UTSA beats UTEP in overtime in C-USA women’s tournament

Trailing by 13 points late in the first quarter, the UTSA Roadrunners kept plugging away and eventually edged the UTEP Miners 58-57 in overtime Tuesday in a Conference USA women’s basketball tournament opener.

With the victory, UTSA advanced to the next round to play Old Dominion on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

UTSA entered the tournament as the seventh seed in the C-USA West. Old Dominion is seeded third in the East.

Redshirt freshman Elyssa Coleman led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Graduate student Jadyn Pimentel had 14 points, six rebounds and six steals. Junior Charlene Mass hit the second of two free throws with three seconds left for the victory.

Junior Destiny Thurman scored 23 for the Miners, who were seeded sixth in the East.

Records

UTSA 7-22, 3-14
UTEP 14-15, 6-12

UTEP wins 59-54 to sweep two conference games from UTSA

Darius McNeill. UTEP beat UTSA 59-54 on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners lost their sixth straight game Sunday afternoon despite a stirring performance from senior Darius McNeill, who scored 14 of his 20 points in a second-half rally. – Photo by Joe Alexander

For the first three minutes Sunday afternoon at the UTSA Convocation Center, both the home team Roadrunners and the visiting UTEP Miners charged up and down the court, struggling to find their footing.

Locked in a tie game with the Miners, the Roadrunners weren’t gaining much ground, but neither were they losing it.

Jacob Germany. UTEP beat UTSA 59-54 on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany had a tough day against the Miners with six points on 3 of 12 shooting. The Miners were determined not to let him get going after he produced 21 points and 10 boards Thursday in El Paso. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It was about that time when things started to unravel for the home team. UTSA misfired on 18 of its next 22 shot attempts over the next 14 minutes, allowing UTEP to break away and ultimately claim a 59-54 victory in a defensive struggle.

Do-it-all UTEP guard Jamal Bieniemy produced 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists as hard-luck UTSA lost its sixth straight, including two in four days to the Miners.

UTSA shot just 32 percent in the first half and, despite a Darius McNeill-led run late in the game, never could dig itself out of the hole completely. Roadrunners coach Steve Henson acknowledged that 34.5 percent shooting isn’t good enough.

“It’s been the story in too many” games this season, he said. “I mean, our guys really did some good things defensively these last two ball games. Made a lot of adjustments. We changed our defenses, mixed our defenses up.”

In limiting the Miners to 40 percent shooting Sunday afternoon, the Roadrunners also won the rebounding battle, including 14-7 on the offensive glass, and made as many free throws (12) as the visitors attempted.

“But our turnovers early just led to easy buckets for them,” Henson said. “It allowed them to get a little lead on us. There were a lot of other things there that gave us a chance to win. We’re just struggling to get the ball in the hole right now.”

Records

UTEP 11-8, 4-3
UTSA 7-13, 0-7

Coming up

Thursday — Florida International at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Florida Atlantic at UTSA, 1 p.m.

Notable

A little more than a third of the way through the conference season, the Roadrunners remain a team in transition, struggling from game to game and week to week for a playing rotation that can win games.

At the start of the month, they lost leading scorer Dhieu Deing, who elected to pursue a professional career, followed by leading rebounder Cedrick Alley, Jr. (academically ineligible) and also promising reserve forward Aleu Aleu (right leg injury).

Josh Farmer. UTEP beat UTSA 59-54 on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Josh Farmer returned from Covid protocols to score four points in 10 minutes against the Miners.- Photo by Joe Alexander

With all three out for the season, the Roadrunners also have encountered Covid-19 issues dating back to the last two weeks of December. Jordan Ivy-Curry, Josh Farmer and Christian Tucker were the latest victims. They all sat out UTSA’s 69-64 loss at UTEP on Thursday in El Paso.

While Farmer and Tucker returned to play on Sunday, Ivy-Curry, perhaps the team’s best perimeter player, remained out for the fourth straight game.

When the team returns to practice Tuesday, Ivy-Curry is expected to be on the floor in preparation for home games later in the week against Florida International and Florida Atlantic.

Quotable

“We’ve been fighting different things all year — injuries, Covid,” Henson said. “This week was tough because of the numbers. We didn’t have enough to practice early in the week. (But) guys stepped up and did a great job at El Paso, with eight guys total, six scholarship guys.

“We added two more today (Tucker and Farmer) but those guys practiced yesterday for the first time in a week.

“Everybody (in the country) is dealing with different things. We’ve got a couple of season-ending injuries. We’re short-handed. But we put ourselves in position to win both games, Thursday and today. We just got to find a way to do it.”

McNeil’s resurgence

Without Ivy-Curry on the floor in El Paso or in San Antonio, the Miners saw quite a bit of McNeill, a transfer who has played at both Cal and at SMU.

McNeill hit 7 of 12 shots from the field and scored 19 in the first game. He followed that effort in the rematch by scoring 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting. McNeill is shooting 44 percent and averaging seven points for the season.

“Good player,” first-year UTEP coach Joe Golding said. “(He’s) obviously talented and has played at some high levels. You can tell he wants to win. You can tell he’s invested, and it means something to him.”

Turning the corner?

Like the Roadrunners, the Miners have experienced their share of adversity this season. Coming into the series against UTSA, they had lost 26 man-games to injury or illness, including Christian Agnew (six), Keonte Kennedy (five) and Souley Boum (four).

Kennedy didn’t play either game against UTSA, while Agnew played sparingly in both. Boum started and played well in both outings, allowing the Miners to sweep the regular-season series against the Roadrunners for the first time since 2014-15. UTEP is now on a three-game winning streak.

Ze’Rik Onyema from San Antonio and Jay High School had four points and two rebounds off the bench for UTEP on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at UTSA. The Miners beat UTSA 59-54 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTEP freshman Ze’Rik Onyema from San Antonio and Jay High School had four points and two rebounds off the bench for UTEP on Sunday. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We’re finding different ways to win, which is good,” Golding said. “We’re starting to get some consistency in practice. We’ve had this team together really for three or four weeks.
We got Christian back this week. So, yeah, we’re having better practices. We’re starting to understand our roles a little bit better. We’re finding ways to win games.’

“Credit to our guys,” Golding said. “We stuck through it and continued to fight. We’re big believers that tough times pass and tough people last. Adversity makes you stronger. We’ve been tested on that this year … Our guys have stuck together. They deserve this.”

A team effort

When Bieniemy wasn’t hurting the Roadrunners, guards Jorell Saterfield and Boum were. Saterfield finished with 15 points (on 5 of 8 from three-point distance). Boum produced 11 points, four assists and four rebounds. Former San Antonio Jay High School big man Ze’Rik Onyema played eight minutes for the Miners. The 6-foot-8 forward scored four points, including a two-handed stuff in the first half.

UTSA looking for payback as it hosts UTEP today

The UTEP Miners play at the UTSA Convocation Center today at 3 p.m. with a goal of defeating the Roadrunners for the second time in four days.

If it happens, it would be the first regular-season sweep for UTEP over UTSA in men’s basketball since the 2014-15 season.

Naturally, the Roadrunners are equally intent on another outcome. They intend to win to pay the Miners back for what happened in El Paso on Thursday night.

In West Texas, the Miners rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to down the Roadrunners, 69-64.

UTSA played hard as a team but was saddled with its fifth straight loss while competing without six players who were on the team through the end of December.

Three of those players, including Jordan Ivy-Curry, Josh Farmer and Christian Tucker, were held out in Covid protocols.

Their status for today’s game likely won’t be known for a few more hours.

Three other players — starters Dhieu Deing and Cedrick Alley, Jr., and talented reserve Aleu Aleu — are not expected to play again this season.

Aleu is out with a season-ending injury. Alley is academically ineligible and Deing has left the program to pursue professional basketball.

Regardless of who plays, the goal is the same for the Roadrunners — end a five-game losing streak and start something positive to kick off a three-game homestand.

UTSA has had success under coach Steve Henson against UTEP. In Henson’s six years with the Roadrunners, he is 8-4 against the Miners.

The Miners, 13-10 overall against the Roadrunners in a series dating back to 1981, are scheduled to make their first appearance in San Antonio under the direction of first-year coach Joe Golding.

Golding made a name for himself last year in the NCAA Tournament when his Abilene Christian University Wildcats upset the Shaka Smart-coached Texas Longhorns in the first round.

On Golding’s UTEP staff is Jeremy Cox, who served in the 1990s as a UTSA assistant under former Roadrunners head coaches Stu Starner and Tim Carter.

Ze’Rik Onyema is a UTEP freshman forward from San Antonio’s Jay High School.

Records

UTEP 10-8, 3-3
UTSA 7-12, 0-6

UTEP’s second-half shooting stops UTSA’s upset bid

Down by 11 at halftime and struggling on offense, the UTEP Miners heated up with seven 3-pointers after intermission and finally subdued the UTSA Roadrunners, 69-64, on Thursday night at the Haskins Center in El Paso.

UTEP, paced in the second half by long-distance shooting from Jorell Saterfield, handed UTSA its fifth straight loss and kept the Roadrunners winless in Conference USA. The Miners have won two in a row and three of their last four.

Dogged by injuries and Covid-19 issues, the Roadrunners played only seven players — six of them on scholarship, plus walk-on forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. Division I basketball programs are allowed up to 13 scholarships.

Notable

The Roadrunners, sparked by Addo-Ankrah’s nine points off the bench in 17 minutes, stayed in the game through much of the second half until the Miners took over.

Quotable

“We’re not going to let our guys off the hook,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “We had enough guys to play, and we had enough guys to win. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Need to be a little tougher.

“Yeah, there was some fatigue. Some guys had never played big minutes (in college). Especially the young guys who had never done it … Isaiah, for him to go in there in that setting and do what he did, was pretty impressive.”

Germany’s big night

Junior center Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He hit 9 of 18 from the field, including some long jump hooks. Senior guard Darius McNeill added 19 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. Both McNeill and guard Erik Czumbel played all 40 minutes.

Phoenix Ford had 11 points off the bench for the Roadrunners, who shot 63 percent from the field in the first half but only 28 percent after intermission.

For the Miners, Souley Boum scored 22, Saterfield had 18 and Jamal Bieniemy 11 points. Saterfield hit six of the Miners’ 10 three-point shots. Bieniemy also totaled 8 rebounds and 4 assists.

First half

Playing without Jordan Ivy-Curry for the third straight game, the Roadrunners shot 63 percent from the field and rolled to an improbable 38-27 lead before intermission. UTSA hit its first six shots for a 12-3 lead to set the tone.

The Roadrunners also finished strong by hitting its last three before the half. Germany, a 6-foot-11 lefthander, led the way with 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting. McNeill started and scored 10.

On the defensive end, UTSA was just as effective, holding UTEP to 33 percent (10 of 30 afield), with Boum scoring 13 to keep his team in the game.

The Roadrunners started with a lineup that included McNeill and Erik Czumbel at the guards, Lamin Sabally and Lachlan Bofinger at forwards and Germany in the post.

Notable

The UTSA men’s basketball program announced that the following players would not be available for Thursday night’s road game against the UTEP Miners: Aleu Aleu is out with a season-ending injury. Also, Josh Farmer, Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker are all in COVID protocols.

Within the past few weeks, the Roadrunners have also lost guard Dhieu Deing, who left the team to turn professional, and power forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., who is academically ineligible. Both are expected to be lost for the season. Deing was the team’s leading scorer and Alley was the leading rebounder.

Records

UTSA 7-12, 0-6
UTEP 10-8, 3-3

Coming up

Sunday — UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m.
Jan. 27 — FIU at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 — FAU at UTSA, 1 p.m.
Feb. 3 — UTSA at Rice, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 — UTSA at North Texas, 5 p.m.
Feb. 7 — UTSA at Middle Tennessee, TBD

UTEP uses second-half surge to run away from UTSA, 69-51

The UTSA Roadrunners will return to soul-searching mode next week after a poor performance in El Paso Saturday night. After the UTEP Miners recorded a 69-51 victory, the Roadrunners were left to ponder what to do about an 0-8 record on the road this season.

“Again, if we play the way we played tonight, we’re not going to beat anybody anywhere,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said in a zoom call. “We would have lost at home. We would have lost in the park. We would have lost in the Alamodome. It wouldn’t have mattered, if we played the way we did tonight.”

In one way, it could be argued that the Miners may have just had an edge in attitude and motivation, especially at the end of the game.

Setting the stage for what happened, UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 on Thursday night in San Antonio on the front end of a two-game set in Conference USA. In the first meeting, Roadrunners guard Jhivvan Jackson scored 32 points and Keaton Wallace had 19, to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. The UTSA offense hummed with precision during long stretches.

In the rematch, the Miners didn’t play all that great, but they held Jackson to a season-low seven points, and they also strung together enough plays on both ends to win in crunch time. With the game tied 44-all, the Miners outscored the Roadrunners 25-7 in the last 11 minutes to account for the final margin.

During that stretch, they held UTSA without a field goal for the final 8:17, and they also made their last seven shots from the field. The outcome underscored once again the Roadrunners’ problems on the road, where they have lost 11 straight dating back to February of last season.

“I don’t think it’s a mental block,” Henson said. “I mean, we’re not ignoring it. But, we got to play better. Shoot. We got to play better. I mean, this is a pretty good team. We can’t come in here and play as badly as we did and shoot whatever we shot (29.5 percent) and expect to win. You got to make plays.

“We continue to talk about competing offensively. We’re a pretty good offensive team when we get a few shots down early, and when it’s easy, when the momentum goes the right way. But, boy, when it gets a little tough, we have trouble understanding how to get the right kind of shots, and on the road, you have to get better shots. You have to take care of the ball.

“We’ll address some things early in the week and expect to play better next game on the road.”

Records

UTEP 8-8, 4-6
UTSA 8-9, 4-6

Coming up

UTSA at Florida International, Friday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m.
UTSA at Florida International, Saturday, Feb. 6, at 1 p.m.

Individually

UTEP — Souley Boum, 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting. Jamal Bieniemy, 16 points and 10 rebounds. Keonte Kennedy, 10 points and 14 rebounds. Bryson Williams, 7 points and 9 rebounds.

UTSA — Keaton Wallace, 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting. Jacob Germany, 11 points on 4 of 9. Jhivvan Jackson, 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting.

By the numbers

UTSA’s last win on the road came on Feb. 6, 2020, in an 85-81 victory over Old Dominion … Against UTEP, UTSA’s offense hit only 18 of 61 from the field, including 8 of 29 in the second half. The Roadrunners missed their last nine shot attempts in the game … Jackson hit the first shot of the game, a nice runner from 12 feet in the lane, and then he started to struggle. In the next few possessions, the Roadrunners’ all-conference guard missed two long three-point attempts. UTSA was up 8-2 on the scoreboard when he fouled a jump shooter. Then he committed his second foul a little more than six minutes into the game and had to come out. Jackson played only 12 minutes in the first half and scored four points. He finished with seven points, only his second game this season with less than 10.

Jackson, Wallace key UTSA’s third straight victory

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 in a Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Keaton Wallace enjoyed one of his best games of the season with 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Meanwhile, UTSA scored an important C-USA victory over the UTEP Miners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Very few teams in NCAA Division I basketball have backcourts as explosive as UTSA’s duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

The two seniors were at their entertaining best Thursday night in the Convocation Center.

Jackson scored a season-high 32 points and Wallace contributed 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as the resurgent Roadrunners won their third straight game, taking down the UTEP Miners, 86-79.

Jackson befuddled the Miners with a mix of long-distance shooting artistry and mid-range finesse, hitting 10 of 20 from the field. The senior from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, nailed four three-point shots.

For his part, Wallace sank 7 of 12 in a tour de force that included grit and defensive hustle from the 6-foot-3 Dallas native.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 in a Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 32 for the Roadrunners. The senior guard is averaging 25.1 points in his last seven games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Led by Souley Boum and Bryson Williams, the Miners surged into a two-point lead early in the second half. But the Roadrunners held the Miners as a team to three of 16 shooting in a 10-minute stretch of the second half.

Both Boum and Williams finished with 24 points. Williams, a 6-foot-8 post, was held to five of 11 shooting from the field.

Records

UTSA 8-8, 4-5
UTEP 7-8, 3-6

Coming up

UTSA at UTEP, Saturday at 8 p.m.

Starting slowly

After some erratic performances in the pre-conference phase of the schedule, including a 39-point loss at Oklahoma, the Roadrunners started C-USA play by losing two games at Rice, splitting two at home against North Texas and then dropping two on the road at Louisiana Tech. After the 1-5 start in conference, UTSA has now won three straight, all at home, against Southern Miss (twice) and now UTEP to get back into contention for postseason play.

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 in a Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting in his first collegiate start. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Making the adjustments

The Roadrunners started the homestand with a change in the starting lineup, moving junior Adrian Rodriguez into the first five. They made another move Thursday by starting freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry. With a starting five of Jackson, Wallace, Ivy-Curry, Rodriguez and Jacob Germany, the Roadrunners singed the Miners with 56.7 percent shooting en route to a 46-38 lead.

Quotable

Keaton Wallace, on the slow start to the season — “I (felt) like it was never over. Even in the past, we always start off kind of slow. Then we start figuring some things out. Then guys start meshing together on the court … Then we get rolling. That’s pretty much how it’s been ever since I got here.”

Playing good ‘D’

In the three victories, UTSA has played solid defense in extended stretches to take charge. The Roadrunners did it again Thursday night. For a stretch of more than 10 minutes in the second half, they mixed up defenses, alternating from man to zone, and held UTEP to 3 of 16 shooting. Defensive highlights down the stretch included Rodriguez taking a charge from Williams in the post and the 6-foot-11 Germany extending to block a three-point shot by Boum in the corner. After the block, Germany batted the ball off Boum’s head. It went out of bounds, with the possession awarded to UTSA.

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat UTEP 86-79 in a Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore center Jacob Germany produced eight points, four rebounds and a block. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Quotable

Keaton Wallace, on the key stops — “Those are the detail plays that we’re making now. You know, we weren’t making those plays early in the season. Just paying attention to little details like that. Knowing when to rotate. Playing the ball. Jumping to the ball, things like that. We’re always in the right spots on defense. Jacob getting the block in the corner. That’s just (game and practice) reps. He understands where he needs to be when the ball is in the corner. And A-Rod, the big (man) was driving … You knew that charge was going to be big for us. He got down there and took it.”

Notable

The Roadrunners will try to win their first road game of the season Saturday at UTEP. They’re 0-7 on the road overall, including 0-4 in C-USA road games. The status of injured forward Eric Parrish (Achilles) is uncertain after he sat out his first game of the season. If anything, the play of Jackson and Wallace gives them hope that they can start winning away from home. Combined, the two probably played as well in tandem as they have all season.

Quotable

Coach Steve Henson, on Jackson and Wallace — “They stepped up on the offensive end and delivered in a big, big way.”


.

Cooking up success: Germany anchors the paint for UTSA

UTSA center Jacob Germany throws down a dunk with 2:18 left to give UTSA a 69-65 lead in a 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany is averaging 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Roadrunners, who host the UTEP Miners tonight. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After the UTSA Roadrunners defeated the North Texas Mean Green a few weeks ago, Jacob Germany’s father was on hand to help the team celebrate.

Justin Germany, a chef by trade, cooked up a feast for the squad.

“We had shrimp fettuccine, chicken alfredo, a bunch of barbeque,” Jacob said. “It was amazing. That’s one thing I do miss back home, is that cooking.”

Germany, a sophomore center from Kingston, Okla., related the story in a zoom call with reporters on Tuesday as the team prepared for a couple of games this week against the UTEP Miners.

Asked if he had been able to pick up any of his dad’s culinary skills, Germany grinned and admitted that he had not.

“No,” he said, “I’m more the eater. He cooks it up and I eat it. I never took the time to learn a lot of it.”

If Germany gets by in the kitchen with only the basics to get him through college, nobody on the team is complaining, because he’s started to carry the squad in a lot of other ways.

Scoring around the basket. Knocking down 12-foot jumpers. Rebounding. Blocking shots. Germany, at 6-11 and 230 pounds, has started to show off multiple skills.

“His instincts are so good (with) his poise, his agility,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the eve of tonight’s home game against the Miners. “He’s got tremendous upside. You can see it right before your eyes, his development. It’s pretty fun to watch.”

Last weekend, he anchored the middle as the Roadrunners beat the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on back-to-back nights. In the two games combined, he produced 24 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks.

His two blocks in the final minute helped UTSA seal a 78-72 victory on Saturday afternoon.

Clearly, Germany has started to feel it as a college athlete. After offseason weight-room workouts, he earned a reputation as the second-strongest player on the team next to Phoenix Ford. He’s also among the fastest players on the team.

Germany said the added bulk helps him maneuver around the basket “without giving up too much position” with opposing players.

Last year, he admitted he struggled to live up to the expectations of being a highly-regarded recruit. If he played inconsistently or had a bad game, Germany said he would get down on himself.

A year later, Germany said he learned to channel his energies in a more positive way.

“I think my mentality has definitely changed,” he said. “Rather than getting angry at myself, I use it to play harder and play faster and stronger. I think I’ve really been able to use that aggression for good to help us win games.”

Coming up

UTEP at UTSA, 6 p.m.
UTSA at UTEP, 8 p.m.

Records

UTEP 7-7, 3-5
UTSA 7-8, 3-5

UTSA’s Rodriguez relishes opportunity to contribute

Adrian Rodriguez. UTSA beat Southern Miss 70-64 in Conference USA action at the Convocation Center on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA junior Adrian Rodriguez battles for possession as the Roadrunners defeat the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in Game 1 of a C-USA series last week. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez started for the first time this season last Friday night against Southern Miss. The Roadrunners enjoyed a productive opening 20 minutes and forged a five-point lead at intermission. They ended up winning the game by six.

Same thing happened on Saturday afternoon, basically. Rodriguez started. UTSA moved out to a six-point edge at the half, and the Roadrunners beat the Golden Eagles, once again, by six.

As a result, UTSA is riding a two-game winning streak while preparing for a couple of Conference USA games later this week against the UTEP Miners.

Even though Rodriguez went scoreless with three rebounds in 36 minutes combined in the two recent victories, it doesn’t bother him at all, and that may explain why he has been so effective. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound junior from Tulsa takes his role as a defender and screen-setter and, at times, as a communicator, very seriously.

“I put myself in a mental state that whatever my position (on the team) is, I’m going to come out and give it my all — give my all to my teammates, especially, and do whatever I can to help my team win,” he said. “I’ve been pretty pleased. Whenever I’m out there, I do my job. I get people open, which is my biggest strength, you know, setting great screens, and just getting everybody to talk, getting the energy up, whether that’s in the game or on the bench.”

Rodriguez missed time earlier in the season, sitting out five games, with a back injury.

“It still gives (me) a little bit of problems, but nothing I can’t handle,” he said. “Just got to keep moving forward. Get a little treatment and just push through. You know, this time is limited. You got to make the most of it.”

The Roadrunners will need him to push through whatever discomfort he may be feeling this week against the Miners. He’ll likely be matched up at times against UTEP standout Bryson Williams, who scored 55 points combined in two games against the Roadrunners last season.

“He’s a great player,” Rodriguez said. “You know, amazing touch around the rim. Great athleticism. One of the things we’ve talked about is to be physical with him. You know, try to get him to catch it outside of the spots he’s comfortable in.

“Maybe make him take one more crab dribble, to give the defense a little more time to react. Just switching guys on him. Different coverages. You know, I’m not going to guard him the same way Phoenix (Ford), Ced (Cedrick Alley, Jr.) will. Just give him different looks.”

Coming up

UTEP at UTSA, Thursday, 6 p.m.
UTSA at UTEP, Saturday, 8 p.m.

Records

UTEP 7-7, 3-5
UTSA 7-8, 3-5

UTSA forward Luka Barisic opts out for the rest of the season

Senior forward Luka Barisic has taken the Covid-19 opt out and will not be with the UTSA Roadrunners for the remainder of the season as he attempts to complete requirements for his academic degree, Coach Steve Henson announced Tuesday afternoon.

Luka Barisic had 18 points and 10 rebounds as UTSA beat Lamar 88-66 on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Luka Barisic had his best game of the season on Dec. 22 when he produced 18 points and 10 rebounds against Lamar. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We certainly wish him well. He was a big part of what we were doing. But we certainly understand where he was coming from and wish him nothing but the best,” Henson said.

Barisic, a 6-foot-10 post from Osijek, in Croatia, joined the team before the 2019-20 season as a transfer from Highland (Ill.) Community College. He played in 32 games with 21 starts for the Roadrunners last year and averaged 6.6 points and 3 rebounds. This year, he played in 14 of the team’s 15 games, all off the bench. He averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Asked how difficult a decision it was for Barisic, Henson said he thinks “a lot of things” went into it.

“You know, it’s always hard for the kids to have those conversations,” he said. “It’s disappointing. I want every one of our student-athletes to come in here and have a great experience and leave feeling really good about things. So it’s disappointing. I’m disappointed for him. I’m not disappointed in him. I’m disappointed for him that … but I also understand.

“So much has been going on. He’s two classes away from graduating, and to be able to do that from wherever he is…He said he was going to look for a flight to get home. He hasn’t been home in a long time. So I got to think that had something to do with it, as well.”

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last spring, all NCAA Division I basketball players have been granted an additional year of eligibility, but Henson said he doesn’t expect Barisic to return.

“We didn’t discuss that,” the coach said. “My guess is that he’s ready to get that degree and explore things back home. He might still have the opportunity to play back home in one of the leagues there. So that would be my guess. Coming out of here … with a good degree in hand … I wouldn’t anticipate him coming back here or playing anywhere else in college. I think if he continues to play it would be at the professional level.”

Coming up

UTEP at UTSA, Thursday, 6 p.m.
UTSA at UTEP, Saturday, 8 p.m.

Records

UTEP 7-7, 3-5
UTSA 7-8, 3-5

Deja vu? Not quite, as UTSA rolls late to beat UTEP, 86-70

Atem Bior. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Atem Bior produced a career-high 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Roadrunners improved their record in Conference USA to 3-3. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson was grinning slightly as he walked around the perimeter of a media scrum and moved into position for his post-game interview session Saturday afternoon.

Before taking a single question, he had one declaration to make.

Steve Henson. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it felt good to make enough plays at the end to beat the UTEP Miners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Fire away,” Henson said. “A dollar for the first one that says, ‘Was that (game) just like Wednesday?’ Yes.”

True enough.

The teams were the same — the UTEP Miners against Henson’s Roadrunners. The flow of the game was also about the same, with the Miners executing a thrilling second-half rally for the second time in four days.

But, with all due respect, this one was different in an important way.

The Roadrunners won this one, even though they did fritter away most of a 23-point lead before steadying themselves at the end to nail down an 86-70 victory over the Miners.

With the decision, the Roadrunners improved to 8-1 at home and gained a measure of redemption after blowing a 24-point lead and then losing 80-77 to the Miners in overtime at El Paso.

After the game in West Texas, the Roadrunners returned to San Antonio in a funk, having squandered their second golden opportunity in two weeks to win on the road in Conference USA.

Coming home, they knew they had to make amends.

“Just glad our guys bounced back the way they did,” Henson said. “Had two good days of preparation. Weren’t real long practices, but we worked real hard on keeping our legs fresh and making a few adjustments.

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat UTEP 86-70 on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman center Jacob Germany went 4 for 4 from the field, including a highlight-reel dunk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Came out and re-established what we’d established in the first half (in El Paso).”

In the first half at El Paso, UTSA looked very good.

After that, everything unraveled, as the Miners roared from behind with separate runs of 17-0 and 8-0 en route to the biggest comeback in school history and the biggest in NCAA Division I this season.

Less than 72 hours later, both teams tipped off in San Antonio, and a season-high crowd of 1,684 fans watched curiously as deja vu started to set in.

With 61 percent shooting, the Roadrunners bolted to a 48-31 halftime lead, and then they emerged from the dressing room after intermission with equal intensity.

They continued to apply pressure on the Miners, hiking the advantage to 62-39 when Atem Bior scored on a bucket in the paint.

At that point, just as they did a few nights ago, the Roadrunners got careless with the ball, started turning it over at an alarming rate and allowed the Miners to rally.

Nevil Shed was at Saturday's UTSA vs. UTEP men's basketball game. Shed is a basketball legend in both San Antonio and El Paso.

Texas basketball legend Nevil Shed takes in Saturday’s game at the Bird Cage. He played for the 1966 NCAA champion Miners of Texas Western College (now UTEP) and later became an assistant coach and an administrator at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTEP capitalized on five turnovers, blitzing the home team with a stunning 19-2 run over the next five minutes.

All of a sudden, in a game that looked lost, the Miners had life — down by six with 7:25 remaining.

“To be honest, it felt worse tonight, than it did on Wednesday,” Henson said of the UTEP comeback. “On Wednesday, it wasn’t like we totally lost our composure.

“Tonight, it was. We were throwing that ball around, making weak plays. It was very, very similar.

“…What happened (in El Paso) was in our minds a little bit. So, yeah, the wheels came off. But, we regrouped and finished the game better.”

Aided by big plays from Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace, Luka Barisic and Makani Whiteside, the Roadrunners constructed a 17-6 run to put the game away.

A couple of Jackson free throws with 1:54 remaining capped the streak and widened the lead to 81-64.

Records

UTEP 11-8, 2-4
UTSA 9-10, 3-3

Coming up

Winless on the road in the C-USA at 0-3, UTSA plays next at North Texas (on Thursday) and at Rice (next Saturday.) Both with a tip off at 7 p.m.

By the numbers

UTEP — Bryson Williams produced 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting, 7 rebounds. He had 34 points Wednesday night. Souley Boum scored 18 points. Not counting Williams, the Miners hit only 16 of 53 shots from the field (30.1 percent). Guard Daryl Edwards, who hurt the Roadrunners in El Paso, scored only three on 1 of 10 shooting.

UTSA — It’s notable that the Roadrunners beat a good team on a day when they made only six three-point shots. Known for their long-distance artistry, they were 6 of 20 from three. They made up for it with strong play from big men Atem Bior (13 points, 7 rebounds), along with Jacob Germany and Luka Barisic (both with 9 points).

Jackson and Wallace

The highest-scoring tandem in Division I combined for 44 points. Jackson produced 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Wallace scored 21, and also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jackson was off the mark with his shooting touch (5 of 14), including a missed layup late in the game, but he sank 12 of 12 at the line. Wallace hit 8 of 18 from the field.

First-half recap

Wallace scored 16 points and Bior came up big with 11 points and five rebounds, leading the Roadrunners to a 48-31 advantage at the break. UTSA played strong defense, limiting the Miners to 35.3 percent shooting. UTSA also won the battle of the boards, 23-16. On the offensive end, the Roadrunners sizzled at 61.3 percent. UTSA hit eight of its last nine shots before intermission.

Second-half summary

After the Miners pulled to within six, Barisic stopped the run with a three-point play. Later, the Miners had it down to nine when Whiteside nailed a three from the arc to make it a 12-point game with 4:30 remaining. From there, UTSA never allowed UTEP to cut the lead under 10. Jackson made sure of it by hitting six of six at the free throw line in the last two minutes.