-8, 17-13

x-clinched regular-season title and top seed in the tournament

Senior Day

Before the game, UTSA honored seniors Allen and Toby Van Ry. They also honored juniors De Nicolao and Mitar Stanocevic, who are graduating early. De Nicolao said afterward that it likely would be his last regular-season game at home for UTSA. He indicated he likely would play professionally next season in his native Italy. UTSA also celebrated the contributions of student manager Danny Soto.

Individuals

UAB — Lewis Sullivan 18 points and 9 rebounds. Zack Bryant, 15 points and 4 assists. Makhtar Gueye, 11 points and 8 rebounds. Jalen Perry, 11 points off the bench.

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson, 27 points on 9 of 20 shooting. Also, 7 rebounds. Keaton Wallace 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists. Giovanni De Nicolao, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists.

Key stat

The Roadrunners took charge of the game early, holding UAB to 35 percent shooting in the first half. They also cashed in on the other end, hitting 53.6 percent, including 6 of 12 from three.

Coming up

UTSA finishes the regular season with road games Wednesday at Western Kentucky and Saturday at Southern Miss.

Notable

UTSA is shooting for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2011. The only way to get there is to win the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled March 13-16 in Frisco.

If the Roadrunners come up short of the Big Dance, Henson said a possibility exists that they could play in the postseason in one of the other events — the NIT, the CBI or the CIT.

Jackson and Wallace buried three-point baskets in the last minute of the first half as UTSA assumed a 36-26 intermission lead against the UAB Blazers.

At a pivotal moment in the season, the Roadrunners came out with energy and took control of the game almost immediately.

They shot 53.6 percent in the first half, with Jackson and Wallace combining for 23 points.

UTSA to host Old Dominion on Feb. 28 in bonus play

The UTSA Roadrunners will get an 11-day break before opening Conference USA bonus play on Feb. 28 at home against Old Dominion, according to the C-USA schedule.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., with the game telecast on the CBS Sports Network.

UTSA, playing in Group 1 of the C-USA’s new scheduling format, also will host the UAB Blazers before going on the road to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

UTSA schedule

Feb. 28 — (1) Old Dominion at (4) UTSA, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

March 3 — (5) UAB at (4) UTSA, 3 p.m., CUSA TV

March 6 — (4) UTSA at (2) Western Kentucky, 6:30 p.m., beIN SPORTS

March 9 — (4) UTSA at (3) Southern Miss, 5 p.m., CUSA TV

C-USA Group 1

1) Old Dominion 11-3, 21-6

2) Western Kentucky 9-5, 16-11

3) Southern Miss 9-5, 17-9

4) UTSA 9-5, 15-12

5) UAB 8-6, 16-11

Notable

The Group 1 standings leader after bonus play is the C-USA regular-season champion. The top four teams after bonus play receive byes through the first round of the conference tournament.

UTSA versus the elite

Here is a recap of UTSA’s regular-season games against each of its four opponents in bonus play:

x-UAB 83, UTSA 73, at Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 19 – The Blazers took charge with 16-3 run to close the first half, followed by a 15-0 streak to open the second half

x-UTSA 74, Old Dominion 73, at San Antonio, Jan. 26 – The Roadrunners rocked the Bird Cage with a 25-6 run in the final 4:43 to erase an 18-point deficit.

x-Western Kentucky 96, UTSA 88, overtime, at Bowling Green Ky., Jan. 31 – Hilltoppers won in spite of 46 points from UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson.

x-Southern Miss 78, UTSA 71, at Hattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 14 – Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Leoard Harper-Baker combined for 56 points, leading the Golden Eagles on a comeback from an early 23-10 deficit.

Hot-shooting UAB Blazers down UTSA, 83-73

The UAB Blazers shot 53.6 percent from the field Saturday night and walloped the UTSA Roadrunners, 83-73, in a Conference USA game at Birmingham.

UAB knocked down 30 of 56 shots from the floor for the second-best shooting night against the Roadrunners this season.

Only South Dakota State, hitting 60 percent at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida on Nov. 20, shot it better than UAB against a usually sound UTSA defense.

Senior guard Jalen Perry led six UAB players in double figures with 18 points.

Center Makhtar Gueye hurt the Roadrunners on both ends of the floor, as the 6-10 post produced 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Keaton Wallace led the Roadruners with 33 points and eight rebounds.

Disappointing trip

It was the second loss in three nights on a disappointing Conference USA road trip for UTSA.

After starting the trip on a seven-game winning streak, the Roadrunners fell from first in the conference by stumbling against both Middle Tennessee and UAB.

UTSA trailed by 21 in the second half at last-place Middle Tennessee on Thursday and rallied at the end, coming up short, 89-86.

Scoring droughts

Against the Blazers, the Roadrunners started fast but went through three extended scoring droughts.

As a result, they were playing from behind for most of the night.

Early in the second half, they rallied to within two and then faltered, giving up a 12-0 run burying them in a 14-point deficit with 12:52 left.

The Roadrunners fell behind by 20 at one point and came no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Records

UTSA 10-9, 4-2
UAB 12-7, 4-2

Coming up

UTSA plays twice at home next week, hosting Charlotte on Thursday and Old Dominion on Saturday.

Notable

The back-to-back losses were the first for UTSA since November against UC Irvine and South Dakota State in Florida. Those losses capped an 0-5 start to the season.

Quotable

“Road trip wasn’t good for us. Our guys are practicing the right way. I got to help ’em figure out how we can get better offensively. This was probably one of our worst defensive games, but a lot of that was them — they just attacked us.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson