Madness in February: UTSA rallies to knock off No. 21 Middle Tennessee State

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

For UTSA women’s basketball players, the fourth day of February started off with sort of a March-like feel to it. Clear skies. Breezy. Temperature outside the Convocation Center warm enough for a T-shirt.

Inside the old arena, the day ended the same way, with a touch of madness in the air. With the game ball thrown up high at the final buzzer. With hugs for everyone. Oh, and with the fans standing and cheering in celebration.

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston said ‘it’s a really big step for us” after her UTSA Roadrunners forged a second-half comeback to beat Middle Tennessee State, the first-place team in Conference USA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Junior forward Jordyn Jenkins produced 20 points and 16 rebounds as the Roadrunners upended the 21st-ranked Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders, 58-53, for the program’s third Top 25 victory in 42 seasons.

Elyssa Coleman and Kyra White also contributed in a big way, with Coleman scoring 18 and White contributing 13 rebounds and eight assists. UTSA’s last victory over a Top 25 team came in March of 2016 with a 69-64 decision over No. 25 UTEP.

“Honestly, I hate to say this, because it might sound like I don’t appreciate … that they’re a Top 25 team,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said, “but really, this is about our team and … trying to find ourselves and grow, and I thought there was just such an enormous amount of growth between Thursday and today.

“When you see that happen … I’m not as outcome-oriented as everyone else is. I’m really trying to get everyone to understand what we’re trying to build here, and the culture we’re trying to build, and this was a really big step for us.”

The week started off the wrong way Thursday night as UTSA let a game slip away against Western Kentucky.

In response, Aston told her players on Friday “just to sell out” against Middle Tennessee and not worry so much about the results. More words from the coach? Give maximum effort. Be a good teammate. Try to control what “you can” control, Aston said.

“I think we did that today,” the coach added. “Super happy for them. You know, the fans are building. I think everyone that comes to this gym now can tell, even when we don’t win, they’re enjoying the process of seeing this program grow.”

In the last week, in its last three games, a UTSA team with one of the worst records in Conference USA has made tangible progress.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins scored nine of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Seven days ago, the Roadrunners won their first road game of the season, knocking off Louisiana Tech, 66-63. On Thursday night, they played well again but fell 73-67 to Western Kentucky, the C-USA’s second-place team.

Against first-place Middle Tennessee, UTSA seemed undaunted and unruffled, even when it fell behind by 11 points midway through the third quarter. The Roadrunners rallied behind Jenkins and Coleman for the most significant win in Aston’s two seasons at UTSA.

“It was a big game for us, especially coming off a loss that we felt like we should have had,” said Jenkins, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter. “We just locked in on the court … We played for each other.”

Courtney Whitson had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Lady Raiders, who were swept by UTEP and UTSA in a two-game trip to Texas after winning 16 straight.

The Lady Raiders seemed to take control after halftime. After UTSA scored the first basket, the visitors responded with a 14-2 run, which was highlighted by three-point baskets from Alexis Whittington, Whitson and Savannah Wheeler.

Wheeler’s triple from the top of the circle lifted the Lady Raiders into a 36-25 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter.

Unfazed, the Roadrunners answered with a 14-3 run of their own to tie the game. Down by two entering the fourth quarter, UTSA kept hustling, and it paid off.

UTSA players scrambled to cover shooters and forced the Lady Raiders into four of 18 shooting in the fourth. The Roadrunners also excelled on the offensive end, making seven of their last 12 afield.

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Elyssa Coleman produced 18 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the fourth-quarter crunch time, Jenkins hit four buckets and White, a 5-9 guard enjoying her second standout game of the week, added three assists and four rebounds.

“Just coming into this game, we were due for one,” said White, who had 17 assists over two games this week and 24 in the last three. “We needed this one, to just help the team feel alive and just get the good energy coming back for us next week. It’s a great feeling today.”

White said she could not remember the last time she had 13 rebounds in game.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Coach made it an emphasis that everybody needs to get in there and get some rebounds. (My) shot wasn’t really fallling well. Just trying to do everything I could do to stay out on the court and produce — and just get the win.”

From the beginning, the Lady Raiders tried to bury the Roadrunners with 3-point shooting. But even with a mind-boggling 54 attempts from beyond the arc, they couldn’t do it.

They made 10 from long distance, which weren’t enough against a team that may have just wanted the game more.

With a 50-40 edge in rebounding, UTSA may have made a statement in that regard. “We have nothing to lose, honestly,” White said. “When you have nothing to lose, and you sell out for your teammates, good things happen.”

Records

Middle Tennessee 18-4, 11-2
UTSA 6-16, 4-9

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Former Judson High School standout Kyra White (at left) had 13 rebounds and eight assists for the Roadrunners, increasing her totals to 24 rebounds and 24 assists in the last three games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Coming up

UTSA at UTEP, Feb. 11

Winning vs. the top 25

UTSA women’s basketball victories against Top 25 competition

Jan. 24, 2015 — UTSA 64, (24) Western Kentucky 63
Highlight: Mannasha Bell 10 points and 10 rebounds

March 3, 2016 — UTSA 69, (25) UTEP 64
Highlight: Sara Anastasieska 14 points, three for three on 3-point shots

Feb. 4, 2023 — UTSA 58, (21) Middle Tennessee 53
Highlight: Jordyn Jenkins 20 points, 16 rebounds

x-All three wins at the UTSA Convocation Center

Third quarter

Middle Tennessee held a 41-39 lead after three quarters but UTSA was energized by a late burst of energy.

After falling behind by 11, the Roadrunners rallied on a 14-3 run in a four-minute period.

Elyssa Coleman’s two free throws with 18 seconds left tied the game, 39-all.

Halftime

In an unsightly offensive show by both teams, the Lady Raiders emerged at halftime with a 22-21 lead over the Roadrunners.

Middle Tennessee held the lead despite making only 8-38 from the field, including 5-33 from the 3-point arc. Many of the misses were wide-open looks that clanged off the rim.

Senior forward Kseniya Malashka came off the bench to lead the Lady Raiders with seven points on three of six from the field.

For UTSA, it was a good half, considering it stayed within one or two possessions of the 21st-ranked team in the nation.

But the Roadrunners’ offense also struggled, making only 6-23 shots, including 0-7 from three. Coleman led with seven points and Jenkins had five.

Notable

UTSA guard Sidney Love did not play against Middle Tennessee and apparently was not in the arena. She missed her second straight game. Asked about Love’s status late Thursday night, Coach Karen Aston declined to comment. Love, from Steele High School in the San Antonio area, has been a starter for most of the season and is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds. Madison Cockrell sat out for the third straight game with a knee injury.

Deborah Nwakamma. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Deborah Nwakamma scored four of her eight points in the fourth quarter, including two clutch free throws with 18 seconds remaining, to boost UTSA into a seven-point lead. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Lady Tops’ surge in final two minutes sinks the Roadrunners

Kyra White. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 73-67 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Kyra White had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but UTSA came up short against the WKU Lady Toppers, 73-67. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

A two-game winning streak in women’s college basketball is a modest achievement. Most players just smile and shrug when it happens, because just about every team has one.

But for the struggling UTSA Roadrunners, it surely would have felt good — even euphoric — to win Thursday night for their first set of back-to-back victories of the year. It just didn’t happen.

Deborah Nwakamma. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 73-67 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Deborah Nwakamma exploded for eight points late in the third quarter to spark a UTSA rally. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The second-place WKU Lady Toppers outscored the Roadrunners 6-0 in the final two minutes to win 73-67 in Conference USA play.

“I thought we played really, really well,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “There was a segment in the third quarter where we ran out of gas a little bit and lost some attention to detail.

“I really thought that was a big moment in the game, because we were playing really well and in control … But that’s a good team, and they made the run that they needed to make. They made the plays they needed to make.”

A pair of 6-0 runs for WKU — one each at the end of the third and fourth quarters — proved to be critical in a hotly-contested game.

In the final minute of third, the Lady Tops scored six straight, erased a four-point deficit and took a 53-51 lead.

Later, with a little more than two minutes left in the game, the Roadrunners cleared the defensive boards and sent the ball to Jordyn Jenkins, the C-USA’s leading scorer.

Jenkins converted on a driving layup to tie it, 67-67.

In response, the Lady Tops pushed the ball ahead and called on guard Hope Sivori, who broke the tie, scoring left-handed on a drive with 2:10 remaining.

After Sivori’s bucket lifted WKU into a two-point lead, UTSA had plenty of time to secure what would have been its biggest victory of the season, but it didn’t work out that way.

Though the Roadrunners made a couple of defensive stops, their offense faltered with 0-for-5 shooting from the field in four straight possessions.

First, Jordyn Jenkins missed a runner off the side. Next, Elyssa Coleman had the ball on a break-out but couldn’t convert underneath the bucket.

On the other end, Sivori misfired on a 3-point shot, leading to a timeout with 40 seconds remaining.

UTSA had two chances on the next possession, with Jenkins missing the first on a drive. After an offensive rebound, Roadrunners guard Siena Guttadauro took a three that did not go down.

Finally for WKU, Alexis Mead knocked down a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left for a four-point lead. After another missed triple by the Roadrunners, Jaylin Foster was fouled and hit two more freebies with two seconds left for the game’s final points.

With the victory, the Lady Tops (12-9, 9-3) won their third straight game and stayed in hot pursuit of the C-USA’s front-running Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders. WKU is 8-1 in its last nine games.

For the Roadrunners (5-16, 3-8), the game served as another reminder of how hard it is to build a winning program at the mid-major level.

Two years ago, UTSA was 2-18 overall and 0-14 in the C-USA in its last season under a previous coaching staff.

Last season, Aston took over. As a highly-successful veteran coach, she patched it together well enough to finish 7-23 and 3-14.

Now in her second season with the Roadrunners, Aston’s team has played 21 games over a three-month period and has yet to win two in a row.

“This UTSA (team) is way better than their record,” WKU coach Greg Collins said. “This team is more than capable of being just about any team in our conference.”

Last weekend, Aston’s Roadrunners won on the road at Louisiana Tech, 66-63, and then returned home to play in front of the home fans.

A victory over WKU would have been a big deal for confidence in a locker room filled with freshmen, and yet Aston was left searching once again for positives in a close loss — the team’s 12th of the season by seven points or less.

One bright spot centered on an offensive performance that featured five players reaching double figures in scoring, 46.6 percent shooting from the field as a team and 23 assists on 27 made baskets.

“That’s two games in a row with multiple players in double figures,” Aston said. “We’ve made a lot of progress as far as ball reversal, having a little more patience, moving the ball, finding the open people. I definitely think we’ve made significant strides in that area.”

All the Roadrunners can do now is look ahead for another opportunity, which will come Saturday at 2 p.m. when they host Middle Tennessee State, a team ranked 21st in the nation.

The Lady Raiders (18-3, 11-1) had their 16-game winning streak snapped Thursday night, falling 65-62 to the UTEP Miners in El Paso.

Notable

Freshman guards Sidney Love and Madison Cockrell did not play for UTSA against WKU. Cockrell was out with a knee injury. Aston declined to comment on why Love, a starter, didn’t get in the game. “I can’t disclose,” the coach said. In the all-time series against WKU, UTSA has now lost seven straight. The Roadrunners haven’t beaten the Lady Tops since 2017.

Individuals

WKU — Alexis Mead, 19 points, plus four rebounds and four assists. Jaylin Foster, 12 points and eight rebounds. Karris Allen, 10 points, all of it in the second half on three of six from the field and three of four from the 3-point arc. Acacia Hayes, who scored 31 points against UTSA in an eight-point victory on Jan. 7 in Bowling Green, Ky., was held to five in the rematch.

UTSA — Jordyn Jenkins scored 14 points on six of 14 shooting. Also had three rebounds and two blocked shots. Elyssa Coleman, 13 points, with 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Hailey Atwood, 12 points, with Kyra White and Deb Nwakamma 11 points apiece. White played an outstanding all-around game that included nine assists and six rebounds.

Records

Western Kentucky 12-9, 9-3
UTSA 5-16, 3-9

Coming up

Middle Tennessee at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Third quarter

Fending off a scoring burst by Roadrunners guard Deb Nwakamma, the Lady Toppers scored six points in the final 21 seconds to take a 53-51 lead on the Roadrunners.

Nwakamma hit a couple of three-point baskets and addd a 10 footer off the glass to lift the Roadrunners into a 51-47 lead.

With under two minutes remaining, the Lady Tops fought back. First, Karris Allen nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Next, Nwakamma turned the ball over in traffic. Taking advantage, Alexis Mead drove inside and scored and was fouled. She hit the free throw with 6.2 seconds left for the two-point lead.

UTSA’s Jordyn Jenkins was on the bench for much or the period in foul trouble. She had only two points in the quarter.

Halftime

Playing without two freshmen guards, including starter Sidney Love, the Roadrunners forged a 32-31 lead on the WKU Lady Toppers at intermission.

UTSA relied on solid shooting from the field (48.3 percent) in hanging tough against Conference USA’s second-place team, which employed an up-tempo style and a blizzard of 3-point shot attempts.

For the Roadrunners, Elyssa Coleman was 4-for-4 from the field and led the team with nine points. Guard/forward Hailey Atwood had eight and Jordyn Jenkins six.

The Roadrunners were without both Love and Madison Cockrell, who was on the bench but was not in uniform.

WKU stayed in the game with seven of 21 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Jaylin Foster hit a couple of triples and finished the half with 10 points. Alexis Mead also hit a couple of threes for the Lady Tops.

The Roadrunners did a good job defensively on WKU sparkplug Hope Sivori, who came into San Antonio on the heels of 17, 18 and 16-point games. Sivori, who plays off the bench, was held to one of four shooting and four points.

First quarter

Jordyn Jenkins scored six points, and the Roadrunners outrebounded the Lady Toppers by a wide margin in forging a 14-14 tie after the first period. UTSA held a 15-8 edge on the boards. The Lady Tops controlled their end of the floor by hitting four triples. They also scored eight points off seven UTSA turnovers. Jalyn Foster led the Lady Tops with eight points.

UTSA women face two major challenges at home this weekend

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team cleared one hurdle last weekend with a Conference USA road victory at Louisiana Tech. Two more major challenges await the Roadrunners at home in the coming days.

Jordyn Jenkins. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins leads the UTSA Roadrunners into a Conference USA home game tonight against the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers. – File photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA is scheduled to host the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers tonight and the 21st-ranked Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders on Saturday afternoon.

Mired in 10th place in the 11-team C-USA, the Roadrunners (5-15, 3-8) have struggled with consistency.

Nevertheless, a team that has played more than a few freshmen in a rebuilding year has shown signs of turning the corner.

The win at Ruston last weekend was UTSA’s first outside of San Antonio this season.

UTSA junior forward Jordyn Jenkins leads the C-USA in both scoring (20.0) and field goal percentage (48.3). She’s also second in rebounding (7.5) and sixth in blocked shots (1.3).

The Roadrunners seem to be at their best when the ball moves and Jenkins’ teammates are involved in the offense, both of which happened in Ruston against LA Tech.

With Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Sidney Love all scoring in double figures, the Roadrunners shot a season-high 50.9 percent from the field. Of their 29 field goals, 18 came on assists, with guard Kyra White passing for seven and Jenkins four.

If they hope to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they’ll likely need a similarly solid effort tonight.

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Western Kentucky

The Lady Tops (11-9, 8-3) will arrive in San Antonio in second place in the conference, having won two straight and seven of their last eight. Their streak started at home on Jan. 7 when they rallied for a 77-69 victory over UTSA. Against the Roadrunners, freshman guard Acacia Hayes scored 31 points. She hit 10 of 11 shots from the field.

Last week, they won two close games at home, downing the FIU Panthers 67-63 and the FAU Owls, 66-65. Hayes (10.5 points per game) is a guard that likes to slash and get fouled. Jaylin Foster (9.9, 5.9 rebounds), Hope Sivori (8.6) and Mya Meredith (8.2) are also scoring threats. Western Kentucky leads the conference in both 3-point attempts (567) and 3-point makes (161).

Middle Tennessee State

The Lady Raiders (18-2, 11-0) lead the C-USA standings and have won 16 in a row going into a Thursday night matchup in El Paso against the UTEP Miners. Virginia Commonwealth transfer Kseniya Malashka, a forward, leads the Raiders in both scoring (16.5) and field goal percentage (47.3). Marshall transfer Savannah Wheeler, a guard, averages 16.2 points. Center Anastasiia Boldyreva is a force in the paint with 1.5 blocks.

Middle Tennessee hasn’t lost since Nov. 25 in Las Vegas, to Texas Tech. In their string of 16 victories, 13 have been by double figures, including an 80-41 rout of the Roadrunners on Jan. 5. Boldyreva had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against UTSA. Boldyreva is from Moscow, Russia. Malashka is from Minsk, in Belarus.

Louisiana Tech surges late, holds off slumping UTSA, 66-55

Christian Tucker. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA lost its eighth game in a row Saturday despite another solid performance from Christian Tucker, who had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Initially, Talvin Hester wasn’t having all that much fun pacing the sidelines in his first game in San Antonio as a college head coach.

Eventually, however, things turned around for his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who shook off a sluggish first half and scored a 66-55 victory over the slumping UTSA Roadrunners.

Louisiana Tech coach Talvin Hester. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Talvin Hester’s Louisiana Tech Bulldogs held UTSA to 18.2 percent shooting from the field in the first half and to 32.3 percent for the game. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Led by Isaiah Crawford and Cobe Williams, the Bulldogs shot 59.3 percent after intermission and made just enough stops, allowing them to hold off a late Roadrunners’ push.

“Really excited about this one,” said Hester, a veteran of the profession who has worked in the past as an assistant coach for Danny Kaspar at Texas State, for Kelvin Sampson at Houston and for Mark Adams at Texas Tech.

Last year, Hester helped Adams and the Red Raiders reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before he left in the offseason to take over at LA Tech for Erik Konkol, now the head coach at Tulsa.

“I thought our guys defended (today),” Hester said. “Our offense wasn’t there all day. We didn’t hit shots we normally hit. We didn’t offensive rebound. You know, we kind of made some mistakes with quick shots. But we really defended tonight. I commend our team.”

Crawford, a 6-foot-6 junior from Fort Worth, scored 19 points and had seven rebounds. Williams added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Louisiana Tech (12-10, 5-6) entered the afternoon matinee having lost four of its last five.

UTSA (7-16, 1-11) has lost eight in a row. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers for the Roadrunners. John Buggs III and Christian Tucker had 13 apiece, while Jacob Germany produced 11 points and seven rebounds.

Japhet Medor. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Japhet Medor returned to game action but wasn’t effective, going scoreless in nine minutes. Medor sat out the last three games with a foot sprain. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Roadrunners guard Japhet Medor returned to action after sitting out the last three games with a foot injury, but Medor clearly wasn’t himself, going scoreless in nine minutes. In his last game before the injury, he scored 30 points.

Without Medor at full speed, Tucker played 30 minutes at point guard. To go along with his 13 points, he also had five assists and six rebounds.

Tucker, a walk-on from Phoenix, has emerged as one of the bright spots for the Roadrunners lately. Over the past four games, he’s played major minutes and averaged 9.8 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds.

“First off, it’s really sad to see Japhet go out with an injury,” Tucker said. “I never want to see that happen to one of my teammates. I’m just thankful that Coach (Steve) Henson trusts me out there and thankful for an opportunity to go out there and play.”

Notable

The Roadrunners finished a forgettable month of January with a 1-8 record. Their last win was Jan. 5, when they won at home, beating Middle Tennessee 75-72 on Buggs’ buzzer-beating, 3-pointer.

John Buggs III. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

John Buggs III scored 13 points and hit three 3-point baskets against Louisiana Tech. It was his 12th outing of the season with three or more field goals from beyond the arc. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Since then, they’ve dropped consecutive contests to Western Kentucky, UTEP, Charlotte, Rice, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas and now Louisiana Tech.

During the losing streak, the longest for UTSA in Steve Henson’s seven seasons as coach, the team has dropped five straight at home. Five of the eight losses have been by double digits.

Quotable

“Obviously it’s very frustrating to not get in the win column,” Tucker said. “We all want it so bad. We’re hungry, desperate for a win. Each day we come in, and we want it so bad. You know, eventually, it’s going to happen for us.”

Shaking off travel woes

Both UTSA and Louisiana Tech played road games on Thursday night, with the Roadrunners losing by three points at North Texas and the Bulldogs losing a six-point game in Birmingham, Ala., against UAB.

Even though Louisiana Tech traveled the greater distance to San Antonio, its charter aircraft arrived at 1 a.m. Friday, three hours before the Roadrunners arrived on their charter bus.

“We talked about that a long time ago,” Henson said. “We thought there’d be a case where someone would charter in and beat us home, and that’s exactly what happened. They chartered in Thursday night. We chartered a bus in Thursday night and we got in here to the Convo about 4 o’clock (Friday morning). So our guys were in bed, hopefully, by 4:30.”

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah finished with 14 points and six rebounds against the Bulldogs. He made four triples, including three in the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson said travel has been tough on everyone in the C-USA this season after the loss of three teams to football-driven realignment. As conference membership decreased from 14 to 11 teams, the conference schedule increased from 18 games to 20.

Has the travel been a factor for the Roadrunners? Did it hurt UTSA against Louisiana Tech?

“Oh, I don’t know,” Henson said. “It is what it is. There’s not anything we can do about it. Our guys came in (Friday afternoon), practice was a little bit short. We knew we needed to get warmed up. We knew we needed to do some game-speed shooting and do some things specific for this game … But, yeah, without the travel partners (from last year’s schedule), there’s been some tough travel on the year.

“The UTEP to Charlotte trip (Jan. 11-14) was a tough trip. That stuff wears you down a little bit. I think once the game starts, you’re not thinking about it. But, who knows, both teams looked a little sluggish there early on.”

First half

Louisiana Tech built a 25-18 lead on UTSA at halftime. The Bulldogs held the Roadrunners to 18.2 percent shooting. Some of UTSA’s attempts were clean looks. Nevertheless, the Roadrunners made only 6 of 33 from the field.

Records

Louisiana Tech 12-10, 5-6
UTSA 7-16, 1-11

Coming up

UTSA at Western Kentucky, Feb. 2
UTSA at Middle Tennessee, Feb. 4

Jacob Germany. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany produced 11 points and seven rebounds for the Roadrunners against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A student defeats her teacher as North Texas downs UTSA

UTSA coach Karen Aston. North Texas beat UTSA 51-48 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Karen Aston surveys the action Thursday night against the North Texas Mean Green, who are coached by one of Aston’s former assistants, Jalie Mitchell. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Veteran UTSA Roadrunners women’s basketball coach Karen Aston knew that her counterpart, University of North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell, would have her team prepared coming into San Antonio.

Aston was right.

North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Jalie Mitchell’s North Texas Mean Green improved to 7-13 overall and to 4-6 in conference. – Photo by Joe Alexander

One of Aston’s closest allies in the profession, Mitchell devised a defensive plan that her players executed well for four quarters in a 54-51 Conference USA victory.

“I have a lot of love and respect for Jalie,” Aston said.

Twenty five years ago, Aston, then an assistant at North Texas, recruited Mitchell to play for the Mean Green.

Mitchell accepted the offer but never got to play under a coaching staff that included Aston, who left Denton in 1998 to take an assistant’s job with the Texas Longhorns.

As it turned out, Mitchell did well as a player, playing four years for a program that went 77-39, including 42-4 at home.

The Mean Green made back-to-back appearances to the WNIT in 2001 and 2002, and in that last season, Mitchell was honored as Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

Five years later, she was inducted into the North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame, along with former teammate Rosalyn Reades. Transitioning into coaching, Mitchell later worked on staffs led by Aston at both North Texas and Texas.

“She’s had an unbelievable career at North Texas,” Aston said. “She’s a dear friend, but she’s a competitor. There’s a reason why her jersey is up in the rafters up at North Texas, because of how competitive she is.

Jordyn Jenkins. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins rebounded from a slow start to finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Once the ball is tipped, you kind of forget about all that. But I’m proud of her. I’m really, really proud of what she’s been able to do there. She went to the (WNIT as coach) last year. She’s one of our own.”

Mitchell, in her eighth season as head coach at her alma mater, acknowledged that it’s always poignant to coach against someone she has known and admired for decades.

“She’s my mentor and has been for a very long time,” said Mitchell, who played in high school at Duncanville. “As you say, she recruited me (to college). We’ve had a relationship for over 20 years. She’s a great coach, and I learned a ton from her.

“Just about everything I know, I learned from Karen Aston.”

The latest game coached by Mitchell and Aston went down to the final few possessions. North Texas guard Quincy Noble sank a driving layup with 1:30 remaining, and the Mean Green held on in the final minute to stop a skid that included four losses in their last six games.

In all, Noble scored 16 points to lead the Mean Green (7-13, 4-6),while Tommisha Lampkin came up big at the end, scoring six points on three buckets in the paint over the last five minutes.

Trailing by the eventual final score, UTSA (4-15, 2-8) had a chance to tie on its last possession but couldn’t get off a three-point attempt.

“We wanted to make sure they couldn’t get a three off, which, I thought we defended really well,” Mitchell said. “They put it on the floor for the drive and obviously you don’t want to foul in that situation and give up an and-one. I’m thankful we did not.”

Sidney Love. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman guard Sidney Love, considered one of UTSA’s bright prospects, suffered through a cold-shooting night. The Steele High School graduate made only one of 10 from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners never were able to get any type of rhythm going against a variety of looks that the Mean Green presented defensively.

With players packed inside, UTSA didn’t have much success early going to forward Jordyn Jenkins, though the UTSA junior did come alive in the middle quarters and finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Jenkins was strong at the end, finishing the fourth period with 12 points and six boards.

Overall, UTSA’s all-conference candidate hit seven of 16 shots from the field and 12 of 13 at the free-throw line.

Other than Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Kyra White scored six apiece, and that was about it. Faced with a full-court press part of the time, the Roadrunners turned it over 25 times and shot 30.2 percent from the field.

White and Sidney Love, two starters in the backcourt, were a combined three of 22 from the field. Even though the Roadrunners hit a couple of triples in the fourth quarter to make it interesting, they finished three of 16 from beyond the arc.

“Our slow start, I don’t know that I have an explanation for it,” Aston said. “I thought we seemed really ready to play in the locker room. Maybe not being able to score a couple of buckets early, we let the ball not going in dictate our demeanor and how hard we play, and that just can’t be the case.”

North Texas led 15-7, 25-21 and 39-32 after each of the first three quarters. The Mean Green’s biggest lead was 10 points with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter.

Forward Hailey Atwood started and finished with five rebounds. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Hailey Atwood started and finished with five rebounds, including four off the offensive glass. – Photo by Joe Alexander

First half analysis

Jordyn Jenkins led a 12-4 run in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, helping the Roadrunners get back into the game. When Jenkins sank a driving layup with 3:36 left in the half, UTSA pulled into a 19-19 tie with North Texas.

At that point, the Mean Green pushed back. Consecutive baskets by Kendall McGruder and Jaaucklyn Moore allowed North Texas to fend off the home team. Later, with 1:15 remaining, freshman Ereauna Hardaway nailed a pull-up jumper in the paint.

As a result, North Texas carried a 25-21 lead into the third quarter.

UTSA finished the half shooting 9 of 29 from the field, including zero for eight from three-point distance. The Roadrunners also committed 13 turnovers, some of them forced in the back court against pressure or at the end of disjointed journeys to advance the ball.

Records

North Texas 7-13, 4-6
UTSA 4-15, 2-8

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 1 p.m.
Western Kentucky at UTSA, Feb. 4, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at UTSA, Feb. 6, 2 p.m.

Once a nuisance, Sidney Love’s brother is now her inspiration

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Where was UTSA guard Sidney Love on Monday night? She was in her dorm room, watching basketball on ESPN, naturally.

Sidney Love. UTSA beat Idaho 76-69 in women's basketball on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Sidney Love from San Antonio-area Steele High School, the youngest of five siblings, is averaging 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18 games for the UTSA Roadrunners — File photo by Joe Alexander

“Made sure I watched it from start to finish,” she said.

Why? Well, she did have an older brother in the game, and he was blowing up against the ninth-ranked Jayhawks on national television.

Redshirt freshman guard Langston Love came off the bench and scored 11 points in the second half as No. 17 Baylor scored a 75-69 victory in the Big 12.

“Very proud of him after that performance,” Sidney Love said Wednesday afternoon.

For Love, UTSA’s precocious freshman guard from Cibolo Steele High School, it was just another memorable moment in a lifetime spent growing up in a big family. With four siblings — two older sisters and two older brothers — it’s never been dull.

As UTSA prepares to host the North Texas Mean Green in women’s basketball Thursday night, Love playfully recounted what it was like for her at home when she was a kid.

“Getting picked on all the time,” Love said, smiling mischievously, “having to do everything for them, because I was the youngest. It was still fun, though. We would fight. We had good times, too.”

Nineteen-year-old Sidney has always been tight with Langston, now 20, even when they were in grade school and arguing seemingly over every little thing.

“Growing up with him? We were (like) an old married couple,” Sidney Love said, grinning. “We’d fight every day.

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball lost to UTEP 74-67 in Conference USA on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners host the North Texas Mean Green tonight at 7 in the Convocation Center. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“We’d get in trouble every single day. It was just, back and forth. He’d be snitching on me. I’d be saying, ‘No, I didn’t do it.’ Just fighting all the time.”

It wasn’t always the kid stuff, however.

“By the time we got older, we were just friends,” Sidney said. “We just wanted the same thing – (to) play basketball … After we passed that (initial) stage, it was OK.”

Both of Sidney’s older sisters played soccer, and both were so good at the sport that they advanced through youth leagues to play collegiately in San Antonio, Endasia at Trinity University and Camille at St. Mary’s.

Her brothers, meanwhile, trended toward basketball. After leaving Steele, Kijana Love played at the University of New Hampshire and at Baylor.

Langston Love, perhaps the most gifted athlete in the family, spent two years at Steele and two as a four-star recruit at Montverde Academy in Florida before linking with the Baylor program under coach Scott Drew.

For the 6-foot-5 Baylor guard, last year was a heartbreak.

He blew out a knee on the eve of fall practice and had to sit out the season. All of which made it even sweeter for UTSA’s Sidney Love to savor every minute of the second half of Kansas-Baylor.

“You know, he’s had some ups and downs,” she said. “He just came off his injury, so this was a game that really showcased him and how he can play.”

Langston Love’s little sister is coming along pretty well, herself.

Sidney Love, who plays both guard positions, is averaging 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Roadrunners. She’s also assisted on 39 baskets.

She had 23 points and seven rebounds in a New Year’s Eve homecourt victory over the UAB Blazers.

The Roadrunners have struggled as a team, going 4-14 and 2-7 in Conference USA, but that was more or less expected coming off a seven-win season a year ago and trying to rebuild under second-year coach Karen Aston with eight newcomers, including five freshmen.

Love has struggled herself with the speed and physicality of the game, committing 57 turnovers, including 16 on the recent three-game road trip.

Aston isn’t stressed out about the mistakes, though. She knew from the moment she signed the former player of the year in San Antonio-area high school basketball that she would need to be patient with her.

Asked directly if she was happy with Love’s progress, Aston didn’t hesitate, “For sure.”

“I mean, I do think she could do more,” Aston said. “I think the physical part of the game is a lot for her and the other freshmen. And I think some of the teams in our league have really figured that out.

“I think she’s learning every single day. But what I think is going to make her so much better is when she can really take a deep breath at the end of the year and make an assessment, and say, ‘Ok, I do need to get stronger.’

“ ‘I do need to get more aggressive and more physical and take contact better.’ You can’t do that right now. She can’t fix that right now. You know, that’s just going to be an evolution for her.”

Love said she believes the Roadrunners have the time to make a move in the second half of the C-USA schedule.

“Definitely,” she said. “We have a whole second round of conference to really prove ourselves, to showcase what we can really do. Even if they might be counting us out early, like you said, we’ve got until March (for the C-USA tournament).

“It’s not going to happen right now. Nothing’s set in stone right now. So, we’ve got a long way to go to prove ourselves.”

Love said she can’t dwell on her legacy as a dominant high school player in the San Antonio area.

“I’ve learned that whatever work I did in the past, it doesn’t really matter any more, because I have to attack college even harder,” she said. “I could do more, just to be in the same place, because it’s a different level here than it was in high school.

“But I just have to stay consistent. I have to play hard. I need to have heart every single day I come in here, and I’ll be fine.”

Her older brother showed some heart earlier this week under the bright lights of ESPN Big Monday.

It was a performance that resonated all the way to San Antonio and inspired at least one fan of the game, watching on her laptop.

“I just want to do the same thing,” Love said, “and amplify it even more, because it’s great to watch somebody you know succeed. I just want to grow off that, feed off that energy.”

No crying in basketball: UTSA’s Henson won’t make excuses for a 7-14 record

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. Florida International beat UTSA 77-72 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Isaiah Addo-Ankrah returned to game action for the first time in more than a month and scored 12 points off the bench. The FIU Panthers held on at the end to win 77-72, handing the Roadrunners their sixth straight loss. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the UTSA Roadrunners riding a discouraging six-game losing streak, Coach Steve Henson declined to blame injury misfortune for his troubles. He easily could have, but he didn’t.

For the first nine Conference USA games on the schedule, Henson was without one of his best outside shooters, and over the past four, he was also missing his best inside scoring threat for two and his starting point guard for the next two.

In fact, it could be argued that with an athletic 7-footer playing exactly zero games all season because of academic and injury issues, UTSA hasn’t been whole at any point since the first ball was tossed up back in November.

Jacob Germany. Florida International beat UTSA 77-72 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany produced 19 points and 13 rebouinds against Florida International. He hit eight of 14 shots from the field, and six of his rebounds were on the offensive end. – Photo by Joe Alexander

All of it is true, but if you listen to Henson, the halfway point in the C-USA regular season is no time to start lamenting the injuries or dwelling on what might have been.

The coach insisted after a 77-72 loss to the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon that the Roadrunners simply need to keep their heads up and get back to work.

“There’s enough areas to be frustrated with,” Henson said. “That’s not one that I’m focused on. You start doing that, and it sounds like you’re looking for excuses. We’re not going to do that.”

Nevertheless, the loss to FIU dropped UTSA to 7-14 on the season and to 1-9 in conference play. UTSA is in last place in the C-USA with 10 games remaining, and Henson plans on coaching the players who are available, starting with a practice on Monday afternoon and then a game on Thursday night at North Texas.

“The other guys (that we have playing) are good players,” the coach said. “They’ve got the opportunity, so we’ve just got to do things better. We need to flow better offensively. We need to fight harder defensively, take better care of the basketball.

“Those are the things that I’m focused on.”

In an afternoon matinee at the UTSA Convocation Center, FIU sophomore Denver Jones scored eight of his team-high 27 points in the final 2:02 as the Panthers held on to snap their own four-game losing streak.

With the victory, FIU improved to 9-11 and to 3-6 in the C-USA. Trailing by 18 early in the second half, the Roadrunners charged to within five with 1:40 remaining. UTSA freshman guard DJ Richards hit a triple from the wing that trimmed the lead to 71-66.

Florida International coach Jeremy Ballard. Florida International beat UTSA 77-72 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Florida International coach Jeremy Ballard applauded his players for playing hard after losing by 20 points at UTEP on Thursday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

From there, UTSA forced a missed shot and had a chance — if it could pull down a defensive rebound — to set up for an opportunity that might cut the lead to three or even two points. FIU reserve center Seth Pinkney, however, had other ideas. He snared a key offensive rebound to stop the momentum.

With new life, FIU got the ball to Jones, who subsequently went to the free-throw line with 50.5 seconds left and hit both ends of a one-and-one. His two clutch makes lifted the Panthers into a seven-point advantage. UTSA couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

Fifth-year FIU coach Jeremy Ballard said it felt great to end the losing streak.

“It felt better than relief, because our guys put a lot of emotional preparation into this game, and we knew we didn’t play anywhere near the best version of ourself on Thursday (in an 81-61 loss at UTEP),” he said. “We really felt like that was in the posture that showed up in El Paso.

“So, it’s tough to win on Saturday on these (C-USA road) trips. In fact, this is the first one we’ve won since I’ve been here. We’re very excited. I was just proud of our spirit, how connected we were out there, and it showed with our play.”

In the big picture, the Panthers won the game with defense, limiting UTSA to 37.3 percent shooting. Specifically, they did a good job in holding Roadrunners shooting guard John Buggs III to 0 for 10 from the field.

Center Jacob Germany, in his second game back after sitting out two with a concussion, led the Roadrunners with 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.

Richards, from the Houston area, finished with 18 points. He hit five of 11 from beyond the three-point arc.

Steve Henson. Florida International beat UTSA 77-72 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says he won’t use injuries as an excuse for a six-game losing streak and a 1-9 record in Conference USA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Another bright spot was forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, who returned from a left wrist injury that had kept him out for nine games and more than a month. A right-handed shooter, he hit two threes and scored 12 points in almost 20 minutes of playing time.

Addo-Ankrah described the mood in the locker room as “a little down.”

“We’re angry, tired of losing,” Addo-Ankrah said. “We know we should have won that one today. We just didn’t execute on some possessions. It only comes to — what did we lose by, five? — we only lost by two possessions. It’s just the little things that we could have done better.”

Point guard Japhet Medor, UTSA’s leading scorer, sat out for the second-straight game with a sprained right foot. Medor suffered the injury in Wednesday’s practice, and on Thursday night, he missed his first game of the year.

He tried to practice Friday and discovered that he could run in a straight line, and that he could also back-pedal, but that he had trouble moving from side to side. So, he remained in the walking boot on Saturday.

UTSA will monitor him closely next week to see if he can play at North Texas.

It was a tough week all the way around for the Roadrunners. Without Germany, they lost to Rice, 88-81, in overtime on Monday. Even with Germany back, they dropped an 83-64 decision to 24th-ranked Florida Atlantic on Thursday as Medor sat on the side, his foot in a boot.

Finally, they fell too far behind FIU on Saturday (by 18 early in the second half) and, without Medor again, just couldn’t catch up. Even with the losses, the worst of the week for Henson might have been news that he thought he might get a few days ago but never did.

DJ Richards. Florida International beat UTSA 77-72 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman guard DJ Richards pumped in 18 points for his 13th game of the season in double figures. He’s averaging 11 points and 4.7 rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

He was expecting to hear from the NCAA on the eligibility status of 7-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., and he still has not heard a word, so the waiting game continues.

In the meantime, Linguard is trying to get healthy. He’s made it through a knee injury. Now he’s trying to make it through rehabilitation from a concussion, hoping to start full-contact soon — perhaps next week.

“Last several days he has not been doing anything in contact,” Henson said. “He can do all the skill work, all the shell offense, the offense dry. Pre-practice, ball handling, he can do all of that. We’ll see how he responds Monday and Tuesday and maybe get him back in there full speed by Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully.”

Even if Linguard gets healthy enough to play and is also cleared by the NCAA, a decision will loom as to whether he sees the floor this spring. Does he come back and play in the second half and burn a year of eligiblity?

If so, he would only have one year left to play for the Roadrunners. If he doesn’t play this spring, Linguard would have two years left.

Records

FIU 9-11, 3-6
UTSA 7-14, 1-9

Coming up

UTSA at North Texas, Thursday
Louisiana Tech at UTSA, Jan. 28

Jones-led FIU downs UTSA 77-72 to snap a four-game losing streak

Sophomore Denver Jones scored eight of his team-high 27 points in the final 2:02 Saturday as the Florida International University Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak, downing the UTSA Roadrunners 77-72 at the Convocation Center.

Trailing by 18 points early in the second half, the Roadrunners put on a charge that brought them to within five with 1:40 remaining. Freshman guard DJ Richards hit a triple from the wing that trimmed the lead to 71-66.

From there, UTSA forced a missed shot and had a chance with a defensive rebound to set up for an opportunity that might cut the lead to three or even two points. FIU center Seth Pinkney had other ideas, however. He snared a key offensive rebound to stop the momentum.

Jones, subsequently, went to the free-throw line with 50.5 seconds left and hit both ends of a one-and-one, lifting the Panthers into a seven-point advantage. UTSA, in losing its sixth game in a row, couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

In the big picture, the Panthers won the game with defense, limiting UTSA to 37.3 percent shooting. Specifically, they did a good job in holding Roadrunners guard John Buggs III to 0 for 10 from the field.

Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Richards, from the Houston area, finished with 18 points. He hit five of 11 from beyond the three-point arc. Another bright spot was forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, who returned from a wrist injury that has kept him out for a month. He hit two threes and scored 12 points in almost 20 minutes.

Point guard Japhet Medor, UTSA’s leading scorer, sat out for the second-straight game with a sprained foot.

Records

FIU 9-11, 3-6
UTSA 7-14, 1-9

Coming up

UTSA at North Texas, Jan. 26
Louisiana Tech at UTSA, Jan. 28

Following a freshman

Freshman Dashon Gittens came to the rescue for the FIU Panthers early in the second half. Just as the DJ Richards and the UTSA Roadrunners tarted to get back in the game, Richards hit a three-pointer and added a driving layup. At that point, the Panthers moved into a 58-47 lead with 12 minutes left in the game.

Richards, limited to one of six shooting in the first half, heated up for UTSA in the stretch by knocking down two triples.

Analyzing the first half

Employing fullcourt pressure on defense and shooting threes with regularity, the FIU Panthers have built a 43-31 lead on the UTSA Roadrunners. Petar Krivokapic has led the Panthers with 14 points on five of seven shooting from the floor. Krivokapic has knocked down four of FIU’s eight three-pointers.

The pressure has been trouble for the Roadrunners, who shot 30 percent from the field and turned it over seven times. Playing off the bench, Jacob Germany has led UTSA. The 6-foot-11 senior has 12 points and eight rebounds.

In the second half, the Roadrunners will need to get John Buggs III more involved. Buggs is scoreless on zero for six shooting. DJ Richards is also struggling, hitting only one of six. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, in his first game back from a wrist injury, has scored four points in eight minutes.

Shooting from downtown

Krivokapic, a sophomore from Montenegro in Europe, is shooting the ball well in the first half. He’s knocked down four three-pointers and has scored 14 points. He came in averaging 5.6 points per game.

The Panthers have hit seven triples so far to build a 38-26 lead on the UTSA Roadrunners.

Sparking a surge

Sparked by Christian Tucker and the return of Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, the UTSA Roadrunners have raced off on a 13-2 run.

Tucker ignited the streak with a couple of steals. Addo-Ankrah, who hasn’t played in more than a month, missed his first shot attempt from three. But then he made a 10-footer and then punctuated it by clinching his fists and letting out a scream. The run brought UTSA to within three of FIU at 20-17.

Getting underway

Christian Tucker is UTSA’s starting point guard for the second straight game. UTSA just tipped off against Florida International, with Tucker, John Buggs III, DJ Richards, Aleu Aleu and Massal Diouf in the starting lineup.

Pressing full court and playing up-tempo, the Panthers have jumped out to an 18-9 lead. Petar Krivokapic and Javaunte Hawkins have knocked down two three-pointers apiece in the early going.

Tucker is starting for injured UTSA leading scorer Japhet Medor. In a surprise, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah just checked into the game. Addo-Ankrah has sat out the last nine games with a wrist fracture. He hasn’t played since Dec. 18 against Bethune-Cookman.

Pregame

Still searching for a winning formula, the UTSA Roadrunners will reach the halfway point in the Conference USA regular season today.

They’ll play the 10th game of a 20-game C-USA schedule at 3 p.m., hosting the Florida International University Panthers at the Convocation Center.

Both teams are riding losing streaks, with FIU having dropped four in a row and UTSA five straight. For the Roadrunners, they’ve had a tough time lately with injuries.

Japhet Medor, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah and Carlton Linguard, Jr. all sat out an 83-64 home loss to 24th-ranked Florida International on Thursday night and are expected to be out again today, as the Roadrunners close a three-game homestand.

Medor’s injury is the most recent. He twisted his right foot in practice Wednesday, sat out Thursday night against FAU and is in a walking boot today. Addo-Ankrah has been out nine games in a row with a wrist fracture. It’s possible he could be ready for UTSA’s next game, Jan. 26, at North Texas.

Both Medor and Addo-Ankrah are regarded as starters, and Medor is UTSA’s most explosive player, leading the team in both scoring and assists.

Linguard must be cleared by the NCAA on an academic issue in order to play this season. Otherwise he will have two years of eligibility left starting next season. He has just recently started to practice after suffering a concussion in mid-December.

The former Stevens High School standout is on the floor today, engaged in warm-ups.

No. 24 Florida Atlantic rides strong bench play to an 83-64 victory over UTSA

Christian Tucker. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Christian Tucker started at point guard in the absence of injured Japhet Medor against the Conference USA-leading FAU Owls. Tucker finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

First, a bad omen emerged. UTSA point guard Japhet Medor didn’t come out for warmups. Then, the alarm bells, metaphorically speaking, started to go off. A few minutes before game time, Medor stepped onto the court at the Convocation Center, wearing a walking boot on his right foot.

With the team’s leading scorer injured and unable to play on a foot sprain, the end result was all too predictable.

Japhet Medor. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA starting point guard Japhet Medor (at right) sat out with a foot sprain and is tentatively listed as doubtful to play Saturday at home against the FIU Panthers. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The 24th-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls, running waves of talented players onto the floor for 40 minutes, rolled to an 83-64 victory over the struggling Roadrunners. The game carried some historic significance for UTSA in that it was the first time in 42 years that it had hosted a ranked opponent on campus.

That sort of novelty was fun for fans to think about initially, in terms of what it could mean if the team could spring an upset. In the end, though, the game turned into just another painful experience, as the Roadrunners have lost five in a row and 12 of 15.

Guards Johnell Davis (14 points) and Alijah Martin (11) came off the bench to spark the Owls to their 17th straight victory. UTSA was within six early in the second half, but, later, a 19-0 run by FAU turned it into a runaway. In the last few minutes, the Owls led by as many as 27 points.

In all, the FAU reserves outscored UTSA’s 44-26. The visitors also crushed the Roadrunners in fast-break and second-chance points.

FAU coach Dusty May said it’s been fun to coach a team with so many talented athletes.

“It’s very comforting knowing the group that’s not starting the game is equally explosive and capable,” said May, who’s in his fifth year with the Owls. “And, they support each other. They share minutes. They share shots. They play unselfishly … When you have players that display those characteristics, it makes it so much more fun to coach.”

Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Dusty May’s Florida Atlantic Owls have won 17 games in a row for the second-longest winning streak in the nation. – Photo by Joe Alexander

For UTSA, senior center Jacob Germany notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in his first game back after missing two with a concussion. Freshman guard DJ Richards had a hot start early in the second half but cooled off and finished with 13 points. Christian Tucker, starting for Medor at the point, scored 11.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said the Roadrunners were hurt in the first half with FAU players tipping out missed shots to create second chances. When the Roadrunners started doing a better job on the glass, they put together a run after halftime.

“Our guards did a better job of rebounding,” the coach said. “On the other end of the floor, we started making one more pass. Got some really good looks. DJ and (John) Buggs knocked down a couple of shots. Just started the second half the right way. I liked what we did for quite a stretch there.”

In response, FAU unleashed guards like Davis, Jalen Gaffney, Michael Forrest and Martin, who all contributed during the 19-point streak. So did 7-foot center Vladislav Goldin. When Gaffney assisted to Martin for a layup with 8:08 remaining, the Owls were up 75-48.

“That run was frustrating,” Henson said. “That’s happened to us on a few other occasions this year. We’re continuing to try to figure out how to offset those. They were just kind of steady. On their end, they’d get a bucket, or two or three. We came down and got the right shot. On many of those occasions, we had decent possessions.

“We had had a pretty good mindset during that stretch, but we weren’t converting. Ball wasn’t going in the hole. It was going in the hole for them. Then we had a stretch where we turned it over a few times in a row, and that’s where it got away from us.”

Steve Henson. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners made a push early in the second half to come within six points of the 24th-ranked team in the nation. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Though Henson praised Tucker for what he called “an outstanding” effort, the team will be missing a key element of its identity for as long as Medor is out of the lineup. The coach said his starting point guard and leading scorer tweaked the foot late in a practice held on Wednesday afternoon.

“We weren’t out there very long, but probably 15 or 20 minutes from being done, he drove it real aggressively, got bumped and immediately felt it, a foot sprain,” the coach said. “It’s not the ankle. It’s the outside of the foot.

“He’s had some other foot injuries in the past. This one, the feeling was a little different. Pretty concerning to him. We went back and forth today. We thought at one point that if the X-ray came back negative, that maybe he could give it a go. It did come back negative, but he just didn’t feel good enough to go.”

Henson said he’d be surprised if Medor practices on Friday. As for Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against the FIU Panthers, the coach speculated that it’s doubtful that the 6-foot senior from Florida will play.

“We’ll just have to see how he’s feeling,” the coach said.

Medor is leading the Roadrunners in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game. He had his career high of 30 on Monday against Rice. Medor is also the team’s leader in assists (3.8) and is tied for third in rebounding (3.5).

Records

FAU 18-1, 8-0
UTSA 7-13, 1-8

Coming up

FIU at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Notable

The College of Charleston has the longest winning streak in the nation at 19 after a victory Thursday night against Monmouth. Florida Atlantic’s 17-game streak is No. 2 on the list. Only four one-win teams remain in NCAA Division I — Houston (18-1), Purdue (18-1), Charleston (20-1) and FAU (18-1).

The only other UTSA game in San Antonio with a Top 25 opponent was played in November 1981 against 18th-ranked Arkansas. It was played downtown at the old HemisFair Arena. In UTSA’s first game as a basketball program, Arkansas won, 71-42. In 42 years, all of it in NCAA Division I, UTSA is 1-18 against teams in the Top 25.

Analyzing the first half

The Owls unleashed a quick and athletic backcourt on the UTSA Roadrunners, rolling behind Brandon Weatherspoon, Nick Boyd and Bryan Greenlee to a 46-30 lead at halftime.

Weatherspoon, a 6-4 junior, got off to a fast start and finished the first period with 10 points on four of seven shooting. Boyd added eight points and three rebounds, all while Bryan Greenlee ran the attack with four assists.

Playing without leading scorer Japhet Medor, the Roadrunners simply couldn’t keep up with the conference’s best team.

UTSA was within eight points with eight minutes left in the half, and then suddenly FAU started to sprint away. The Owls ripped off 12 straight points in a three-minute stretch to boost the lead to 39-19.

Christian Tucker, starting at the point for Medor, had a sold half with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist. Germany had nine points and nine rebounds in 12 minutes.

Getting underway

The Panthers struck early Thursday night, combining effective offense and solid defense to build a 23-14 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.

Brandon Weatherspoon hit three of four shots and had eight points. Guard Alijah Martin contributed a highlight when he ran the floor on the fast break and threw down a ferocious dunk.

The Roadrunners started the game with Christian Tucker at the point in place of Medor, flanked by John Buggs III and DJ Richards. Massal Diouf and Aleu Aleu started at the two inside positions.

UTSA’s Germany set to return against the No. 24 FAU Owls

Jacob Germany. UTSA lost its Conference USA men's basketball opener to North Texas 78-54 on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany is expected to play Thursday night at home against the 24th-ranked FAU Owls. Germany is averaging 11.4 points and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the struggling UTSA men’s basketball program set to take on a historic challenge, center Jacob Germany is expected to return Thursday night when the Roadrunners host the 24th-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls in Conference USA play.

The Roadrunners, on a four-game losing streak, will play the explosive, once-beaten Owls on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center. Dusty May-coached FAU, from Boca Raton, Fla., moved into the AP Top 25 on Monday.

On Monday night, the Owls won at Western Kentucky for their 16th straight victory. All of which set the stage for a first — FAU will be the first ranked team that UTSA men’s basketball has hosted on campus.

Steve Henson. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says he’s excited to have center Jacob Germany available to play against the FAU Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson made the announcement about Germany’s return from a concussion after his team’s Wednesday afternoon practice. The 6-foot-11 senior from Oklahoma has been out since he took a few blows to the head against UTEP on Jan. 11 in El Paso.

He has missed the team’s last two games.

“He looked good (today),” Henson said. “You could tell he was feeling good, just walking around the last few days. He’s looking good, feeling good. Process has gone a little faster than I would have thought.”

Another hopeful sign for UTSA centered on Isaiah Addo-Ankrah and 7-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., two other injured players, who also practiced on a limited basis. Neither, however, will be ready against FAU.

Henson didn’t say directly whether Germany would start, but things seem to be trending in that direction.

“He hasn’t been out that long, so the conditioning won’t be a big factor for him,” Henson said. “So, whether we start him or bring him off the bench, it doesn’t really matter. He’ll settle into that rotation and probably get some quality minutes.

“We’re excited to have him back.”

UTSA (7-12, 1-7 C-USA) hasn’t had much luck in conference play and has lost 11 of its last 14. The team is coming off a heart-wrenching 88-81 overtime loss to Rice on Monday night. Regardless, the opportunity to do something special looms against C-USA leading FAU (17-1, 7-0).

Through their 42-year history, the Roadrunners are 1-17 against ranked opponents, with the lone victory coming in December 1994 at 13th-ranked Arizona State, 87-85, in overtime. In their last meeting against a Top 25 foe, the Roadrunners lost 82-50 in November 2019 at 17th-ranked Utah State.

In the only previous occasion when the UTSA men hosted a ranked opponent in San Antonio, the Roadrunners were in their first season and in their first game, taking on Eddie Sutton’s 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on Nov. 30, 1981 at the old HemisFair Arena.

The Razorbacks, with future NBA guards Darrell Walker and Alvin Robertson, won 71-42 in the game played in downtown San Antonio at the former home of the Spurs. Once situated south of what is now the Grand Hyatt Hotel and north of the Tower of the Americas, the arena was razed in 1995 to make way for convention center expansion.

In regard to playing FAU, Germamy is a realist. He knows his team is struggling. But he said at courtside after practice that he’s excited about the possibilities.

“I used to say it more as a freshman, but I look forward to a challenge like that,” Germany said.

For UTSA, the last few months have been hard to handle. Since a 4-1 start, the team has lost 11 of its last 14 and four in a row.

Germany sat out a 72-54 road loss to Charlotte on Saturday. On Monday, he also watched from the bench as his friends played well for most of the night against Rice, only to be outscored 21-5 in the last seven minutes of regulation and 16-9 in overtime — on their home court.

For the first time since he’s been at UTSA, he didn’t play and was forced to deal with all of those emotions.

“It was tough,” Germany said. “It was weird. Honestly, I can’t really even explain it, it was so weird. I haven’t missed a game since eighth grade. I felt, like, out of place almost … I felt like I wanted to help them.

“Man, such a terrible feeling. I hated that. I’m thankful I’ve been able to come back so fast. It’s the first games I’ve missed in my career here. It kind of opened my eyes to be thankful for my good health.”

Germany said he remembers getting hit with two elbows against UTEP in El Paso.

“One, on a rebound, hit me on the top of the nose,” he said. “The second one, there was actually a knot about the size of a golf ball on my head. I was fine after it happened. But once I got to the locker room I was so out of it, I don’t really remember it that much.

“The next day, flying (back to San Antonio), it didn’t really help. I was tired. Kind of just out of it a little bit.”

Germany said he’s worked his way back into physical activity the past few days, leading into the Wednesday practice, in which he went through half-court drills and ran some sprints.

“Today I had limited contact, and (on Thursday), I’ll be OK,” he said.

Coming up

FAU at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
FIU at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

FAU (17-1, 7-0)
UTSA (7-12, 1-7)

Notable

Coach Steve Henson said he thinks Isaiah Addo-Ankrah is close to playing again after rehabilitating a wrist fracture. Addo-Ankrah worked out on a limited basis Wednesday, doing some shooting on the side.

He won’t play against FAU on Thursday, but he’s expected to ramp up activity Friday. Henson said he doesn’t have “high expectations” that he could play Saturday against FIU, but said he could be back for a Jan. 26 road game at North Texas.

Addo-Ankrah, one of the team’s best three-point shooters, has been out eight-straight games — all in conference.

Center Carlton Linguard, Jr., who has not played this season, still has two hurdles to overcome before he can play. First, he needs to get healthy. In addition, he needs clearance from the NCAA on an academic issue.

Physically, he’s getting better. Out for much of the fall with a knee injury and then with a concussion, he did some work in half-court situations Wednesday. He also ran sprints and shot the ball on the side. Henson said he could transition into some contact work by Friday.

As for the possibility that he could be cleared to play from an eligibility standpoint, it is apparently in the hands of the NCAA. Henson said he hoped to hear something this week but said he didn’t have anything to report.