Cedrick Alley talks of high hopes and dreams as a UTSA senior

Cedrick Alley Jr., Jacob Germany. UAB beat UTSA 64-57 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Conference USA action at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Cedrick Alley Jr. (left) teams with center Jacob Germany to hound a UAB shooter last year. Alley, once regarded as the top player in Texas Class 6A at Klein Forest High School, is acknowledged as the defensive leader for the Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After experiencing the sweetness of team success in college basketball at the University of Houston, Cedrick Alley Jr. never quite felt completely fulfilled on an individual level.

He hopes to taste both sensations this season as a senior with the UTSA Roadrunners.

In a candid interview, Alley, a former “Mr. Basketball” in Texas at Klein Forest High School, spelled out his hoop dreams in detail recently.

He laid them out there for all to analyze, as fans are known to do.

Alley wants to play in the NCAA tournament again, as he did a few years ago with the Cougars. Moreover, in his second year with the Roadrunners, he also hopes to make a run at Defensive Player of the Year honors in Conference USA.

All of it, he said, makes up a grand plan to help re-establish UTSA basketball tradition. Alley wants that, more than anything, as he prepares for his last ride as a college player.

“It is crazy to think about that, seeing (former teammates) go off and be able to hold up their picture (on Senior Day), and have everyone scream for them,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be a great feeling (for me).

“But I’m not so much focused on that as I am on … winning the Conference USA Tournament, and getting us where we want to go — to the NCAA Tournament. UTSA basketball. I feel like we can get there.”

UTSA men's basketball coach Steve Henson at the first practice for the 2021-22 season at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson says he thinks Cedric Alley, Jr., is playing with a renewed passion for the game – Photo by Joe Alexander

What makes him so confident?

“Our coaches have been real, real serious about defense this year,” Alley said. “We’ve hardly even worked on offense. So I feel one of our main goals this year is to be one of the best defensive teams in this league.

“I feel like our defense is going to take us as far as we want to go. We lock in on defense, and we can be in any game we play.”

At Houston, Alley redshirted his first year out of Klein Forest and then played 60 games over two years through 2019-20 with the nationally-ranked Cougars. At that juncture, he transferred, seeking a fresh start at UTSA.

With the Roadrunners last season, he battled through a series of minor injuries to average a modest 6.3 points, but he came on strong down the stretch as the team went 8-2 in the last 10 games of the C-USA regular season.

This year? Alley, at 6-6, 230 pounds, is sort of like the team’s defensive coordinator in the locker room. He takes the leadership role seriously, and he thinks that if he does his job, the team will win.

Also, his individual success will follow.

“I want to average 10 rebounds,” he said. “Points, it don’t matter to me. Everyone on this team can score. I want to average 10 rebounds and be a defensive player. I want to be the Defensive Player (of the Year) in Conference USA.

“That’s my expectation, and to hold the team accountable, if we’re not doing the job our coaches want us to.”

With a little more than three weeks remaining before the start of the new season, UTSA coach Steve Henson said he is more than happy with Alley’s work ethic and mindset.

“I don’t know if he alluded to it or not, but we kind of feel like he’s got a little of his passion back,” Henson said. “Sometimes when you go from being a superstar — you know, he was an elite high school player — it wasn’t easy (for him) at Houston.

“His role was diminished a little bit, and he didn’t have as much impact on the results … as he wanted to have.”

“He didn’t get off to a great start (for us) last year. Second half, he was pretty good. But he’s got a different approach right now. His offseason was much better this year. He’s much better conditioned.”

Last season, his conditioning failed him at times because of circumstances beyond his control.

Physical setbacks kept him from attaining peak conditioning at the outset of the season, Henson said, and then a groin injury in January in the C-USA opener at Rice added to his problems.

Additionally, with C-USA games scheduled for back-to-back days because of Covid-19 mitigation, Alley was hamstrung. He’d play one day but couldn’t get moving on the second day.

It wasn’t until Jan. 23 that he played as many as 19 minutes on Day Two of a back-to-back.

By the time Alley started feeling it physically, the monster snowstorm hit and the power went out in his apartment, forcing him to relocate to a teammate’s on-campus dwelling to stay warm.

“Crazy,” he said, thinking back to last season. “But, we’re here now, and we’re thinking about having a big year. A big year.”

From the outside, Alley’s talk of a title run for the Roadrunners is likely to be met with skepticism.

Ten seasons have passed since the Roadrunners last made it to an NCAA tournament. On top of that, as a C-USA member for the past eight seasons, they haven’t even made it past the tournament quarterfinals.

Alley, however, is confident.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UTSA wanted to emphasize defense on Friday in a 91-62 victory over Sul Ross State at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Cedrick Alley, Jr. says he wants to be the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and to lead the Roadrunners to the NCAA tournament. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Even without departed standouts Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, he believes the Roadrunners’ players are up to the task. Taller at most positions. With longer arms to shut down passing lanes. And with enough offensive firepower to win.

Some of the offense may come from some of the youngest players, he said.

“Josh (Farmer), he’s like 6 (feet) 9 and he plays hard. Goes to the boards hard. He can go get a bucket any time. He’s looking very good on the court, very comfortable.

“Then we got Lamin (Sabally) from Germany. He’s very long. Defensive stopper. He steps up at big moments. And then we got AZ (Azavier Johnson) from Las Vegas. A big body.

“We’re looking for them to come in and give us everything they got.”

Leading the way is Alley, a guy with a charismatic personality who doesn’t mind taking on the challenge of elevating the program from good, to better than good — all the way back to the Big Dance.

“I want to get UTSA on the map, (to let people know) that we’re here for basketball, and that we can compete at the highest level,” he said.

Sabally’s return to practice boosts Roadrunners

Lamin Sabally is a 6-foot-7 freshman guard who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Germany. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally is a 6-foot-7 freshman guard/forward from Germany. – photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman forward Lamin Sabally has returned to drills with the UTSA Roadrunners after sitting out four or five practices with a concussion early in the preseason camp.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said Tuesday that Sabally has been working his way back into form since re-joining the team on the floor last Saturday.

“He’s been fine (physically),” Henson said. “He didn’t lose much in that short of time. No effects of that whatsoever. He just jumped right back into it.”

UTSA has been in practices for nearly two weeks in preparation for a Nov. 9 season opener against Trinity.

Sabally, at 6-7 and 195 pounds, plays a fluid style that should complement the Roadrunners’ other rotation pieces in the frontcourt.

“We’ve never had a roster with that many long forwards, guys that could play multiple positions, (with) that much length, and pretty skilled at that position as well,” the coach said.

Henson said he has liked the looks of his team’s defense to this point but acknowledges that “we’re searching a little bit right now” in terms of identifying an offensive style.

“We’ve got different guys with the ability to create, and move the ball,” he said. “We can trust virtually everybody to make plays, which is a good sign.”

Henson said the Roadrunners are hopeful of being multi-dimensional on offense, with several scoring threats.

“Everybody can handle it well enough on the perimeter that we can play with five guys on the perimeter quite a bit,” the coach said. “If we can get four guys around (center) Jacob (Germany), that looks pretty good, as well.

“Still searching for a little more attack, seeking fouls, driving it down into the paint. We’re going to continue to look for that.

“There are times in practice when we make a lot of threes, we’re shooting off the pass, and shooting it pretty well,” he said. “It’s kind of across the board. A guy will make one. Another guy will make one.

“It’s not like one or two guys are carrying the load in that regard.”

Notable

Sabally, from Berlin, in Germany, is from a basketball family. Satou Sabally, his sister, has played two seasons in the WNBA with the Dallas Wings. She was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft out of Oregon. Nyara Sabally, another sister, is a junior at Oregon.

Lamin Sabally played internationally for the ALBA Berlin U18 team in 2018-19 in the Munich League before coming to the United States. He also played for the club team Tusli Lichterfeld in Berlin. Sabally moved from Germany in 2019 to play prep basketball in Arizona.

UTSA forward Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 junior transfer, has sat out most of the team’s camp with an unspecified injury. He was out again Tuesday after making it through about half of Monday’s workout …

Henson said walk-on point guard Christian Tucker, from Chandler, Ariz., has played well. “He’s been terrific,” Henson said. “He’s been really, really good.”

Henson applauds UTSA’s competitive edge, chemistry

Lachlan Bofinger. UTSA beat Lamar 88-66 on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lachlan Bofinger has emerged at the start of camp as one of the most improved of the returning players for the UTSA Roadrunners. — Photo by Joe Alexander

After his seventh practice of the preseason, UTSA coach Steve Henson said Thursday that he likes the progress his team has made thus far.

“I’m very encouraged,” Henson said. “It’s a real competitive group. I mean, they get after it. They want to keep score on just about everything we do.

“We’ve got a good ability to compete and talk and fight each other, and then as soon as it’s over, they move past it.

“They don’t carry any grudges when things get a little rough. I think that’s a good sign for us.”

The Roadrunners are about a quarter of the way through their preseason. By rule, Division I programs get 30 practices.

Josh Farmer, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Houston Sharpstown, at the first day of UTSA men's basketball practice. - photo by Joe Alexander

Josh Farmer is a promising 6-9 freshman forward from Houston. – Photo by Joe Alexander

On Thursday afternoon, freshman forward Josh Farmer had a solid day, showing off an ability to hit jumpers, as well as a knack for finishing drives with soft banks off the glass.

Henson said he’s seen “quite a few” pleasant surprises.

“All of them have been good,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with the freshmen. Those guys are doing a great job.”

The coach also mentioned transfers Dhieu Deing (a junior) and Darius McNeill (a senior) for playing up to high expectations, with 6-6 sophomore Lachlan Bofinger emerging as one of the most improved players among the returners.

“It is early, but he is playing with so much confidence,” Henson said. “He just makes a lot of good plays. Doesn’t matter how we pick the teams. His team has a chance to win most of the time.”

After Farmer utilized his 6-foot-9 size and shooting touch to score a few baskets, Bofinger blocked his shot, saved it from going out of bounds and flung it downcourt to start a fast break.

The sequence ended with a resounding two-handed stuff by senior forward Cedrick Alley, Jr.

“He’s a pretty versatile guy,” Henson said of Bofinger, a native of Australia who averaged 9.9 minutes in 17 games last year as a freshman. “It looks like he’s taken a big step here. He’s relentless (in every practice). Every drill, every rep.”

The Roadrunners have suffered some adversity in the early going, the most notable being senior forward Adrian Rodriguez, who has elected not to play because of medical reasons.

Rodriguez has been slowed since 2017, his freshman year, by a knee injury.

In addition, freshman Lamin Sabally and junior transfer Aleu Aleu have also been held out of most of the camp thus far.

Aleu, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Temple JC, hasn’t had a full practice yet but he does attend and is gradually increasing his work load.

Sabally worked out on media day last Wednesday, on the first day, and he showed off potential as a wing defender.

But the 6-7 forward, slowed by a concussion, hasn’t practiced much this week though he could be cleared for more work by Saturday.

Frontcourt minutes available

Most of the talk as camp opened centered on how the team would make up for the loss of guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the Nos. 1-2 scorers in school history, who are both pursuing pro careers.

But the team also has some questions to answer about the frontcourt, as well.

Rodriguez played some at backup center and power forward last season. Now that he has decided not to play, that is one void the team must figure out how to fill.

Also to be determined is a replacement for Eric Parrish, a starting small forward last season who elected last spring to leave the team.

Deing, a 6-foot-5 transfer, apparently is the guy to step in for Parrish.

He is a player of African descent who was born in Louisiana and played in high school in North Carolina. He attended Dodge City (Kan.) JC last year and, last summer, suited up for South Sudan’s national team in the FIBA AfroBasket tournament.

Deing shoots well from the perimeter and can create on the dribble.

Right now, he appears to be the leading contender to step into a starting lineup that would also include big men Jacob Germany at center, Alley at power forward, McNeill at point guard and Jordan Ivy-Curry at shooting guard.

Bofinger, Farmer, Aleu and Sabally are all players who could play both forward positions.

While Bofinger is a hard-driving type who thrives on creating havoc on the defensive end, Farmer is a burgeoning offensive talent.

Aleu was born in Kenya, in Africa, and Sabally in Germany.

Both have also played in high school in the United States, Aleu in high school in Austin and at Temple JC, and Sabally in prep school in Arizona.

Returning senior Phoenix Ford is expected to play a prominent role at the power forward position.

Hopes are high as UTSA unveils revamped roster in first practice

Darius McNeill is one of the new players on the UTSA men's basketball roster. He is a 6-foot-3 senior transfer guard. - photo by Joe Alexander

High-energy guard Darius McNeill told reporters that he was relieved to receive clearance from the NCAA last week to play this season. He transferred into UTSA in the offseason after two years at Cal and one at SMU. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners hit the practice floor on Wednesday afternoon, opening preseason workouts confident that they can build on a winning tradition established by departed scoring stars Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

With Jackson and Wallace, the Roadrunners produced a 65-60 record in four seasons, including 38-32 in Conference USA. The team forged winning conference records in three of four years with the duo, who left UTSA as the Nos. 1 and 2 scorers in school history.

UTSA men's basketball coach Steve Henson at the first practice for the 2021-22 season at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson starts his sixth season at UTSA hoping to find a winning formula with a revamped roster. – photo by Joe Alexander

Prior to their arrival, UTSA basketball was down, riding a dismal stretch of five straight years with losing records, both overall and in conference. So, while some of their own fans may worry about how the team can replace the two, the new group is hardly fazed by the challenge.

UTSA sophomore Jordan Ivy-Curry says he thinks he and his teammates will be fine. Asked by a reporter what life will be like without Jackson and Wallace, Ivy-Curry didn’t hesitate with his response. “It’s going to be better,” he said.

“We’re going to be better,” said Ivy-Curry, who is projected as the team’s starter at shooting guard. “Even without Keaton and Jhivvan, you know, they were great scorers, but I feel like we have some great guys that came in. They can do the same.”

Based on how the team competed in a three-hour workout at the Convocation Center, it’s obvious that the Roadrunners are different, perhaps better defensively, with a fleet of lengthy, athletic forwards and guards.

It remains to be seen how they will fare, though, without the dominant backcourt scoring prowess that Jackson and Wallace supplied.

“Obviously it’s a different feel out there,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “A lot of new energy. A lot of new faces. A lot of hungry guys. A lot of guys that are going to be fighting for roles. They think they’re fighting for shots. They need to be fighting for roles.

“But I think you can sense the excitement, the newness, the freshness.”

Also, the quickness.

With a potential starting wing group that consists of Ivy-Curry, along with newcomers Darius McNeill and Dhieu Deing, both of them transfers, the Roadrunners showed in the first workout how they can get up and down the court in a hurry.

In addition, UTSA also exhibited a physical presence in the paint with 6-11 Jacob Germany and 6-6, 230-pound power forward Cedrick Alley Jr., both of them holdovers from last year’s team that finished 15-11 overall and 9-7 in the C-USA.

Scrimmage highlights that stood out on the first day included a fast break led by McNeill, who jetted down the court, passing a few defenders along the way.

When he reached the paint, the former two-year starter at Cal in the Pac-12 stopped and two-handed a bullet pass to the corner.

When the ensuing jump shot misfired, Deing swept in from the wing to tip it in.

Deing may have had the most and memorable moments of any of the newcomers on opening day. When he wasn’t spotting up to hit threes, he showed off deft ball-handling and passing skills.

On one play, he drove baseline, attracted a defender and dumped off a pass to Lachlan Bofinger for a layup.

Even with the offensive flair on display, players cheered loudest for good defensive plays, an emphasis from the start of team building during summer workouts.

A confident group is coming together with the season opener scheduled for Nov. 9 at home against Trinity.

“Oh, we going to be better,” Ivy-Curry said. “Just watch.”

Finding a home

McNeill said it felt good to get out on the floor with his new teammates. It felt especially good because, only last Friday, UTSA announced that he had been cleared by the NCAA to play immediately without having to sit out a year.

After two years at Cal, McNeill moved to Dallas in 2019 to attend SMU, hoping to be closer to his Houston home. Also, hoping to play right away. It didn’t happen. Denied by the NCAA, he sat out all of 2019-20 before finally getting a shot with the Mustangs last season.

Feeling restless last spring, McNeill elected to transfer again, and UTSA answered the call.

“When I first came in, it was like, up and down,” he said. “I was sad, because I didn’t want to go through the same thing I did at SMU. Nobody understands, you practice every day and you’re working for something and they tell you, ‘No.’

“It was like a hurt feeling. Now I get to play. My family gets to come see me play and I get to help the team win.”

Maturing as a player

Feeling good physically, 6-foot-11 center Jacob Germany also has a sense of ease that comes from being a veteran college player. A few years ago, he was a freshman, uncertain about his ability to play the college game at a high level.

Now, he’s a junior, feeling settled and more sure of himself.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “Big mindset change. Confidence, you know, is a lot higher. Freshmen come in and most of ’em are going to be scared and just trying to fit in. I enjoy it more now. I feel more comfortable. It’s really nice, honestly.”

Stormy weather for UTSA hoops? Not likely

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 expected to emerge as one of the focal points of an offense that may take some time to find an identity. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Sitting on the living room couch this morning, it’s still dark outside, and I hear rolling thunder and cracks of lightning. Also, some wind gusts and much-needed rain.

With a cup of coffee in reach, I started thinking. This nice little break from our weeks-long streak of late summer sunshine has got to have some alternate meaning, right?

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

Jordan Ivy-Curry, who averaged 7.2 points last season, likely will take on more of a scoring load this year as a sophomore. — Photo by Joe Alexander

How about a couple of possible narratives related to the start of UTSA men’s basketball practice, which gets underway later this afternoon at the Convocation Center?

Is nature’s noisy wake-up call a portent of what we can expect this season from, say, senior and first-year point guard Darius McNeill, throwing lobs for resounding dunks to junior center Jacob Germany?

Or, perhaps, from 230-pound Cedric Alley Jr., rumbling into the paint for rebounds in traffic?

Last season, we saw glimpses of potential from guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, who came on late to stoke optimism about the emergence of another high-scoring UTSA backcourt player.

Surely, “Juice,” now a sophomore, will supply some lightning of his own in coming months.

Then again, you have to wonder also about the flip side of our weather-related metaphor, because UTSA basketball historically tends to take you on the emotional roller coaster.

Could the morning cloud-burst actually be a sign of stormy weather to come for coach Steve Henson’s program?

After all, two of the best players — if not the two best players — in school history are no longer on the team.

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

Cedrick Alley Jr., slowed by injuries last season, has impressed coaches during preseason conditioning. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Both Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace combined to score more than 4,500 points between them over the past four years before undertaking a journey that both hope leads to careers in professional basketball.

So, replacing those two will not be easy.

Henson, though, doesn’t sound like a guy who is concerned about a drop off from the past four seasons.

During a month of conditioning with the new group, he generally liked what he saw. Fierce competition, mainly.

With several newcomers, individual roles were being defined on a daily basis, so the level of intensity was high.

At the same time, Henson does have questions about the team’s identity and what it might look like come next March.

“It always evolves,” Henson said last week. “Typically, you go in and you have an idea what it’s going to look like. The more new guys you have, the more questions it would be. The commitment to the defensive end seems to be pretty strong.

“That gives us the best chance to win games.

“Offensively, there may be more questions. How are we really going to find our way offensively? We’ve got guys who can score. Juice has already proven that. Jacob’s already proven that. (Newcomer) Dhieu (Deing) has already scored at a high level (in junior college).

“So, I’m not worried about it. I just don’t know exactly what our offensive identity will end up looking like.”

‘Defensive intensity’ evident in early UTSA drills

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

Coach Steve Henson is preparing to open his sixth season as men’s basketball coach at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

For fans of the UTSA Roadrunners, it may take awhile to adjust, in terms of not seeing 2,000-point scorers Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace on the floor this fall.

It will be strange. But as far as sixth-year coach Steve Henson is concerned, he more or less has already turned the page mentally.

Henson said Friday that he very much likes the energy of his newest group of Roadrunners.

“You walk in right away and you notice the competitiveness,” he said. “The group’s really getting after it … What really jumps out is the defensive intensity (and) the length.”

Last season, as Jackson and Wallace played their fourth and final seasons together, UTSA finished 15-11 overall and 9-7 in Conference USA.

After Jackson hurt his shoulder in the opener of the C-USA tournament, the Roadrunners were eliminated by Western Kentucky in the quarterfinals.

Since then, Henson and his staff have been busy making plans for the new group of players and the new season. Conditioning drills have been ongoing since the start of the fall semester.

“We’ve got more 6-6, 6-7 guys than we’ve ever had before,” Henson said. “So the length, in the passing lanes — some of those guys are really getting after it, getting pretty good ball pressure. (We’re) just super competitive in the defensive segments.”

UTSA had a banner day in the offseason on April 6. On that day, the Roadrunners announced the signing of guard Darius McNeill and forward Josh Farmer.

Farmer is a 6-9 freshman from Houston Sharpstown, the 10th-rated player in the state. McNeill is a 6-3 senior transfer who has played two seasons at the University of California in the Pac-12 and one at SMU in the American Athletic Conference.

“With Darius, we were thrilled when we were able to get him to transfer over,” Henson said. “Like we said (in our news release), he had two really good years out at Cal. He transferred back closer to home, went to SMU. Sat out a year and then played one year at SMU. So, he’s had a lot of success.”

UTSA on Friday learned that the NCAA had granted McNeill a waiver, allowing him to play immediately. Henson said he wants McNeill to set the tone for the Roadrunners defensively.

“If you’re looking for someone to compare him to physically, Keaton (Wallace) would be a good one,” the coach said. “Really, really strong. Similar size. Lefty. But really, really can get after the ball.

“He guards the ball, heats it up. Applies pressure. Unbelievably quick on the turf, in the stuff you can measure. On the court, it’s just obvious.

“We’re thrilled with what he can do setting the tone for our defense. Always in the gym. Absolutely living in the gym right now. Made a lot of threes at Cal. It’s proven he can do that. We haven’t done much with any pace at this point.

“But I think he’ll be pretty good in the open court, as well.”

Henson acknowledged that it was a “big deal” for the Roadrunners to land a player of his stature.

“He’s got a lot of experience and he’s extremely tough,” Henson said. “That was a really, really good get for us.”

No. 14 Louisiana Tech sweeps doubleheader from UTSA

Parker Bates slammed a walk-off, 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday to propel the 14th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to a 10-7 victory and a doubleheader sweep over the UTSA Roadrunners.

In the Conference USA series being played at Ruston, La., Louisiana Tech leads two games to one going into the Sunday afternoon finale.

The Roadrunners took another successful swipe at one of the nation’s best teams Friday night when they downed the Bulldogs, 7-5. Arturo Guajardo got the last three outs with two runners on base for the save.

In the first game of Saturday’s twin-bill, Louisiana Tech bounced back behind pitcher Ryan Jennings, who hurled a complete-game, seven-inning three hitter in a 4-1 victory. Hunter Wells and Bates delivered run-scoring singles in a four-run fourth.

Jennings escaped a jam in the sixth when he allowed a two-out double to Dylan Rock and then struck out power-hitting Nick Thornquist to end the inning.

In the second game, the Roadrunners had their chances to split the doubleheader but couldn’t hold on to a pair of leads. They held a 3-0 edge in the second inning. They were up 4-2 in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, the momentum swung in favor of the Bulldogs, who scored five runs. Not to be outdone, the Roadrunners added three in the top of the seventh to make it 7-7.

When the game went to extra innings, UTSA couldn’t score in its half of the eighth. From there, the Roadrunners handed the ball to Guajardo, who got into trouble immediately. He walked Taylor Young. Then Hunter Wells singled, putting runners at first and second and bringing up Bates.

Bates, a fifth-year senior from Tyler, pulled a ball over the right field wall to win it.

Louisiana Tech’s resilience spoiled what could have been a big day for the Roadrunners. Coming into Saturday, UTSA had won three of its last five — all against Top 25 competition. They had split four games against Old Dominion last weekend in San Antonio and then had won the opener against LA Tech, a team viewed as likely to play in the NCAA tournament.

Tech will host the C-USA tournament, scheduled for May 26-30. Tech also is under consideration to host an NCAA first-weekend regional the following weekend. UTSA, in turn, likely needs to win the C-USA tourney title to nail down its first NCAA berth since 2013.

Records

UTSA 22-23, 14-16
Louisiana Tech 35-14, 21-8

Elsewhere

No. 4 Tennessee rallied in the bottom of the ninth on a Max Ferguson 3-run homer to down top-ranked Arkansas, 8-7, at Knoxville. The win squares the three-game series between SEC heavyweights at 1-1.

No. 2 Vanderbilt, behind starting pitcher Jack Leiter, routed 18th-ranked Ole Miss, 13-2, in Oxford. SEC series is tied 1-1 going into Sunday’s finale.

Unranked Missouri notched a 16-8 road victory to win the SEC series 2-1 against No. 3 Mississippi State, in Starkville.

Cal Conley and Dru Baker hit grand slams as No. 7 Texas Tech won on the road in the Big 12 at unranked Oklahoma, 15-2. The series is tied 1-1 going into Sunday’s finale.

Surprising UTSA set to play two today against No. 14 LA Tech

The UTSA Roadrunners have quietly started to drop subtle hints to the rest of Conference USA that they might be a factor in the postseason.

UTSA’s latest surprise came Friday night when it held on to beat the 14th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 7-5 in a road game at Ruston, La. It was UTSA’s third win in its last five games — all against Top 25 competition.

After the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the seventh to take the lead, they held on to win the first game of a four-game series behind the pitching of Hunter Mason and Arturo Guajardo.

Grant Miller earned the victory with 1 and 2/3 innings of work. Mason followed with scoreless innings in the seventh and the eighth. Guajardo, UTSA’s sixth pitcher, delivered with a scoreless ninth for the save.

Leyton Barry hit a two-run homer for the Roadrunners, who handed Tech starting pitcher Jonathan Fincher his first loss of the season. The Roadrunners and Bulldogs continue the series today in a 2 p.m. doubleheader. The finale is Sunday at 1 p.m.

Elsewhere:

Arkansas 6, Tennessee 5

Rankings: (1) Arkansas; (4) Tennessee
Friday’s rundown: Falling behind by five runs after the first inning, the top-ranked Razorbacks were sparked by home runs from Robert Moore and Brady Slavens to rally for the SEC road win.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 11 a.m., at Knoxville, Tenn.

Ole Miss 3, Vanderbilt 1

Rankings: (18) Ole Miss; (2) Vanderbilt
Friday’s rundown: Kevin Graham and TJ McCants homered for Ole Miss as the Rebels, playing at home, handed Kumar Rocker his second loss of the season.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 4 p.m., at Oxford, Miss.

Oklahoma 9, Texas Tech 8

Rankings: (7) Texas Tech
Friday’s rundown: Oklahoma scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th to take the first game of the Big 12 series. Jace Jung, from San Antonio MacArthur, slugged his 17th home run of the season for the Red Raiders.
Coming up: Game 2 of a three-game series today at 2 p.m. in Norman, Okla.

UTSA takes two against 19th-ranked Old Dominion

UTSA celebrates after Griffin Paxton (22) hit a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Roadrunners an 8-3 lead over Old Dominion. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA celebrates after Griffin Paxton (22) hits a three-run homer in the first inning of Saturday’s first game. – photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA baseball team probably hasn’t swept many, if any, doubleheaders from nationally-ranked teams in their three-decade history. Until Saturday afternoon, that is.

The Roadrunners took two seven-inning games at home from the 19th-ranked Old Dominion Monarchs, winning 12-10 and then 11-0.

If the sweep wasn’t surprise enough, the second game was something of a shocker in that a usually inconsistent UTSA pitching staff stepped up to toss a two-hit shutout.

UTSA’s Chase Keng (4), Joshua Lamb (2) and Shea Gutierrez (3) all scored in the first inning on a triple by Leyton Barry (top), who slides into third. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Chase Keng (4), Joshua Lamb (2) and Shea Gutierrez (3) all scored in the first inning of the first game on a triple by Leyton Barry (top), who slides into third. – photo by Joe Alexander

The trio of Jacob Jimenez, Grant Miller and Hunter Mason pulled it off against one of the best offenses in Conference USA. Combined, Jimenez, Miller and Mason struck out 12 and walked two.

The Monarchs were held hitless until two out in the sixth when Carter Trice hit a double off Mason.

All day, the UTSA hitting attack was strong.

In the opener, the Roadrunners smashed out 14 hits, including home runs from Griffin Paxton and Dylan Rock. In the second game, they kept it rolling with 13 hits, with homers coming from Paxton again, Nick Thornquist and Chase Keng.

Records

UTSA 13-13, 21-20
Old Dominion 18-8, 32-12

Coming up

Old Dominion at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m. (No general public tickets)

UTSA celebrates after Dylan Rock (27) homered to score his second run of the first inning and give the Roadrunners a 9-3 lead over Old Dominion. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA celebrates after Dylan Rock (27) homered to score his second run of the first inning and give the Roadrunners a 9-3 lead over Old Dominion. – photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston named UTSA women’s basketball coach

Karen Aston, the 2017 Big 12 Coach of the Year and a finalist for Naismith National Coach of the Year honors, on Monday was named the 10th women’s basketball head coach in UTSA history.

Aston has a career record of 285-146 (.661) with stops at Charlotte, North Texas and Texas. In her 13 seasons as a head coach, Aston’s teams have averaged 22 wins per year and have made a combined 10 postseason appearances.