UTSA women rally past UAB, 68-60, in overtime

The UTSA women’s basketball program celebrated New Year’s Day on Saturday with a comeback victory over the UAB Blazers.

Trailing by 10 points with seven minutes left in regulation, the Roadrunners rallied to win 68-60 in overtime at the Convocation Center.

The Blazers, at one point, appeared well on their way to victory when Lindsey Dullard sank a 3-pointer for a 45-35 lead with 7:06 left in the fourth period.

From there, the Roadrunners staged a dramatic rally, outscoring the Blazers 18-8 down the stretch to send the game into overtime.

A follow shot by UTSA’s Elena Blanding with 56 seconds remaining tied it, 53-53.

Relying on defense, the Roadrunners stopped UAB from scoring twice down the stretch and nearly won at the end, only to have Leslie Hunter misfire on a three at the buzzer.

In overtime, UTSA rode the shooting of Jadyn Pimentel and Charlene Mass to a five-point lead.

Undeterred, UAB came from behind, pulling to within 62-60 on a Margaret Whitley three with 29 seconds left.

UTSA steadied itself by scoring the game’s last six points, as Pimentel, Chantel Govan and Hailey Atwood sank a pair of free throws each to clinch it.

It was a signature win for the Roadrunners and the first for Coach Karen Aston at UTSA in a C-USA contest.

Records

UAB 8-5, 1-1
UTSA 4-9, 1-1

Individuals

UAB: Zakyia Weathersby 14 points, Margaret Whitley (13), Lindsey Dullard (10). Weathersby, 16 rebounds.

UTSA: Jadyn Pimentel, 21 points, LaPraisjah Johnson (16), Chantel Govan (11). Johnson, 11 rebounds, including six offensive.

UAB Blazers roll to an 87-59 victory over the Roadrunners

The UTSA Roadrunners entered Saturday’s Conference USA opener with a positive attitude and a fighting spirit.

But after the Roadrunners stayed in the game for about five minutes, it didn’t take long for the C-USA’s preseason favorite UAB Blazers to respond, and they did so with a swarming defense and an impressive array of offensive talent.

In the end, the Blazers built a lead as large as 31 points in the final minutes, eventually emerging with an 87-59 victory at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala.

Forward KJ Buffen scored 20 points and guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker added 19 as the Blazers improved their record to 12-3 and 2-0 in the C-USA.

UTSA lost its third straight and fell to 6-7 and 0-1 despite a strong effort from center Jacob Germany, who scored 26 points on 12 of 23 shooting from the field.

Germany also had 10 rebounds for a double-double.

A lot went wrong for the Roadrunners, including 34.9 percent shooting as a team and scoring off the bench that was minimal until the very end when UAB led by more than 20 points.

The Roadrunners also needed a better rebounding effort and didn’t get it, losing the battle of the boards, 45-33.

UTSA coach Steve Henson pointed to an inability early in the game to attack the UAB pressure as a key development.

“They lead the country in forcing turnovers, and we fed right into that early,” Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “Then we gave up a bunch of offensive rebounds … We ended up with only 12 turnovers against a team that’s really good at forcing turnovers, but they led to layups and dunks.”

A variety of defensive strategies by the Blazers also seemed to disrupt the Roadrunners, who had to take point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry out early with foul trouble and replace him with a freshman, Christian Tucker.

“They mix their defenses,” Henson said. “Once you start getting comfortable handling the press, then you got to get into your offense. We were just not sharp enough.”

Buffen, a transfer from Ole Miss, hurt the Roadrunners in multiple ways. Not only did he hit 8 of 12 shots from the field, he also pulled down nine rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.

Another transfer, Walker, who has played previously at Seton Hall and Tulane, also stood out for UAB.

He hit four 3-point shots to highlight a 10-of-21 Blazers’ effort from long distance. Comparatively, the Roadrunners hit only 2 of 15 from deep.

Even though the Blazers are regarded as the best team in the conference, it’s hard to tell if they were that good against the Roadrunners. Or, whether the Roadrunners simply have a long way to go.

UTSA has lost three straight by margins of 18, 17 and 28 points.

During the stretch of losses — to UT Rio Grande Valley, Illinois State and UAB — the Roadrunners have hit only 66 of 203 shots from the field, for 32.5 percent.

As the UTSA player who typically faces the most defensive pressure, guard Dhieu Deing is 8 of 45 shooting in the three games. Deing was 0 for 11 against the Blazers.

Records

UTSA 6-7, 0-1
UAB 12-3, 2-0

First half

After sitting out two straight games in Covid protocols, Ivy-Curry put on the jersey to play a game for the first time since Dec. 11. He immediately made an impact by burying a three for a 3-0 Roadrunners’ lead. After that, Ivy-Curry picked up two quick fouls. Forced to the bench, he watched for several minutes as the Blazers started to roll. When they weren’t disrupting UTSA, they were all over the offensive glass. Eventually, they rolled to a 49-31 lead behind Buffen and Walker.

Changing up the rotation

Starting for the first time this season, Aleu Aleu finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. He was held without a field goal (0-for-5) but knocked down all six free throws. Both Ivy-Curry and Aleu were returning to game action after sitting out the last two in Covid-19 protocols. Ivy-Curry, battling foul trouble, scored nine points on 3 of 10 shooting. He hit 2 of 7 from three.

Covid update

UTSA forward Phoenix Ford entered protocols last week and did not travel. He is also expected to be out Monday at home when UTSA hosts Dallas Christian. UTSA hopes to have Ford back on the floor on Thursday for a return to C-USA play against Southern Miss.

Coming up

Monday — Dallas Christian at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Thursday — Southern Miss at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Louisiana Tech at UTSA, 3 p.m.

Wallace joins Jackson in a 2K tandem as UTSA rolls past UAB

UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace (left) joined Jhivvan Jackson in the 2,000-career point club on ‘Senior Day’ Saturday, when the Roadrunners rebounded from an ugly loss on Friday night to blow out the UAB Blazers. – photo by Joe Alexander

Leave it to UTSA senior guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. Only those two could light up a drafty, old gymnasium and turn an overcast Saturday afternoon into one for the memory banks.

First, Wallace eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career mid-way through the second half against the UAB Blazers.

A few minutes later, Jackson unleashed a flurry of buckets to climb past 2,500 points. In the end, the Roadrunners played perhaps their best game of the season in claiming a convincing 96-79 ‘Senior Day’ victory over a 19-win team.

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace produced 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in what may have been his last home game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

If it was indeed the last time for Jackson and Wallace to grace the court at the UTSA Convocation Center, then it was done with appropriate style and flair, complete with a wave from the two of them to a Covid-19 restricted crowd of 394 as they walked off to the dressing room.

As fans cheered to hail UTSA’s newly-minted 2K tandem, UTSA coach Steve Henson offered his thanks, as well.

“We all know we got a lot of basketball left,” Henson said. “They’re going to have some emotional moments with their families right now. I was thanking them, and they were thanking me. Just appreciate everything they’ve done for this program.”

Jackson led the rout with 32 points, and Wallace added 22. As a team, the Roadrunners showed impressive resilience in bouncing back from a bad loss Friday to salvage a split in their two-game series with the Blazers.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson, held to 12 points in Friday’s loss to the Blazers, bounced back to score 32 on Saturday. — Photo by Joe Alexander.

“Pretty fitting for them to finish it off this way in the Convo (with) monster nights from both of them,” Henson said. “You know, they came in here four years ago and started making baskets and they just kept it going … There were a lot of nights when one or the other was clicking … But to have both of them have monster nights on Senior Day is very, very special.

“They have changed the perception, I think, of our program. You know, they allowed us to play fast, the way we said we were going to play. They’ve allowed us to shoot a lot of threes. They’ve allowed us to do a lot of things we said we were going to do when we recruited them four years ago. They’ve been great ambassadors.

“They’ve handled their business. They’ve both done a great job in the classroom. They’re great Roadrunners.”

Turning the tables

UTSA played one of its best stretches of the season against a quality opponent in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and rolling to a 42-33 intermission lead.

Spacing the floor and taking care of the ball, the Roadrunners hit 17 of 34 shots, including 5 of 9 from three. In one span of a little more than seven minutes, UTSA produced a 16-0 streak against the Blazers, the top defensive team in Conference USA.

All of a sudden, an eight-point deficit for UTSA turned into a 23-15 lead.

The Blazers never got closer than five the rest of the way. With the Roadrunners shooting 65.6 percent in the second half, they pushed the lead to as many as 22, quite the turnaround from Friday night, when the Blazers claimed a 64-57 victory on the same floor.

Records

UAB 19-6, 11-5
UTSA 13-10, 9-7

Coming up

The Roadrunners likely will not make up two games against Charlotte that were scratched last week because of the winter storm. But they could possibly schedule a non-conference game next week. Many C-USA teams will play make-ups next week for games that were lost to Covid-19 postponements. The C-USA is expected to announce next weekend the bracket for the tournament. All 14 teams — seven in each division — will be invited. The tournament is March 9-13 at Frisco.

For the record

When the Roadrunners came out in the second half, they unleashed a series of defensive plays that sparked a surge. First, the 6-foot Jackson soared high in an attempt to block a dunk attempt. Though he was called for a foul, the play clearly sent a message. On UAB’s next possession, 6-11 UTSA center Jacob Germany rejected UAB’s 7-foot Trey Jemison. Next time down, UAB’s Quan Jackson was rejected by UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr.

It all translated into a rush of momentum for the Roadrunners. With 12:08 remaining, Wallace hit a three that made him the 615th player in Division I basketball history to reach 2,000 points. Later, as Jackson connected on a long ball with 10:06 left, he simultaneously hit the 2,500 mark and moved into No. 1 in C-USA history in three-point makes. When the day was done, Jackson had totaled 2,505 points and Wallace 2,007.

Having the last word

Jackson finished his day’s work by hitting 13 of 21 from the field and six of 10 from three. He described a flood of emotions when he and Wallace came off the floor for the last time with 2:26 remaining.

“You know, I kind of wanted to finish the game out, just because they got us yesterday, and, beating us every single year, in the Conference USA,” he said. “But, man, I was grateful. I kind of took this game as just a regular game. I was kind of pissed about yesterday. We played the right way yesterday. We (just) had a little too many turnovers. If we make even half our shots, we win.

“So, our mentality today was just getting no turnovers. You know, we only got nine in the whole game (today) … And we just got stops. That’s the reason we won today. We were stopping them. We held (down) their best player (Tavin Lovan, to seven points). That just helped us. We were just the tougher team today.”

Wallace punctuated his 22 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. He hit 8 of 13 from the floor and 3 of 4 from distance. “It’s just a blessing to be able to make history at our school,” he said. “Just for two guys to score the ball like we do, in the same backcourt, is big time. It speaks volumes. I just appreciate all the support. All the love from the fans. The staff. My teammates. And my family. You know, Birds up.”

Notable

UTSA freshman guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 13 points on three 3-pointers. He also grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists over 23 minutes. Junior Eric Parrish had 10 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. Sophomore center Jacob Germany had a team-leading eight rebounds to go along with eight points.

Jalen Benjamin scored 21 points to lead the Blazers. Tyreek Scott-Grayson had 13 points, followed by Trey Jemison with 11 and Michael Ertel 10. Scott-Grayson and Tavin Lovan, both guards, have been key players on UAB teams that were 5-3 against UTSA over the past four seasons before Saturday. The Blazers have knocked the Roadrunners out of the C-USA tournament each of the past two seasons.

Blazers look for series sweep on UTSA’s ‘Senior Day’

On ‘Senior Day,’ Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace will face an all-too-familiar foe in what might be their last home game for the UTSA Roadrunners.

They’ll take on the UAB Blazers at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

Playing on the Roadrunners’ home court, the Blazers won 64-57 Friday night in the opener of a two-game Conference USA series to close the regular season.

With the victory, the Blazers improved to 5-3 in the past four seasons over the Jackson and Wallace-led Roadrunners.

When Jackson and Wallace were freshmen, in 2017-18, the Roadrunners went on the road to Birmingham, Ala., and scored an 82-70 victory over the Blazers. Since then, the Blazers for the most part have held the upper hand.

UAB produced a 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, and in both seasons, the Blazers eliminated UTSA from the C-USA tournament.

The Blazers have been tough on Jackson, in particular, in holding him to less than 33 percent shooting from the field over the teams’ last two meetings.

Last season in Frisco, UAB won 74-69 while limiting Jackson to 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting in the first round of the tournament. On Friday night in San Antonio, the Blazers held Jackson to 12 points again on 5 of 13 shooting.

Jackson had been playing and shooting the ball well leading into Friday night’s series opener. During an eight-game stretch in which the Roadrunners won seven, he hit 60 of 124 from the floor for 48.3 percent.

Coming up

Next week, it is possible that UTSA could add a game or two to its schedule. Otherwise, their next game will come March 9-13 in Frisco, at the C-USA tournament. The winner of the conference event advances to the NCAA tournament. UTSA hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Records

UAB 19-5, 11-4
UTSA 12-10, 8-7

Leading the way

Jackson has tallied 2,473 points in 111 games. Wallace has produced 1,985 points in 121 games. They are Nos. 1-2 on the UTSA all-time scoring list. Jackson ranks 83rd on the all-time Division I list and No. 2 in C-USA. Wallace is tied for seventh in C-USA.

Winning streak ends as UAB downs error-prone UTSA, 64-57

Keaton Wallace scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, but the Roadrunners failed to make enough plays down the stretch to beat the powerful UAB Blazers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

The UAB Blazers forced 19 turnovers and throttled the cold-shooting UTSA Roadrunners 64-57 Friday night in Conference USA basketball at the Convocation Center.

Quan Jackson scored 19 points for the Blazers, who snapped the Roadrunners’ four-game winning streak. UTSA entered the last C-USA series of the regular season having won seven of eight, but could not find a rhythm, shooting only 38.3 percent from the field.

Steve Henson. UAB beat UTSA 64-57 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Conference USA action at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson said the Roadrunners need to put the loss behind them and fight back on Saturday. — Photo by Joe Alexander

While Keaton Wallace scored 21 points to lead the Roadrunners, Jhivvan Jackson had a tough night, scoring 12 on 5 of 13 shooting.

The Blazers started both halves on 10-0 runs to stun the Roadrunners, forcing the home team to scramble.

“I feel we came out with the right mindset,” Wallace said. “They ended up hitting us in the mouth first, you know. And we had to fight back to get back in the game. We made a little adjustment. I felt like we weathered the storm early, and it was a back and forth game all the way to the end.”

UTSA doesn’t have much time to dwell on the setback as the second game of the final C-USA series of the regular season is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I think our guys will bounce back,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “They know, we got to fight harder defensively against the penetrations. Got to take care of the basketball. And then we missed — golly — we missed some great, wide, wide open threes. That’s the way this game is, you know?

“If we knock down three or four of those wide-open threes … we’d all be sitting here thinking we played pretty well, which, we didn’t. But, that’s the nature of it. We got to put it behind us and bounce back.”

Jackson, the all-time leading scorer in school history, suffered a tough night after carrying the Roadrunners during the winning streak.

In the early going, he had trouble with a trapping UAB defense, as the Blazers often sent multiple long-armed players at him. On one play early, he tried a hook pass that was intercepted in the backcourt and dunked immediately.

Later, foul problems caught up with him. Jackson was whistled for reaching in on Tyreek Scott-Grayson with 10:55 left in the game. The call sent him to the bench with his fourth foul.

By the time he returned to the floor three minutes later, he couldn’t catch a break. On his first touch, he slashed between defenders for what would have been a beautiful layup, only to see the ball glance off the rim.

Later, he turned it over on a long, cross-court pass for Wallace that was too high. Next, Jackson misfired on a three. Altogether, he finished the second half with seven points on three of seven shooting.

Henson acknowledged that it’s important for UTSA to play well Saturday with it possibly being their finale before the tournament.

“If we can bounce back and play well tomorrow and look back on this recent stretch of games, as opposed to just these 40 minutes, if we play well tomorrow, hopefully we’ll feel good going into the tournament,” Henson said.

First half

Despite 11 turnovers and at least two air balls, the Roadrunners cobbled together a 28-27 halftime lead.

UAB forced three early turnovers and converted the miscues into a 10-0 lead. Scott-Grayson and Jackson hit consecutive dunks in the burst for the Blazers. At the end of the spree, Scott-Grayson added a put-back for the final points, forcing a UTSA timeout.

In retaliation, the Roadrunners settled down the offense and constructed an 11-1 run. Cedrick Alley Jr. ended it with a three from the top of the circle to make it 11-11.

Both teams slogged through the rest of the half without much offensive finesse.

Trailing by two with 1:25 remaining, the Roadrunners got the best of it at the end, with Eric Parrish making a few plays.

First, he grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted for a Jacob Germany dunk. Next, he got ahead of the Blazers’ defense and was fouled, making one shot with 32 seconds left for the last point.

Records

UAB 19-5, 11-4
UTSA 12-10, 8-7

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Conference USA tournament, March 9-13, at Frisco

UTSA’s Jackson credits teammates, coaches for career scoring achievement

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson expressed surprise this week when he learned that he had become the leading career scorer in NCAA Division I among players born in Latin America. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Like any young man with dreams, record-setting UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson has faced challenges.

One of the biggest came when he was growing up in Puerto Rico, and he knew he wanted to move to the U.S. mainland to further his ambitions as a basketball player.

To make the move effectively, Jackson had to learn how to speak English.

“My parents already knew my dream was to play college basketball,” he said. “In P.R., the school that I was going to, for two or three grades I went to bilingual school so already all my classes were in English down there. The only class I was taking in Spanish was an actual Spanish class.

“My parents, they knew at one point I wanted to come out here. They kind of wanted me to, early on, learn English. Like I say, I went to that bilingual school for a couple of years, and that got me right. I watched a lot of TV, and then when I moved for seventh grade I already knew English. I wasn’t fluent. You know, I had a strong accent. But I understood it.”

Jackson made the move to Texas. He went on to attend Euless Trinity High, where he became one of the best ball players in the Dallas area.

“It was a little challenging, obviously, but after a couple years, after eighth grade, I was already good,” he said. “I’m good at learning language. Like I said, I already had schooling and knew how it was. It was all about writing it and taking the accent away a little bit. But, everything was smooth. Like I said, my dad helped me with that. He did it with me and my brother. That got us better.”

As a basketball player, Jackson continues to improve.

He entered UTSA as a freshman for the 2017-18 season with high hopes but no guarantees. In that time, he has led the Roadrunners to winning records in three of four seasons.

Jackson has also created a splash with his offensive production, averaging 18.4 points as a freshman, followed by seasons of 22.9 and 26.8. This year, he’s averaging 20.4 as UTSA continues its quest for an NCAA tournament bid.

An important step comes tonight when the Roadrunners host the UAB Blazers. The Blazers, with 18 wins on the season, remain as one of the best teams in Conference USA despite having lost three of their last four in conference play.

As usual, UTSA coach Steve Henson will call on Jackson and fellow senior standout Keaton Wallace to step up to meet the moment. The two had power knocked out in their apartment last week during the winter storm. But they’ll be ready. It’s perhaps their last weekend at home, so the expectation is that they’ll put some pressure on the Blazers. Quite a bit of pressure, probably.

Leroy Jackson, the ball player’s father, said basketball drives his son.

“He’s very dedicated toward it,” Jackson said. “Since he was a kid, he was always that way. Always. He loves working out. Basketball takes him away from everything that’s negative. That’s a sacred time for him.”

Ultimately, Jackson wants the NCAA tournament bid and he wants it badly.

Along the way, though, the spotlight will continue to shine on him because of his scoring prowess. Last year, he became the school’s all-time scoring leader. Two weeks ago, he moved into the Top 100 in all-time career scoring in NCAA Division I.

Earlier this week, he learned that he had become the top career scorer in Division I history among athletes who were born in Latin America. Jackson (with 2,461 points) has passed the likes of J.J. Barea, Greivis Vasquez, Luis Flores, Felipe Lopez, Khadeen Carrington and Rolando Blackman on the list.

Barea is a Puerto Rico native who played in college at Northeastern. Blackman came out of Panama and played years ago at Kansas State. Both enjoyed long NBA careers. Blackman, in fact, was an NBA all-star four times.

Jackson said it’s “crazy” to think about what he has accomplished.

“Some of those players are players I kind of look up to a little bit or have seen play growing up,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that I passed them. But, obviously, all the credit goes to my hard work, my teammates and my coaches. They really were the ones that trusted me and put me in those positions to be the player that I am right now.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
C-USA tournament, March 9-13, at Frisco

Records

UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6

Scoring honors

Here is the list of athletes born Latin America who have been identified in the top seven in Division I career scoring:

Jhivvan Jackson, born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, scored 2,461 points at UTSA, through 2021.

J.J. Barea, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 2,290, at Northeastern, through 2006.

Greivis Vasquez, Caracas, Venezuela, 2,171, at Maryland, through 2010.

Luis Flores, San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, 2,160, at Rutgers and Manhattan, through 2004.

Felipe Lopez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1,927, at St. John’s, through 1998.

Khadeen Carrington, Trinidad, 1,846, at Seton Hall, through 2018.

Rolando Blackman, Panama City, Panama, 1,844, at Kansas State, through 1981.

Determined to keep winning, UTSA prepares for UAB

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners have won four straight and seven of their last eight going into a weekend home series against the UAB Blazers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson said Wednesday afternoon in a zoom call with reporters that the UTSA Roadrunners’ two Conference USA home games against the UAB Blazers this weekend likely would be the team’s last games in the regular season.

They’re set for Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

In addition, Henson said he expects the games also will be the last two at home in the remarkable careers of Roadrunners seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the leading scorers in the program’s 40-year history.

Both Jackson and Wallace told reporters they have not made a decision on whether they might take advantage of an extra year of eligibility. Before the season, all Division I basketball players were given an extra year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even so, Henson said he plans on having “Senior Day” festivities on Saturday for Jackson, Wallace and also for forward Phoenix Ford. The coach was asked how “Senior Day” might be different with the lingering possibility that one or both of his high-scoring guards could return.

“I think we’ll go through it as if it’s their last game and worry about it after that,” Henson said. “The guys, right now, they’re focused on continuing to play (into the tournament). We started talking about this weeks ago — the opportunity to start winning games, to play better basketball.

“At one point, we knew four of our final six were going to be at home. That we could go into the conference tournament with some momentum. So, they liked that.

“What we did yesterday in practice was really, really encouraging. Just from different guys making plays. The ball moving. I think our guys are pretty locked in right now. There’s always that emotional piece on Senior Night, right before the game starts. (But) our guys are still planning on playing basketball for awhile.”

UTSA hasn’t played since Feb. 13. On that day, the Roadrunners completed a two-game, home sweep of the Florida Atlantic Owls, pushing their winning streak to four. A day later, a few players came in to shoot at the Convocation Center, but with cold and inclement weather on the way, the campus was scheduled to close at 5 p.m.

As it turned out, a week of the worst winter weather in South Texas in years descended from cold, gray skies, leading to power outages all over the city.
The UTSA basketball team was not spared.

Some players — notably, roommates Wallace and Jackson — had power go out in their apartments. From a basketball standpoint, the inclement weather kept the Roadrunners off the practice floor through Thursday. Ultimately, the team’s two road games, set for Friday and Saturday at Charlotte, N.C., were scrapped.

It was a blow to the fast-improving Roadrunners, who have won seven of their last eight conference games.

“We wanted to go down there and play,” Henson said. “We just couldn’t make it happen.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Conference USA tournament, at Frisco, March 10-13

Records

UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6

Notes

Before the season, C-USA officials left open the first week of March — next week — for any make-up games. Even so, the two games between UTSA and Charlotte likely will not be played, Henson said, because Charlotte’s end-of-week schedule is full. The 49ers are scheduled to play Covid-related makeups on the road at Marshall on March 5 and 6.

“The chances of us playing Charlotte are slim and none,” said Henson, who added that the likely cancellations have created a “pretty weird situation for us” leading into the C-USA tournament.

“We’ll go 24 days with only two games — these UAB games — in that window there, which is less than ideal,” Henson said. “So we’re still trying to find something for next week. (We’ll) see if we can schedule a game or two. I’d really not prefer to go such a long span with only two games in there. But at this point, as of right now, the UAB games will be our last regular-season games.”

Senior Day emotions

Jackson has scored 2,461 points and Wallace 1,964. Jackson has twice been first-team all-C-USA. Wallace, in turn, has been second-team all-C-USA twice. The Roadrunners have built their program around them, which means that Saturday likely will be an emotional day.

“I’ll probably be as emotional as anybody, with the exception of some of the family members,” Henson said. “Keaton’ll probably be pretty stone-faced. That’s kind of his M.O., anyway. Jhivvan will be emotional, I think.

“Once the ball gets tipped, I think they’ll play great. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have an arena full of fans come and honor them in that regard. We’re going to honor Phoenix, as well. Those guys have done a great job. Great ambassadors for our program.”

With Covid restrictions, attendance will be limited.

“Keaton and Jhivvan helped us turn this thing around,” the coach said. “Got the attention of everyone around the country, everyone around the league. Really proud of them. It’s amazing the accomplishments they’ve had. Wish we could celebrate it in more grand style. But we’ll do the best we can with Covid.”

Henson is approaching the games against the Blazers as if they’re as if they’re the last ones at home for his two stars.

“My anticipation is that they have accomplished so much, I anticipate they’re ready to move on,” the coach said. “They love it here, and we’re glad they do, and we love having them here, but they both have sights set on winning a bunch more games here and then going and playing professionally. We haven’t spent a lot of time on the details with the scholarship numbers, or anything like that.”

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.