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