AAC men’s basketball gets an infusion of talent from Conference USA

Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Dusty May and his FAU Owls won the Conference USA title and advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four last spring. The Owls are now picked to win the American Athletic Conference in their first year as a member of the league. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the departure of Houston, UCF and Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference, a compelling question looms. Will the glory days of AAC men’s basketball soon fade into the frayed and yellowed pages of history?

Or, with the arrival of six schools from Conference USA, including Final Four darling Florida Atlantic, has the AAC actually started to trek down a road to become a better league — from top to bottom — than it has been in recent years?

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson talked to reporters Monday in Dallas at the AAC media day. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“I think we’re going to have the best roster of coaches in men’s and women’s basketball that we’ve ever had,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said at the televised AAC media day on Monday morning in Dallas. “I think this conference is deeper than it’s ever been.

“We’ll lose Houston, and they obviously did a lot for the conference. When you really think about what Kelvin Sampson (the Houston men’s coach) meant and what he did for the conference, I want to really applaud him. But this conference is now deeper, and it will be better, than it was before.”

On a local level, another weighty question is being asked.

Can UTSA, picked to finish last in its first season in the AAC, ever contend on a consistent basis in what officials hope will become a conference that annually sends multiple teams to the NCAA tournament? Or, are fans of the Roadrunners destined to feel more misery than euphoria in the years ahead?

UTSA coach Steve Henson, whose teams have finished 10-22 in each of the past two seasons, brushed off the poll results and said he’s energized with a roster of players that turned over almost entirely from last year.

“We’re excited about those new guys,” Henson told an ESPN media crew. “We set out this summer, tried to get ’em in as early as possible. It was a little bit of a challenge to get ’em signed, to get ’em all committed, get ’em on board and get ’em to class.

“But the majority of them were around (campus) in the summer. We anticipated needing to do some team bonding, to facilitate some chemistry. But they kind of handled all that on their own. So that was exciting. That was issue No. 1, getting those guys to gel.”

Once coaches started to work with the new group, which features three strong post defenders, a few quick point guards and some wings that can run the fast break, the identity of the squad came into sharper focus.

“We like our versatility,” Henson said. “We’re an older group. We’re not alone in saying that, in this day and age. There’s a lot of older teams right now. But we think this group’s got a chance with our versatility and hunger and desire to do something special.”

Asked about the program in general, Henson said it’s an exciting time to be in UTSA athletics.

“It’s just an exciting time to be at UTSA,” he said. “We’re a young university. A young athletic department (with) a young football program that’s absolutely crushing it. Football in Texas — it’s kind of a big deal. We just try to piggy-back off that momentum. It’s a good basketball city with the Spurs traditionally. Renewed interest there with (rookie Victor Wembanyama) coming to town.

UAB coach Andy Kennedy. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Andy Kennedy and the UAB Blazers are picked to finish fourth in the AAC. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“So, it’s a great place to live. It’s a thriving university. If you drive near our campus, (there’s) construction everywhere. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. People don’t realize we’re the seventh-largest city in the country. Sounds like we’re closing in on No. 6. It’s just a fun place to be right now. A lot of excitement.

“People talk about the River Walk, which is great. If you visit San Antonio, you’re going to go to the River Walk. We’ve got our own separate area around our campus, which is thriving like crazy.”

At one time, Roadrunner basketball was thriving under Henson, who is entering his eighth season at the school. The team posted winning records in three of four seasons in one stretch and finished in the upper division of C-USA with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace leading the way. Despite the Roadrunners’ recent struggles, Henson firmly believes UTSA basketball can become a contender again.

“Our kids are going to play extremely hard,” he said. “You know, the polls (picking UTSA for last place) are out. We’re not going to have to do a lot of putting that up on the walls. You know, our kids are going to see it. They’re going to use that as motivation. We won’t over-do that with them.

“They’re going to be hungry. They’re motivated. We literally had one kid cry when we offered him a scholarship, he was so thrilled to come in. (But) this group’s going to play hard. We’ve always played fast. This team is built to play fast. We have shooters. We’ve got three big guys on the interior that are all defensive-minded and talk. We’re excited about it.

“Again, this group will use the polls as motivation.”

Last year, the postseason tournaments served as a reminder that Conference USA teams entering the American would be competitive. For instance, after FAU won the C-USA, it turned around and beat AAC champion Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Columbus, Ohio. Then it went on to win 35 games en route to the school’s first berth in the Final Four.

Furthermore, both North Texas and UAB won berths in the National Invitation Tournament, and both kept winning until they met in the finals in Las Vegas. Once in the title game at the Orleans Arena, North Texas downed UAB, 68-61. In addition, Charlotte won the College Basketball Invitational, downing Eastern Kentucky, 71-68, in the finals at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Combined, the four teams posted a combined record of 117-35. In the AAC preseason poll, FAU was picked to win, with Memphis second, Tulane third and UAB fourth. UAB Blazers coach Andy Kennedy told ESPN on Monday afternoon that the new-look AAC will need to earn its respect in November and December.

“Ultimately, you make your hay in the non-league (games),” Kennedy said. “We’ve certainly challenged ourselves, and I’ve looked around at the other schedules around the league, and a lot of our teams are going to challenge themselves early. We have to win some of those games, so that when we get into the gauntlet of league play …

“People ask me all the time, I’ve coached in the Big East. I’ve coached 12 years in the SEC. And they say,
What’s the hardest league in the country?’ I say, ‘It’s the one you’re in.’ That’s how coaches look at it. So the league is going to be very, very challenging.

“I think if we can do what we need to do as a group, heading into conference play, we’re going to put ourselves into a position to be a multi-bid league.”

AAC Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Florida Atlantic (11) 167
2. Memphis (3) 159
3. Tulane 142
4. UAB 128
5. East Carolina 105
6. North Texas 100
7. SMU 97
8. Wichita State 90
9. South Florida 62
10. Tulsa 59
11. Rice 56
12. Temple 49
13. Charlotte 46
14. UTSA 14

Notes: First-place votes in parentheses. Florida Atlantic, UAB, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte and UTSA are set to play in the AAC for the first time this year after splitting away from Conference USA.

Magic number in sight: UTSA needs seven more wins to reach 40 for the season

Leyton Barry and the UTSA Roadrunners have won 33 games through the end of April. A school-record, 40-win season seems entirely possible. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners have talked openly recently about a few of their goals for the baseball season.

Namely, that they want to win a Conference USA title. That they also want to secure an NCAA tournament bid, and that they would like to make some noise when they get there, as well.

But after winning two out of three games against the UAB Blazers last weekend, another compelling possibility is also looming.

Could the Roadrunners actually reach the 40-victory plateau in a season for the first time?

Well, it certainly seems possible now. They notched victory No. 33 on Sunday with a 9-4 win over the UAB Blazers in Birmingham.

On a windy day, Leyton Barry’s two-run double highlighted a four-run fifth inning as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners beat the Blazers for the second day in a row.

With the win and a 2-1 series victory in the books, the Roadrunners (33-11) can now turn their attention to Tuesday night when they host the Sam Houston State Bearkats in non conference, and then Friday night when they host the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game C-USA series.

Altogether, the Roadrunners have 11 games remaining in the regular season, and that’s all before they will take the field for the conference tournament, which is set for May 24-28 at Houston.

All of which means, the school record of 39 wins in a season established in both 1994 and 2008 is now in serious jeopardy, and a 40-win season is well within reach.

In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the Roadrunners already have established a certain level of excellence that will serve them well in coming years.

Last year, they challenged for the C-USA regular-season crown, won 38 games and reached the title game in the conference tournament. This year, they’ve backed it up with another strong season.

By winning two of three at Birmingham, the Roadrunners have now claimed winning records in 10 of 11 weekend series this season, with the only outlier being a rain-shortened weekend that ended in a 1-1 split of two games at Charlotte.

Their weekend in Birmingham started with a bummer.

On Friday, Blazers pitcher Brooks Walton went the nine-inning distance and scattered four hits in a 4-2 victory over the Roadrunners. On Saturday, a team scuffling near the bottom of the C-USA standings had the upper hand again for most of the day before the Roadrunners exploded for four runs in the ninth inning to win, 6-5.

On Sunday, UTSA had a much easier time of it, with UTSA generating four runs in the fifth to open up a 7-3 lead. Even though the Blazers got one run back and threatened seriously to close the gap even more, relief pitching ace Simon Miller silenced a rally in the seventh and went on to record a three-inning scoreless save.

Just about the time that Miller started to shut down the Blazers, the Rice Owls took a 3-1 lead on the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots. It appeared that the Roadrunners, if they could hold on, could make up some ground in the regular-season title race on one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Well, the Roadrunners closed the deal. But the Patriots didn’t cooperate. They rumbled to life in the ninth inning and roared past the Owls, 4-3. In completing the three-game series sweep, the Patriots improved to 34-10 and 18-3 in the conference, a game and a half ahead of 16-4 UTSA.

How will the race go down the stretch?

Frankly, the Patriots might be tough to catch, the way they’re playing. They’ve won 14 conference games in a row, and in the coming weeks, they’ll play three-game series against Middle Tennessee State, UTSA and Western Kentucky.

The Patriots will get Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky at home, sandwiched around a trip to San Antonio May 12-14 for a date with UTSA at Roadrunner Field.

By comparison, UTSA will host Rice in a three-game stretch later this week and then Dallas Baptist the following week, before it finishes on the road at Louisiana Tech, always a difficult place to play.

Single games in non conference remain for UTSA starting Tuesday, when they host Sam Houston State, and on May 16, in a road test at Abilene Christian. After Abilene, the Roadrunners go to LA Tech, for a C-USA series scheduled May 18-20.

So, 40 wins is definitely possible. But, is it possible even before UTSA gets to Houston for the conference tournament?

It is, if you consider that the Roadrunners seem entirely capable of going 7-4 down the stretch. But what about the team’s chances on Memorial Day weekend at Houston? What about reaching the NCAA tournament?

Right now, it’s just too hard to project anything definitive about either one of those situations. In another three weeks, at the end of the regular season, the dust will clear and UTSA’s big picture forecast should be much easier for everyone to see.

For the time being, it’s probably best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.


UTSA 33-11, 16-4
UAB 14-29, 5-16

Coming up

Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, three game series starting Friday.

UAB series glance

Friday: UAB beat UTSA, 4-2.
Saturday: UTSA beat UAB, 6-5.
Sunday: UTSA beat UAB, 9-4.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 18-3, 34-10
UTSA 16-4, 33-11
Charlotte 12-8, 22-21
Louisiana Tech 11-10, 22-23
Middle Tennessee 11-10, 22-21


Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark was ejected after the top of the third inning Sunday, apparently for objecting to calls on balls and strikes. It was his second ejection of the season.

UTSA starting pitcher Ulises Quiroga (7-2) worked 5 and 2/3 innings and earned the victory. He gave up four runs on six hits, while walking five and striking out five. Simon Miller picked up his team-leading 10th save. Miller didn’t allow a run or a hit in three innings and lowered his earned run average to 1.10.

Lefty Carson Myers (1-5) took the loss after yielding seven runs in 4 and 1/3 innings to start the game for the Blazers.

UTSA outfielder Shane Sirdashney returned to play in his first game since April 16. Sirdashney entered as a defensive substitute in center field in the bottom of the seventh and then had two at bats. He bunted for a sacrifice on his first plate appearance and then hit an RBI single in the ninth.

Isaiah Walker, another UTSA outfielder who has missed time with an injury lately, started the game, played both right and center field and went 0 for 2 at the plate. He was also hit by a pitch.

UTSA rallies with four runs in the ninth to stun UAB, 6-5

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez drilled a three-run homer to highlight a four-run uprising in the top of the ninth inning, and then relief ace Simon Miller closed the door in the bottom half Saturday afternoon as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners downed the UAB Blazers, 6-5, in Birmingham.

With the victory, UTSA evened the three-game Conference USA series at one victory apiece. The finale is set for Sunday at noon.

UTSA’s Leyton Barry led off the game with a solo homer. It was his second homer in two days in Birmingham. Later in the inning, Josh Killeen ripped a run-scoring single, lifting the Roadrunners into an early 2-0 lead.

In response, UAB rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second, before adding single runs in the fourth and the fifth innings for a 5-2 lead. Darryl Buggs led the Blazers with four hits, including a home run and a double.

Trailing by three runs going into the top of the ninth, UTSA called on pinch-hitter Clark Henry, who drew a leadoff walk from Tyler O’Clair.

At that point, UAB elected to take out O’Clair, who had been effective in four plus innings of work.

Blazers reliever John Luke Martin promptly walked Barry, putting runners at first and second, and UTSA’s Taylor Smith followed with a single up the middle, which loaded the bases.

Caleb Hill brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly to deep left, trimming the UAB lead to 5-3. Then, with two runners still aboard, Valdez hit a 2-1 pitch off of Martin for a three-run blast, giving UTSA a one-run cushion. It was the ninth homer of the season for Valdez.

Given a one-run lead, UTSA coaches brought in Miller, one of the top relief pitchers in the nation.

Miller retired the first batter of the inning, Tyler Waugh, on a ground ball. From there, however, things got interesting as Christian Hall doubled into the gap in right center.

Brayton Brown, who had two doubles on the day, grounded to shortstop for the second out and moved Hall over to third base.

Henry Hunter, the potential winning run, stepped to the plate and flied out to center to end it. For Miller, it was his ninth save of the season.

For UTSA, it was the team’s second victory of the week after trailing going into the ninth inning. On Tuesday, playing at home, the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Houston Christian, 9-8, in non-conference play.


UTSA 32-11, 15-4
UAB 14-28, 5-15

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Sunday at noon
Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 17-3, 33-10
UTSA 15-4, 32-11
Charlotte 12-7, 22-20
Middle Tennessee 11-9, 22-20
Louisiana Tech 10-10, 21-23


The 19th-ranked Dallas Baptist Patriots have won the first two games of a series against the Rice Owls, pushing their lead over the Roadrunners to one and a half games. The Patriots (17-3 in conference, 33-10 overall) won 8-6 in 12 innings and 10-3 at Rice’s Reckling Park in Houston.

Playing in Birmingham, the Roadrunners (15-4, 32-11) were defeated by the UAB Blazers 4-2 on Friday night and then bounced back to beat the Blazers 6-5 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the third-place Charlotte 49ers (12-7, 22-20) have lost twice at Western Kentucky and fourth-place Middle Tennessee (11-9, 22-20) has split a pair at home with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

UAB Blazers shut down UTSA 4-2 in opener of three-game series

Backing the strong pitching of Brooks Walton, Logan Braunschweig delivered a two-run single in a four-run fourth inning Friday night as the UAB Blazers downed the 25th-ranked UTSA Roadrunners 4-2 in Conference USA baseball.

Walton went the nine-inning distance, yielding only four hits. Two were solo home runs by Leyton Barry and Caleb Hill. The 6-foot-5 righthander struck out three and walked three.


UTSA 31-11, 14-4
UAB 14-27, 5-14

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 15-3
UTSA 14-4
Charlotte 12-6

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Saturday and Sunday, at noon each day.


The Rice Owls were leading the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Houston when officials announced a weather delay and later said the game would be suspended for the night and completed on Saturday. The re-start is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Reckling Park, with the second game of the series to follow. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky defeated third-place Charlotte, 8-4.

UTSA set to open a three-game road series at UAB

Locked into a race for the Conference USA baseball title, UTSA Roadrunners open a three-game series on the road Friday against the UAB Blazers.

The Dallas Baptist Patriots (15-3) lead the C-USA standings by percentage points over the Roadrunners (14-3), with the Charlotte 49ers (12-5) also in the picture.

In other series involving C-USA title contenders this weekend, the Patriots play three games in Houston against the Rice Owls, while the 49ers play three on the road in Bowling Green against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Dallas Baptist had its 14-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night in an 8-6 loss at TCU but remains as the top team in the Ratings Percentage Index at No. 15 nationally.

UTSA, coming off a 9-8 home victory over Houston Christian, is 42nd in the RPI. Charlotte is 63rd.

In media polls published Monday, UTSA remained in the top 25 for the second straight week. The Roadrunners were listed at No. 23 in Baseball America and No. 25 by DI Baseball. The Patriots are 19th in both polls.


UTSA 31-10, 14-3
UAB 13-27, 4-14

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 15-3
UTSA 14-3
Charlotte 12-5

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Saturday and Sunday, at noon each day.

UAB rallies to win a ‘rock fight’ against determined UTSA

John Buggs after landing hard on his rear end with 12:16 to play. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard John Buggs III grimaces after landing hard on his rear end with 12:16 to play. Buggs and the Roadrunners lost to the UAB Blazers 83-78 in Conference USA men’s basketball on Saturday in San Antonio. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

After claiming a victory Saturday afternoon in a hotly-contested basketball game at the UTSA Convocation Center, UAB’s Andy Kennedy clinched a 20-win season for the 13th time in his 16 years as a coach.

Though he hits that magic number on a nearly annual basis, he always enjoys the moment and never takes it for granted.

UAB's Jordan "Jelly" Walker. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UAB’s Jordan “Jelly” Walker finished with 25 points on eight of 19 shooting from the field. Walker knocked down four triples. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Because he knows he can’t.

“The game tonight proved that to us,” Kennedy said. “You can’t take any game for granted. Every game is a battle, and I give (UTSA coach) Steve (Henson’s) team a lot of credit.

“They’ve obviously had a frustrating year (and) had a huge win Thursday against Rice.

“We knew if we didn’t come out here and impose our will early, it was going to be a rock fight, and they turned it into a rock fight.”

As it turned out, the Blazers had more and bigger rocks in their bag.

UAB, a team that represented C-USA in the NCAA tournament last year, rallied from slow starts in both halves and rode 70.4 percent shooting after intermission to an 83-78 victory.

With the win, third-place UAB (20-8, 11-6) improved to 8-1 in its last nine games and kept pace with other C-USA contenders in the chase for first-round byes in the postseason tournament.

Japhet Medor. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Japhet Medor led the Roadrunners with 22 points, four assists and two steals. Medor has 56 points, 13 assists and 10 steals in his last three games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Blazers did it the hard way, falling into an 11-point hole early in the second half and then charging back to deal the last-place Roadrunners (8-20, 2-15) a heart-breaking blow in their quest to gain both momentum and respectability.

“Proud of the whole thing,” said Henson, whose team snapped an 11-game losing streak Thursday night at Rice. “Proud of our focus, our preparation, our rebounding, our toughness. Disappointed, you know. The game’s on the line, and they made plays, and we didn’t.”

Jordan “Jelly” Walker, the fourth-leading scorer in the nation, scored a game-high 25 points. After sitting out much of the second half in foul trouble, the 5-foot-11 guard from Long Island, N.Y., produced 10 points in the final two minutes.

Despite the outburst from Walker, UTSA had a chance at the end to spring an upset victory.

The Roadrunners trailed by three with less than 18 seconds remaining when a three-point attempt by John Buggs III missed, glancing off the front of the rim. Walker hit two free throws with five seconds left for the final points of the game.

Japhet Medor led UTSA with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. Struggling with a back issue during the game, Buggs finished with 14 points, as did freshman guard DJ Richards, who also had a team-high eight rebounds.

Jacob Germany came off the bench for 11 points and six boards.

UAB's Trey Jemison. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UAB center Trey Jemison is a big man, 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds. He contributed eight points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots – Photo by Joe Alexander

With two games in Florida next week and then a regular-season finale at home against Charlotte on March 2, the Roadrunners are playing better basketball.

They beat Rice, a solid team, by five points on the road Thursday night and then led for much of the afternoon Saturday against UAB.

But they have precious little time to gain the type of momentum teams can only get by stringing together victories.

“Super proud of our effort early in the game, our fight, our rebounding,” Henson said. “It was unbelievable. They’re a good rebounding team. They’re athletic. You know there’s not a ton of nights when we line up and think we might get overpowered.

But this was one of the teams that could do it if we didn’t have the right mindset.”

In that regard, young players for UTSA like Richards, Massal Diouf and Lamin Sabally competed at a high level. Even though the 6-foot-5 Richards wasn’t on as a shooter, his work on the glass was impressive.

Diouf (five points, six rebounds) and Sabally six points, six boards) battled against UAB’s Trey Jemison and KJ Buffen, respectively. Even though the Roadrunners lost the game, they could see the potential for both young players, who were matched against some of the conference’s best.

Steve Henson and DJ Richards. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson confers with freshman guard DJ Richards, who produced 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson said it was Sabally’s best game.

“Massal was fantastic early in the game,” Henson said. “Lamin was very good. Loved the way we started it.”

It was the finish that felled the Roadrunners. In the second half, they coughed up the ball on turnovers too much, leading to transition baskets for the Blazers, who hit 19 of 27 shots from the field in the second half..

Buffen and Ty Brewer, in particular, had some big moments after Walker had to go to the bench with four fouls.

Brewer had 13 of his 16 points and Brewer had eight of his 12 in the second half. With Walker on the bench, UAB erased much of what had been an 11-point deficit.

When Walker returned, he took over, scoring 10 points in the last two minutes for the Blazers.


UAB 20-8, 11-6
UTSA 8-20, 2-15

Coming up

UTSA at Florida Atlantic, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.
UTSA at FIU, Feb. 25, 6 p.m.
Charlotte at UTSA, March 2, 7 p.m.

C-USA tournament

March 8-11, at Frisco. All 11 teams are invited. Six teams play on the first day. Five get byes into the second round.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore Lamin Sabally had perhaps his best game of the season with six points and six rebounds. He was three for four from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

First half

UTSA fans stood and cheered at halftime for the Roadrunners, who showed significant passion, effort and execution in bolting to a 41-35 lead on the UAB Blazers.

Medor, leading the way on offense, used his speed and moxy to score 13 points. Richards also got into the act with nine.

Defensively, the Roadrunners held the Blazers to 12 of 37 shooting from the field. UAB’s shooting percentage of 32.4 wasn’t all because of UTSA’s defensive effort. Some of it had to do with the Blazers’ lackluster mindset at the start of the game.

But in the end, UTSA played hard and did a good job against one of the most explosive teams in NCAA Division I. Walker was quiet early but warmed up to the occasion soon enough, scoring 13 in the half. He hit three from 3-point distance.

With UAB playing at a casual pace early, UTSA jumped out to a 14-2 lead. UAB cranked up the intensity later, putting together a 13-0 run at one point. UTSA, to its credit, didn’t fold. UAB held its largest lead at 21-18.

Massal Diouf, Japhet Medor and John Buggs III. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Japhet Medor (center) has a word with Massal Diouf (left) and John Buggs III. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A cookie, an allergic reaction and a hospital visit couldn’t stop UTSA guard Japhet Medor

Japhet Medor. UTSA men's basketball lost to UTEP 77-66 on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Battling through injuries and a recent bout with a chocolate cookie, UTSA point guard Japhet Medor says he thinks the Roadrunners are ready to play in a home game today against high-scoring Jordan “Jelly” Walker and the powerful UAB Blazers. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Sidetracked by a health scare and an unexpected trip to a Houston hospital Wednesday night, Japhet Medor returned to his hotel room and did what you’d expect from any college student.

He slept it off.

Japhet Medor. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Japhet Medor, UTSA’s leading scorer, confirmed in an interview Friday that he plans to return to play for the Roadrunners next season. It will be the program’s first year in the American Athletic Conference. – File photo by Joe Alexander

An allergic reaction to an apparent peanut butter-like substance in a chocolate cookie would not get the best of him. It would not deter the UTSA point guard from the business at hand.

Medor stated his case emphatically on Thursday night, playing a team-high 36 minutes and making a few clutch plays late in an 84-79 victory for the UTSA Roadrunners over the Rice Owls.

Powered by John Buggs III, Josh Farmer, Jacob Germany and Medor, the Roadrunners snapped a school-record 11-game losing streak and returned home to San Antonio with visions of another upset victory.

They’ll get that opportunity today when they host the UAB Blazers at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

Medor, who has overcome a couple of ankle/foot injuries this season in addition to his bout with the cookie, reflected on it all as the Roadrunners prepared to face one of the best teams in Conference USA.

“It’s been a tough journey,” the Florida native said. “It hasn’t been the season that we all anticipated. It’s been an up and down road for us as a team. Just, being healthy as a team, has been tough. With my foot, when I was out, it just didn’t feel right.”

Medor sprained the foot in practice on Jan. 18, the day before UTSA hosted the nationally-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls.

It was a crushing blow to the Roadrunners, to lose the engine of their offense at that time.

In the three games that Medor eventually sat out, UTSA fell to FAU and Florida International at home and North Texas on the road.

The Roadrunners weren’t close against the Owls, losing by 19. Against FIU and North Texas, they lost by five and four points, respectively.

Once during the stretch, Medor walked over to press row with the boot on his foot and talked briefly to a reporter, explaining that he could run in straight lines in practice but still had trouble moving from side to side.

Even when he returned to play in his first game on Jan. 28 against Louisiana Tech, he still wasn’t right, physically, and the Roadrunners lost again. Losses to Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and UTEP followed.

Against UTEP, though, Medor was feeling good again physically. He scored 20 points, which included 10 for 10 shooting at the free throw line, and he made four steals. His confidence was growing.

Then came the road trip to play at Rice. On the bus ride from San Antonio to Houston, he ate a meal, and he felt fine.

But when the team arrived at its hotel destination, he pulled out the cookie and smelled it, knowing that it wasn’t wise for him to ingest anything with peanut butter.

It smelled OK, so he ate it.

“I didn’t know (about the peanut butter),” he said. “(By) the third bite, I felt something was wrong. My lips started tingling. Like I was getting an allergic reaction, and I started throwing up.

“By the time I got upstairs, my face was swelling up. My nose (was congested, and) I couldn’t breathe … Within an hour of the time we got there, I was in the hospital.”

At the hospital, he felt more discomfort. Itchy eyes, the works. Pretty soon, it was under control, Medor said, as he took fluids and “everything got flushed out.”

“Day of the game, I felt perfectly fine,” Medor said.

Against Rice, Buggs led the team with a spirited performance.

Medor’s backcourt running mate scored 23 points. He hit five 3-point shots. Farmer and Germany were solid in their play off the bench, too. Farmer poured in 18 points and grabbed six rebounds. Germany contributed 16 and eight.

Medor, just 24 hours removed from his allergic reaction, produced 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. At the end, he made a critical play. With UTSA clinging to a three-point lead, Rice inbounded the ball and Medor got the steal.

On the other end, he knocked down both free throws with 12 seconds left, boosting the lead to five points. With a second remaining, Medor was at the line again, knocking down two for two.

“It felt good,” Medor said. “There was a lot of good that we’d done as a team (this season). We’d just have these two-minute (stretches) where we’d fall off. So, getting that win was big. It just uplifted everybody in the program.”

Now comes the hard part, trying to win back to back against the Jordan “Jelly” Walker-led Blazers, who average 82 points per game.

“We’re ready for tomorrow’s game,” Medor said. “Coming off the win at Rice, it’s a good feeling. We feel like the coaches got us prepared the right way. We just need to put the ball through the basket and get stops.”

Coming up

UAB Blazers at UTSA Roadrunners, Conference USA men’s basketball, today, 3 p.m.


UAB 19-8, 10-6
UTSA 8-19, 2-14

Flipping the script: UTSA women ride a fourth-quarter rally to a 71-68 victory over UAB

Jordan Jenkins hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 9 seconds left. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble but hit the game-winning shot — a 3-pointer — with nine seconds left. With the victory, UTSA snapped a three-game losing streak. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA coach Karen Aston and her staff improved the program in so many areas since the end of last season. They brought in eight newcomers, including five freshmen, to bolster the roster. The returning players all made strides to better themselves.

At the same time, the Roadrunners took their lumps early in Aston’s second year as coach.

Sidney Love. UTSA beat Idaho 76-69 in women's basketball on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Sidney Love scored a season and career-high 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They played through November and most of December and, because of late-in-the-game mistakes or bad breaks or, whatever, they couldn’t seem to turn the corner toward respectability — until Saturday.

Trailing by 10 points in the second half and by seven after three quarters, UTSA caught a spark and raced to a 71-68 victory over the UAB Blazers at the Convocation Center.

Junior forward Jordyn Jenkins hit the winner on a three-pointer at the top of the circle with nine seconds left, and freshman guard Sidney Love blocked a shot at the buzzer, as the Roadrunners prevailed to split two games on their first weekend of C-USA competition.

“I’m really happy for the girls,” Aston said. “It’s a growth process. But at the same time, you do need to be rewarded a little bit. Hopefully this gives us some confidence to know that (we) can win close games.

“In reality, all of our conference teams look like this. I think there’s a lot of parity in our league based on what you’re looking at and some of the teams I’ve seen.

“It’s going to be a possession game from this point forward, and I think we’re getting closer to understanding what every possession means.”

Siena Guttadauro. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

California native Siena Guttadauro also sparked the fourth-quarter rally with nine points, an assist and a steal. In one sequence, she hit back-to-back triples. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Calling it a game for the UTSA guards, Aston couldn’t have been happier with the way her freshman backcourt players performed in the fourth quarter. Love scored 11 points and Siena Guttadauro contributed nine in the last 10 minutes.

Finer details of the fourth quarter rally? Love and Guttadauro combined for seven field goals, including six threes, and they each made three apiece from long distance.

In addition, Kyra White executed a solid play on the game-winning three by Jenkins, driving on the right side and then hooking a pass out to Jenkins on the perimeter. UAB freshman Denim DeShields, sucked into the middle on the drive, ran out to the perimeter to contest Jenkins’ jumper with a hande up, but it was too late.

“I thought the game was about our guards today,” Aston said. “…They were aggressive. They were in attack mode. So I think that possession in particular was from the fact that they were aggressive the whole game, so everybody kind of drew to Kyra, which created Jordan being pretty much wide open.”

Jenkins, the C-USA’s leading scorer, said it felt “pretty good” to drain the three.

“There’s been a couple of games when it’s been close and I’d been taking shots that hadn’t fallen,” she said. “So, it was like tough on my mental … The last shot, (it) felt good. It gives me some confidence. Yeah. It’s cool. I love when my teammates celebrate.”

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by seven points going into the fourth quarter, Coach Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners rallied to win, improving to 3-8 overall and 1-1 in Conference USA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After Jenkins connected, the Blazers called time out to set up a play on the other end. But as the ball was inbounded and found its way to UAB forward Lyndsey Robson on the 3-point line, her shot was blocked by Love, and it bounded away as time expired.

All of that was a welcome change of fortune for the Roadrunners, who cheered wildly from the bench when the final horn sounded. At that point, too, the box score did not lie. There was Love, a first-year collegian out of San Antonio-area Steele High School, with a team-high 23 points.

“It always feels good when I can do anything to benefit the team,” Love said. “I guess this game, it just happened to be me and Siena, who sort of stepped up for the team.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was Guttadauro, who had not played in the team’s last three games. The native Californian hadn’t played since the Idaho game on Dec. 10, and yet she came in and sparked the team, including back-to-back threes at one point.

“No, it didn’t surprise me,” Love said. “I’m confident in Siena. She’s a pure shooter. She can shoot the ball with her eyes closed.”


UTSA 3-8, 1-1
UAB 8-4, 0-3

Coming up

UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, Jan. 5
UTSA at Western Kentucky, Jan. 7


UAB — Guard Denim DeShields had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Off the bench, Forward Destinee McGhee scored 11 and forward Tracey Bershers had 10. Margaret Whitley, the team’s leading scorer, was held zero for eight shooting and four points.

UTSA — Guard Sidney Love, a season-high 23 points. Also seven rebounds. Jenkins, averaging a C-USA best 20.6 coming in, had 13 points in 18 minutes limited by foul trouble. Guttadauro, nine points on three of five triples, all in the fourth quarter. Guard Kyra White, four points, 10 rebounds, nine assists.


The Roadrunners shuffled their starting lineup, going with Madison Cockrell, Hailey Atwood, Queen Ulabo, White and Jenkins. Love and Elyssa Coleman (seven points, seven rebounds) were the first players to sub into the game for UTSA.

Madison Cockrell. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Madison Cockrell started in the backcourt and produced six points, two assists and two rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA outrebounded UAB, 53-35, including 21-8 on the offensive glass. The Roadrunners also made a season-high 11 three-point shots. They held the best three-point percentage team in the C-USA to eight of 29 from distance.

Delino DeShields Sr. is the father of UAB’s freshman point guard. Her brother, Delino Jr., has played seven years in MLB, including last season with the Cincinnati Reds. Sister Diamond DeShields is with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

First half

The Roadrunners controlled the boards, winning the battle on the offensive glass decisively, as they battled the UAB Blazers to a 29-29 deadlock at halftime.

The game played at the UTSA Convocation Center featured a battle of freshmen point guards. Denim DeShields had 13 at the half for the Blazers, while Madison Cockrell had six points and two assists for the Roadrunners.

JB’s video replay

Drilling the game winner

Firing up the three ball

Making the simple play

Scooping the competition

Driving the lane to score

New Year’s Eve matinee: UTSA women hope to end 2022 on a high note against UAB

Sidney Love. The UTSA women's basketball team lost to Louisiana Tech 62-57 in the Roadrunners' Conference USA opener on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sidney Love and the UTSA Roadrunners host the UAB Blazers today at the Convocation Center. Love is a freshman from Steele High School. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Another major test looms today for the UTSA women’s basketball team.

The Roadrunners, improved but still a work in progress in their second season under Coach Karen Aston, host the UAB Blazers in a New Year’s Eve contest at noon in the Convocation Center.

UTSA (2-8, 0-1 in Conference USA) is coming off its first home loss of the season Thursday night.

To recap, the Roadrunners hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer and led by five points at the half. They led by three at the end of three quarters. But they couldn’t hold on, falling 62-57 to all C-USA guard Keiunna Walker and the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters.

The Blazers (8-3, 0-2 in Conference USA) likely don’t have a player with Walker’s credentials. But they do feature two capable backcourt players in senior Margaret Whitley and freshman Denim DeShields.

Whitley and DeShields are the sparks for a team that leads Conference USA in scoring. The Blazers and Rice Owls both average 77.4 points per game.

Whitley, DeShields and forward Lyndsey Robson all play big minutes, with the three averaging 25 minutes or more. They’re 1-2-3 in scoring, respectively, for the Blazers and 10th-year coach Randy Norton.

DeShields comes from a notable athletic family, with her father, Delino DeShields, Sr., having played 13 years in the major league baseball. Her brother, Delino Jr., is in the major leagues and her sister, Diamond, makes her living in professional basketball in the WNBA.

To beat UAB, UTSA will need to guard the three-point line. The Blazers lead the conference in shooting from beyond the arc at 37.8 percent, with Whitley hitting at an eye-opening 48.3 clip.

Lately, the Blazers have been frustrated in losing their first two conference games — both on the road — to the Charlotte 49ers and the UTEP Miners. The Blazers were stymied in a 76-58 loss at UTEP Thursday night on the first game of a road trip through Texas.


UTSA 2-8, 0-1
UAB 8-3, 0-2

Coming up

UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, Jan. 5
UTSA at Western Kentucky, Jan. 7

Monster rally in Houston boosts UTSA leading into C-USA play

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Idaho 76-69 in women's basketball on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins averages 20.6 points per game to rank 16th in the nation and first in Conference USA. The Roadrunners open C-USA play by hosting the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters Thursday night. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

More than a week has passed since a remarkable women’s college basketball game unfolded at the Fertitta Center in Houston.

In the beginning, the Houston Cougars roamed the passing lanes and pounced on just about every pass thrown by the young UTSA Roadrunners.

An early lead for Houston ballooned to 10. Then to 15. As UTSA kept throwing the ball away, the advantage for the home team widened to 21.

It was only the second quarter, and it looked as if the Cougars might win by 30 or 40 or more. Well, let’s just say that it didn’t quite work out that way.

With UTSA junior forward Jordyn Jenkins putting on a show en route to a career-high 35 points, the Roadrunners opened eyes by unleashing a monster rally, coming all the way back into a few second-half tie scores, before losing 93-89 in overtime.

In one sense, the Houston game is ancient history. It was played nine days ago. Before Christmas. Back before the arctic blast.

In the present tense, the weather has warmed again, and UTSA (2-7) is back home at the Convocation Center, hoping to start a winning trend to coincide with the start of Conference USA play.

Eager to put all those pre-conference losses behind them, Roadrunners are preparing to host the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (7-4) on Thursday night, before they entertain the UAB Blazers (8-2) on Saturday afternoon.

Their last game, nonetheless, remains top of mind.

Coaches and players keep talking about Houston. Aston played the tape of it for her players’ again on Tuesday morning.

The video showed two versions of the Roadrunners.

One of them failed to answer the call after the opening tip, committed numerous turnovers and eventually fell behind, 39-18, midway through the second quarter.

The other played with heart and rallied on a 32-11 streak over a 13-minute stretch that spanned the end of the second and most of the third periods.

That same team battled to the end, with standout performances from several players, including double-digit scoring efforts from Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman, Kyra White and Alexis Parker.

“We re-watched (the tape) this morning,” Aston said late Tuesday afternoon. “What I still don’t know is, what turns their motors on? I mean, I don’t know if they were nervous to start the game, or what.

“They looked a little bit frozen, and then — somewhere in the midst of the second quarter — we got our motors running.”

White, a junior from Judson, said the team still feels positive vibes from the Houston game, even though it will go down as a loss in the record book.

And even though UTSA lost some close games earlier in the season with inconsistent play in the fourth quarter, she said she has a good feeling about the team overall.

“Our last game was Houston, and we lost in overtime, but the game showed a lot for our team,” White said. “We showed grit. We showed fight. We just simply didn’t quit. It was a good way to leave before (Christmas) break.

“Coming back, we’re just trying to get everybody back under their feet and and ready to go play.”

From this point forward, every team that UTSA plays will have Jenkins’ name circled on the scouting report.

At Houston, she struggled early with the physicality of the Cougars’ defense, but she kept battling and hit 12 of 17 shots from the field.

In one stretch, she wowed the crowd at the Fertitta Center with deft moves that you might see in a pro game.

Once, while set up at the elbow, she pivoted, spun through traffic and flipped up a shot left-handed into the net.

In another sequence, she came down on the fast break, sweeping past defenders and into the paint, to score again with the left hand.

The right-handed Jenkins leads Conference USA at 20.6 points per game, while making 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.

She’s on a roll now, having scored 20 or more in five of her last six outings.

“She’s extremely skilled,” Aston said. “There’s no question. She works on her craft. I mean, she’s in the gym all the time (and) she wants to be great.

“The growth of our team is that we’re starting to figure out who can do what, and I think our team is comfortable knowing they need to get her the ball some.

“I’m not sure we knew that a month ago.

“For her, she’s making better decisions when she gets doubled. Right now, people are, I would say, picking poison against us.”

Aston said the team still needs other players to step up and contribute.

“We also need to see Elyssa Coleman get the ball a little more down low,” the coach said. “She was efficient when she got it (at Houston), and then, you know, we need to have (other) players make open (perimeter) shots.”

Coming up

Louisiana Tech at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, noon.

C-USA standings

FAU 1-0, 8-2
UTEP 1-0, 8-2
Middle Tennessee 1-0, 8-2
Charlotte 1-0, 5-5
Western Kentucky 0-0, 3-6
North Texas 0-0, 3-7
UTSA 0-0, 2-7
Rice 0-1, 9-1
UAB 0-1, 8-2
Louisiana Tech 0-1, 7-4
FIU 0-1, 5-5