By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Elyssa Coleman and the UTSA Roadrunners hated the feeling that they had a few days ago after losing at home to the Texas State Bobcats.
They made amends on Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center, rolling to a season-high in points with a 90-66 victory over the UTEP Miners.
As Coleman poured in a career-high 23, the Roadrunners shot 58.3 percent from the field and routed the Miners in front of an announced crowd of 926. Coleman also pulled down eight rebounds in perhaps her best game in three years at UTSA.
Last Thursday night, UTSA tipped off against the Bobcats after returning home from a four-game road swing. The result wasn’t what the Roadrunners wanted, a 65-57 loss in overtime.
Coleman said the outcome stung the players, who were still angry about it when they left the arena.
“(We) knew that wasn’t our 100 percent (best) effort,” she said. “That’s what we came out here and did today. We showed 100 percent effort.”
Against UTEP, UTSA attacked early and never slowed down. The Roadrunners led 26-13 at the end of one quarter, by 48-31 at intermission and by as many as 29 points late in the game.
Coleman paced the Roadrunners with 11 of 13 shooting from the field, including nine for 10 in the first half when she scored 19 points.
Five of her first-half field goals were from the perimeter, including one from the corner that counted as a three-pointer just before intermission.
“I got lucky,” she said. “I been praying a lot, and it’s Sunday. It’s God’s day. So that’s what I’m (attributing) it to.”
Coleman said UTSA players also found inspiration in a post-game event for Mia Perez, a 10-year-old cancer patient. The Roadrunners had a signing ceremony of sorts to welcome her to the team.
Actually, the players have known Perez since the beginning of last season.
“She’s here almost every home game,” Coleman said. “We’ve seen her at some football games when our whole team goes. We’ll have little events for her when we have time. In the preseason, we probably hang out with her more, probably once every two weeks.”
Coleman said Perez’s presence on Sunday gave the Roadrunners a lift.
“Mia’s perseverance in her journey is nothing that we would ever come close to on the court,” Coleman said. “So I feel like, if she can do that, then what is basketball? It shouldn’t be that hard.”
Several other Roadrunners played well against the Miners, notably point guard Sidney Love, who had 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Kyra White, another starter, had 12 points and seven assists. Siena Guttadauro, playing the role of spark plug off the bench, also pumped in 12 points and hit four of five from the 3-point arc.
As a team, UTSA sank 44.4 percent from three (eight of 18) and 80 percent from the free-throw line (12 of 15).
A player that caught UTSA coach Karen Aston’s eye was 6-foot-4 center Nissa Sam-Grant, who had four points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in 14 minutes.
“I thought she was pretty decent tonight,” the coach said.
Last season, Sam-Grant was in school and practicing with the team, but she did not play in games. Working out in those practice sessions last season, the Canada native first raised eyebrows with her potential.
But as this season started, she has has not played much — only in five games, in which she has averaged five minutes.
“We kind of expected more at the beginning (of this season), than what she was giving us,” Aston said, “but I think some of that is, she just sat out for a long time. It’s taken her awhile to get into game mode and really kind of push herself.
“Kids get kind of stagnant when they sit out for awhile. I think we’re starting to see some glimpses of what I thought she could do for our team. Hopefully this gives her some confidence.”
Guard Aaliyah Stanton led UTEP with 17 points, three assists and three steals.
Houston at UTSA, Dec. 14, 6 p.m.
UTSA women’s basketball is finally starting to string together some consistent winning over a period of months. Since Jan. 28 of last season, the Roadrunners have fashioned a record of 14-7.
Last spring, they went 9-4 to the end of the season. This season, they have tacked on a 5-3 record. Two of the losses were on the road at Power 5 programs (Arizona State and Texas Tech).
Jordyn Jenkins, who led UTSA with 20.6 points a game last year, still has not played this season as she attempts to come back from a knee injury. Before games, Jenkins has been engaged in some light shooting drills with a coach but does not participate in warmups with her teammates. UTSA coach Karen Aston said “we’re still a little bit away” from her return to practice or games.
“She’s looking real good but we’re not going to rush her,” the coach said. “Too many people rush kids back, and that’s not our intention with her. There’s no timeline right now.”
UTSA senior Hailey Atwood was honored last summer with a Teammate of the Year award by Team Impact for her efforts in befriending Mia Perez. Team Impact is a nonprofit that pairs collegiate athletes with kids with disabilities or severe illnesses. Both Atwood and Perez traveled to Boston last June to be recognized.
The Roadrunners’ scoring total against the Miners was the program’s highest since 2017. UTSA hadn’t hit the 90-point mark in a game since Nov. 10, 2017. On that day, the Roadrunners downed Division III Sul Ross, 97-47. In the previous season, on Feb. 25, 2017, the Roadrunners won at home against a Division I opponent, the FAU Owls, by a score of 97-66.
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— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) December 3, 2023
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) December 3, 2023