Incarnate Word’s Shon Robinson sinks a game-winner with less than a second remaining

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Shon Robinson hit a contested 6-foot jumper with two-tenths of a second left as the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals beat the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 67-66 Wednesday night.

As soon as he made the shot, Robinson celebrated with fans on the front row at UIW’s McDermott Center. But the game wasn’t over. Officials put two-tenths back on the clock.

The visiting team from Jacksonville, Ala., subsequently tried a long pass from the baseline to the other end that was batted away as the horn sounded, ending quite a dramatic contest.

On the day before Thanksgiving, UIW (3-2) nearly blew the home game that it seemingly had well in hand. Early in the second half, with 18:40 left on the clock, the Cardinals led by 18 points. They took a 42-24 lead at that juncture on two Sky Wicks free throws.

Undeterred, Jacksonville State (1-4) started to make a run. With 4:47 remaining, the Gamecocks cut the deficit to nine on a Quincy Clark step-back jumper.

UIW’s Josh Morgan made it a 10-point game 20 seconds later when he hit a free throw. But Jacksonville State would not go away. The Gamecocks surged on a KyKy Tandy-led 14-0 run to take a four-point lead. Tandy hit two long threes in the streak.

With Jacksonville State leading 66-62 and only 16 seconds left in the game, the momentum swung back to the home team, as UIW responded with a series of clutch plays to win it. First, Robinson hit two free throws. Next, Josiah Hammons stole an inbounds pass to give the ball back to the Cardinals.

After UIW’s Davante Davis missed two free throws, Robinson rebounded the second one and was fouled. Going to the line, Robinson made the second of two to bring the Cardinals to within 66-65 with 10.1 seconds left.

From there, UIW’s pressure on the inbounds kept Jacksonville State from salting away the victory. First, a trap in corner forced Jacksonville State to call time with 3.7 seconds left.

With Jax State inbounding again, Hammons got a hand on it, deflecting it off Jacksonville State and out of bounds with two seconds remaining. The critical call was upheld on an officials’ review at the monitor.

Next, Elijah Davis inbounded for UIW. Robinson, a 6-foot-9 graduate transfer from Austin Peay, flashed through the paint, caught the pass and curled back toward the basket. He pulled up, hung in the air for a moment and then sank the winning bucket.

Coming up

The game on the UIW campus near downtown San Antonio served as an appetizer for three more days of holiday basketball starting Friday on the city’s Northwest side at UTSA. In a multi-team event billed as the Roadrunner/Cardinal Classic, Jacksonville State will play host UTSA at noon on Friday. On Saturday, UTSA will host UIW at 3 p.m. On Sunday, it will be UIW and Jacksonville State at 3 p.m. in a rematch.


UIW, under first-year coach Shane Heirman, has scored three consecutive victories. The first was at home over Division III Schreiner, 104-63. The next came on the road at Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 100-81. Finally, UIW rallied at the end to claim a one-point thriller at home over Jacksonville State.

The Gamecocks are coached by Ray Harper, who played two seasons for the late Abe Lemons at Texas in 1980-81 and 1981-82. In ’81-’82, the Longhorns won their first 13 games and soared to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. But after a season-ending knee injury to forward Mike Wacker, the Horns failed to make the NCAA tournament and Lemons was fired.

Harper went on to finish out his playing career at Kentucky Wesleyan and then started his head coaching career there, as well. He is 564-225 in 25 years as a head coach, part of it in NCAA Division II. Wacker once worked as an assistant coach at UTSA for the late Ken Burmeister and later went on to a long career as head coach at Judson High School. He coached six years at Texas Lutheran University before retiring in 2022.


UIW: Guard Sky Wicks, 21 points and four rebounds. Guard Josiah Hammons, 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Guard Josh Morgan, 10 points, two assists, two rebounds, two steals. Hammons hit five three-point shots and Morgan three. Forward Shon Robinson, seven points on one of seven shooting from the field.

Jacksonville State: Guard KyKy Tandy, 19 points on eight of 16 from the field. Guard Quincy Clark, 13 points on five of nine. Juwan Perdue, nine points and 10 rebounds.

First half

Sky Wicks and Josiah Hammons combined for 20 points as the Cardinals, shooting 51.9 percent from the field, raced to a 38-24 halftime lead on the Gamecocks. Leading by one point, UIW stormed past Jacksonville State on a 21-8 run to close the half.

Roadrunners earn first national rankings going into a road game at UIW

The UTSA Roadrunners have been ranked in the top 25 nationally in baseball for the first time in program history.

Riding a 23-6 record into tonight’s game at the University of the Incarnate Word, Coach Pat Hallmark’s Roadrunners are 23rd by Perfect Game and 24th in Baseball America magazine and also 27th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

UTSA will face a challenge tonight in playing at the University of the Incarnate Word, a San Antonio-based opponent from the Southland Conference. First pitch at UIW’s Sullivan Field is at 6:30 p.m. UTSA beat UIW 2-1 on March 1 at Roadrunner Field. Hallmark coached at UIW in 2018 and 2019 before taking the head coaching job at UTSA.

The Roadrunners have lost their last two midweek road games at UT-Rio Grande Valley and at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

UTSA returns to Conference USA play with a series at Charlotte from Thursday through Saturday. UTSA’s leads the C-USA standings with an 8-1 record, two games ahead of conference newcomer Dallas Baptist.

The Cardinals have played well lately, going 5-2 in their last seven. UIW won two of three at home against Houston Christian, defeated Prairie View A&M last Tuesday and then won two of three on the road last weekend at Southeastern Louisiana.


UTSA 23-6
UIW 15-13

Coming up

UTSA at UIW, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Thursday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Friday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Saturday, noon

UTSA pulls off a double steal to beat Incarnate Word, 2-1

UTSA’s Antonio Valdez scores the go-ahead run on a double-steal in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word at Roadrunner Field on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. – Photos by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

UTSA won its fifth straight game by pulling off a double steal in the eighth inning and edging past the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals, 2-1, Wednesday night at Roadrunner Field.

The Roadrunners (8-2) had runners at first and third base with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when pinch runner Josh Killeen stole second and Antonio Valdez made it to the plate for the go-ahead run.

On video posted to the UTSA Twitter page, it appeared that Killeen took off for second and then stopped well short of the bag when pitcher Luis Rodriguez turned and tossed it to UIW shortstop Joe Jimenez.

Once Rodriguez made the throw, Valdez sprinted for home. Jimenez, standing near the bag at second, caught the ball and fired home.

Valdez slid head first around UIW catcher Jared Rhodes’ swipe tag and then reached back to touch home plate with his hand.

Simon Miller shut the door on the Cardinals (3-6) in the ninth inning. After Joe Jimenez hit a two-out single through the left side, Miller got Sterling Sutcliffe on a ground ball to the right side to end the game.

Coming up

Utah at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
University of Louisiana at Monroe at UIW, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

UTSA's Antonio Valdez celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run on a double-steal in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word at Roadrunner Field on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Antonio Valdez scores the go-ahead run on a double-steal in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word at Roadrunner Field on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. – Photo by Joe Alexander

De Leon Negron rallies the UIW women past UTSA, 56-53

One of the smallest players on the floor stood tall Thursday night at the McDermott Convocation Center.

Five-foot-six Nina De Leon Negron scored 17 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals erased an eight-point deficit and downed their cross-town rival UTSA Roadrunners, 56-53.

Playing on their home court, the Cardinals trailed by 11 points late in the third quarter and then by a 40-32 score entering the fourth.

At that point, De Leon Negron, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, took control of the game with a relentless string of drives to the basket.

UTSA seemed to have enough to hold off UIW when forward Jordyn Jenkins, who led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 11 rebounds, scored on a left-handed scoop mid-way through the fourth period.

Jenkins’ skillful move to the basket stablized the Roadrunners and boosted them into a 44-37 lead with 6:10 remaining.

De Leon Negron, however, was just getting started.

First she drove to the hoop, scored and completed a three-point play. After a Queen Ulabo turnover on the dribble, UIW came down and De Leon Negron swished a three from the top, cutting the deficit to one.

Jenkins missed, setting up a Chloe Storer layup on the other end as the Cardinals surged into their first lead since the second quarter. Kyra White answered with a drive and a bucket to make it 46-45 for UTSA.

With White converting at the 4:19 mark, it would be the last lead for the Roadrunners. After that, De Leon Negron scored seven points over the next four minutes to put UTSA away.

Trailing by five with seven seconds left, the Roadrunners made it interesting to the final whistle.

After Deb Nwakamma’s long two out of the corner splashed, accounting for the final points of the game, UIW inbounded with one second left. The pass landed in the hands of UTSA’s Jenkins, who was standing outside the three-point line, but couldn’t get off a shot as the buzzer sounded.

It was a frustrating night for UTSA, which remained winless this season on the road (0-4).

The Roadrunners out-rebounded the Cardinals (37-28) and hit four more field goals (21-17) and, somehow, they still managed to lose. Problems centered around UTSA’s perimeter shooting (0-for-10 from three) and free-throw shooting.

While the Roadrunners hit only 11 of 20 from the line, the Cardinals made the most of their opportunities, knocking down 20 of 28.

De Leon hit eight of 14 from the field and one of two from 3-point territory. She put down eight of 12 at the free-throw line.


UTSA 2-6
UIW 4-4


De Leon Negron has been hot and cold this season. In her last four games, she was held scoreless at TCU, had nine points at Texas Tech, 16 against Division III Schreiner and now a season-high 25 against UTSA.

With the victory, UIW improved to 2-1 against UTSA over the past three seasons. UTSA leads the overall series, 3-2.

UTSA, meanwhile fell to 0-6 away from home this season, including 0-4 on the road. Five of UTSA’s six losses have come by seven points or less.

Forward Elyssa Coleman had a good start to the game, scoring 13 points through three quarters. She was scoreless in the fourth and ended up fouling out.

Coming up

UTSA plays its last non-conference game on Monday at the University of Houston. After that, the Roadrunners have a 10-day break before opening Conference USA play. The Roadrunners play at Louisiana Tech on Dec. 29 and at UAB on Dec. 31.

UIW, coming off an NCAA tournament appearance last season, plays at home on Sunday against Sul Ross. From there, the Cardinals are at SMU on Dec. 21. UIW opens Southland Conference play at Texas A&M-Commerce on Dec. 31.

Dartmouth’s Big Green comes back to shock the UTSA Roadrunners in overtime, 78-77

Jacob Germany. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany had a season-high 27 points, but the UTSA Roadrunners lost to the Dartmouth Big Green in overtime, falling to 0-2 as the home team in the 210 San Antonio Shootout. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Trailing by four points in overtime, the Dartmouth Big Green rallied Sunday night for a 78-77 victory over the struggling UTSA Roadrunners in the 210 San Antonio Shootout.

With the loss, UTSA fell to 0-2 in the Shootout going into the final day. As the event concludes on Monday, Dartmouth will play Grambling at 3 p.m., before UTSA will host the University of the Incarnate Word at 6:30 p.m.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Isaiah Addo-Ankrah fires away with a jumper against Dartmouth. Addo-Ankrah finished with 11 points and three assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Dartmouth and Grambling are both 1-1 in the games played since Friday at the UTSA Convocation Center. Surprising UIW is 2-0.

The Roadrunners lost to Grambling by 20 points on Friday night, and after a day off in between games, they battled through some adversity but ended up dropping a close one to the Big Green of the Ivy League.

“We weren’t good enough with the game on the line,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said.

Trailing for most of the second half, the Roadrunners rallied to tie it in regulation behind the scoring and inside presence of center Jacob Germany.

In the extra period, UTSA took charge in the early going of the alloted five extra minutes, and the home team appeared to be on its way to a victory, even with guards Japhet Medor and John Buggs on the bench.

Medor was slowed during the game by a sprained ankle and played only 19 minutes.

With Medor and Buggs watching from the side, UTSA started to make a few plays. A driving layup by freshman DJ Richards lifted the Roadrunners into a 75-71 lead with 3:17 remaining.

DJ Richards. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

DJ Richards had 13 points and seven rebounds and played a season-high 30 minutes off the bench. – Photo by Joe Alexander

From there, the Big Green steadied themselves and pulled out the victory.

Key plays down the stretch included two free throws by Ryan Cornish with 2:16 remaining and a driving layup by Cam Krystkowiak with 1:08 left.

Krystkowiak is the son of former Spurs forward Larry Krystkowiak, who has attended his son’s games in the Convocation Center. Larry Krystkowiak played one season for the Spurs as an NBA rookie in 1986-87.

Later in his career, he was teammates with Henson on the Milwaukee Bucks. Krystkowiak has also been a college head coach, most recently at the University of Utah. Henson is in his seventh-year as coach of the Roadrunners.

Cornish, a guard, led the New Hampshire-based visitors with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He hit three of six from 3-point distance and 10 of 10 at the free throw line. Dame Adelekun added 15 points and six rebounds.

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson had to improvise down the stretch against Dartmouth with point guard Japhet Medor slowed by a sprained ankle. Medor’s status for Monday against UIW is uncertain. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Off the bench, Dartmouth was strong, with Jackson Munro scoring 10 points, Izaiah Robinson eight and Cam Krystkowiak, a freshman, seven.

For UTSA, Germany asserted himelf with a season-high 27 points. The 6-11 senior also hauled in 13 rebounds. Off the bench, DJ Richards and Erik Czumbel scored 13 points each and played down the stretch in regulation and overtime.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, who missed a three off a broken play at the buzzer, started at small forward and had 11 points.

As for Buggs, the team’s promising redshirt sophomore, it was a tough night. He contributed only three points and sat out most of the second half to the regulation buzzer. Medor, a senior, had two points. Neither one of the two sparkplugs played in the overtime.

UIW coach Carson Cunningham gives directions late in the game as UIW beat Grambling State 63-61 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UIW coach Carson Cunningham is 2-0 in the 210 San Antonio Shootout. His Cardinals rallied to beat Grambling State, 63-61. — Photo by Joe Alexander

While Medor struggled through his night’s work with a sprained ankle that he suffered early in the first half, Buggs was fine physically. He just struggled. The redshirt sophomore finished his day one of nine from the field and one of four from three.

As for how UTSA plays against UIW, it’s up in the air depending on Medor’s ankle. If he plays, it might just be in limited minutes again.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah said his teammate is tough. “He’s got some dog in him,” Addo-Ankrah said of Medor, who scored 28 at home last Tuesdayt night against Prairie View A&M. “I think he’ll play.”

If he can’t play, Addo-Ankrah said sternly that “It’s a next-man-up mentality, and I think we’re ready for that.”

Henson said UIW, a member of the Southland Conference, is playing well.

“They’ve done a great job in these two games here,” the coach said. “They’ve come in with a real solid offensive game plan … I don’t know their numbers, but in the two games I’ve seen, it looks like they they could be a seven-eight-nine turnover a game team.

“Looks like the offense is not real high risk, and they get some late (in the) shot clock shots. They get down in there and attack some people one on one … They attack the paint, kind of like (Texas A&M) Corpus Christi does. And tonight, they knocked down some threes.

“No, they’re playing great, and they’re feeling good. They’re going to come in here fired up and ready to go. We don’t have time to sulk. We got to respond, and I think we will.”


UTSA 4-3
Dartmouth 2-4

Medor’s injury

Medor appeared to turn an ankle a little more than a minute into the game. He limped off the floor and tried to stay loose behind the bench, riding a stationary bike. Medor returned about six minutes later, but he wasn’t playing the same game.

Normally an attacking guard who takes it to the rim, he wasn’t doing anything like that in the limited time that he played the rest of the night. He finished with two points, three rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes and 25 seconds.

Jonathan Cisse scored 10 points including a basket with five seconds left to tie the game as UIW beat Grambling State 63-61 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jonathan Cisse scored 10 points including a basket with five seconds left to tie the game as UIW beat Grambling State 63-61. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Down late, UIW finds a way to win

The Incarnate Word Cardinals erased a five-point deficit in the final 35 seconds Sunday afternoon to knock off the Grambling State Tigers 63-61 in the 210 San Antonio Shootout at UTSA.

Grambling, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, built a 61-56 lead with 35.8 seconds remaining on two free throws by Shawndarius Cowart.

From there, the Cardinals worked some magic and won, improving to 2-0 in the four-day, four-team event. First, Brandon Swaby hit a long three to make it a two-point game. Pressuring on the inbounds, UIW forced a turnover, which led to a game-tying layup by Jonathan Cisse.

Grambling coughed it up again on the inbounds and fouled, sending UIW’s Trey Miller to the free-throw line. Miller hit both ends of a one-and-one to account for the game’s final points.

A length-of-the-court inbounds by Grambling was off the mark, and the buzzer sounded to end the game, with UIW players and coaches celebrating.

Josh Morgan led the Cardinals with 12 points. He hit two of UIW’s eight 3-point baskets. Cisse finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Swaby finished with 10 points. In all, UIW made eight of 22 from deep.

For Grambling, Cameron Christon scored 20 on nine of 13 shooting. Carte’Are Gordon had 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

UIW opened its second game in the Shootout with a solid first half, surging to a 13-point lead in the first 17 minutes.

The San Antonio-based Cardinals held on to take a 29-24 edge into intermission. All games in the event are being played at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UIW opened Friday with a 69-64 victory over Dartmouth College Big Green. Grambling entered its second game in the classic coming off a 75-55 victory over UTSA.


Incarnate Word 4-3
Grambling State 3-4

Monday’s games

Grambling vs. Dartmouth, 3 p.m.
Incarnate Word vs. UTSA, 6:30 p.m.

UTSA notebook

Voters in San Antonio approved a massive city bond last spring that included $5 million earmarked for a men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball practice facility.

UTSA is expected to build a 49,774-square-foot structure adjacent to the Roadrunner Center of Excellence (RACE) on the west side of campus. Its cost is projected as $29.5 million.

An athletics department spokesman said in an email that there is no timeline yet on when construction would start or when the project could be completed.

20-point homecourt losses

Historically, it’s been tough to beat Coach Steve Henson on his home court at UTSA. Opponents have won only 30 out of 98 games against Henson-coached teams at the Convocation Center.

Even more rare are games in which an opponent has won by 20 or more. One of only two 20-point homecourt losses for Henson came Friday night against the Grambling State Tigers in the opener of the 210 San Antonio Classic.

Nov. 25, 2022 — Grambling State 75, UTSA 55
Nov. 12, 2018 — Oklahoma 87, UTSA 67

UTSA takes three-game winning streak into the 210 San Antonio Shootout

The 210 San Antonio Shootout, a multi-team event in men’s college basketball, opens today at the UTSA Convocation Center.

The host UTSA Roadrunners enter the three-day event, which covers four days, on a three-game winning streak.

Action begins this afternoon at 5 p.m. with Dartmouth playing the San Antonio-based University of the Incarnate Word. UTSA will play Grambling at 7:30 p.m.

All games will be held at the Convocation Center.


Dartmouth College, N.H. (1-3) vs. Incarnate Word (2-3), 5 p.m.
Grambling State, La. (2-2) vs. UTSA (4-1), 7:30 p.m.


Incarnate Word vs. Grambling, 5 p.m.
Dartmouth vs. UTSA, 7:30 p.m.


Grambling vs. Dartmouth, 3 p.m.
Incarnate Word vs. UTSA, 6:30 p.m.

UIW’s Cunningham wants to play with ‘competitive fire’

I’m really anxious to go out and watch Coach Carson Cunningham’s home debut as the University of the Incarnate Word’s men’s basketball coach tonight.

UIW will host St. Francis of Illinois at 7 p.m. at the McDermott Convocation Center.

As tipoff draws near, I remember the first time I had a chance to interview the new coach.

Back in March, UIW had just announced Cunningham, and I was on another assignment out on the Northwest Side of San Antonio.

I can’t remember if he called me, or if I called him, but when I did get him on the phone, I was sitting in the foyer of a Luby’s restaurant.

It was pretty strange, with people coming in and out of the eatery, and I’m sitting on a little bench, asking the coach about his vision for the future of the program.

“The goal is to build a values-infused program that aligns with the mission of the university, delivers a fulfilling experience for the student-athletes and has a tremendous competitive fire,” Cunningham said.

Now that I think about it, I may need to go grab a late lunch before tipoff.


UIW (0-1)
St. Francis (0-0)

Season opener

Texas Tech shot 63 percent in the second half Tuesday night and blew out UIW, 87-37. Tech was an Elite Eight team last year in the NCAA tournament.

Players to watch for UIW

Antoine Smith — A 6-7 freshman from Westerville, Ohio, who scored 16 at Texas Tech on 5 of 9 shooting.

Charles Brown III — A 6-7 senior from New Orleans, Brown led UIW in scoring last year. He was held to five points in Lubbock.

Coming up

UIW plays at home Saturday night, hosting Texas-Tyler, and again on Monday, against Texas Lutheran.


St. Francis coach Ryan Marks is a familiar face in Texas college basketball circles, having coached previously at St. Edward’s University in Austin and at Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.

UIW forward Charles Brown III takes it strong to the basket against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

With two Catholic schools in Final Four spotlight, UIW rebuilds

Carson Cunningham started work this week as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

The presence of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the Villanova Wildcats at the NCAA Final Four this week serves as proof that small, Catholic schools can compete – and win – against larger, state-supported institutions.

On the other hand, the Division I basketball gods don’t always smile on the Catholic institutions.

If you doubt that, just call over to the athletic department at the University of the Incarnate Word and ask for new men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham.

Cunningham, who has been on the job for only a few days, is busy trying to figure out how to correct problems that led to a 19-38 combined record the past two seasons.

UIW finished 7-21 last year and at one point lost 17 straight.

Asked about the nature of the rebuilding task at UIW, Cunningham said Tuesday afternoon that “we certainly have work to do.”

Which is precisely why UIW athletic director Brian Wickstrom wanted him in the first place.

Cunningham, a former starting point guard for Gene Keady at Purdue, has found success as a head coach at both Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana, and at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

At Carroll, the Fighting Saints won only two games in 2012-13, the year before Cunningham arrived. In his last two seasons, they won 29 and 28, respectively.

“I have been through a rebuilding process before,” Cunningham said. “So, I’m confident we can build a program (at UIW) that alumni and current students and fans can be proud of and can celebrate. That’s certainly the goal.”

In Saturday’s national semifinals at the Alamodome, Loyola-Chicago will take on Michigan, before Philadelphia-based Villanova battles against Kansas.

Some might suggest that it’s a good omen for Cunningham that two Catholic schools from urban areas have advanced to play at the dome this week, his first on the job at UIW.

Though Cunningham smiled at the question, he wasn’t buying into that line of thinking. He just said it shows that every school has an opportunity to succeed with hard work.

“Being from Northwest Indiana and having lived in Chicago for several years, you know, I know Loyola and its background and kind of its general story quite well,” he said. “To think that it’s in the Final Four in 2018 is unbelievable.

“I think it just represents opportunity. It’s not easy. What they’re doing is out of this world, and I’m sure they feel great about it, as they should.”

A former history teacher at DePaul, in Chicago, Cunningham said “it’s awesome” that Loyola’s 98-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, is getting recognized for her many years of service to the school.

“I think it just serves as a motivator to us,” Cunningham said. “I know, really, so many people across the nation are awed by Sister Jean’s story, and I think it’s a great representation of what Catholic higher education is, at the heart.”

UIW doesn’t have the resources to match Villanova, which plays in the powerful Big East Conference.

Even though UIW has recorded a few important victories on the basketball court over the past few years under former coach Ken Burmeister, the program lacks the tradition of a Villanova or a Loyola-Chicago, which have both won NCAA titles.

Still, UIW does have the tradition of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, brave souls who came to Texas in 1869 to help set up a hospital to treat victims of cholera, Cunningham said.

The coach also pointed out the accomplishments of Sister Walter Maher, the vice president for Mission and Ministry at UIW, whose background includes work as an administrator in the CHRISTUS Healthcare system.

Like Sister Jean, Sister Walter works with UIW athletes.

Cunningham said it’s important in starting to build his program that it “wave the banner” for Sister Walter and for those who came before her.

“That’s deeply motivating to know that we are part of that story,” the coach said. “Even if it’s just through basketball, we can at least be connected to that larger mission. Again, that’s a great honor.”