Junior point guard Christian Tucker produced 12 points and a school- and conference-record tying 14 assists UTSA rolled as past Tulsa, 89-73. – Photo by Joe Alexander
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Don’t look now, but with the postseason in men’s college basketball looming in only a few weeks, a UTSA Roadrunners team plagued for months by poor defense, erratic offense and bad vibes in general has started to find a rhythm.
Humming to the beat of record-tying point guard Christian Tucker, they’re even starting to show a little bit of swagger.
To some around the American Athletic Conference, this may come as quite a surprise. Not too long ago, the Roadrunners dropped four straight games. Then seven straight. All the while, they were sinking fast in the standings.
But after claiming a two-point road win at North Texas last weekend, they followed it up on Wednesday night at home by trouncing the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 89-73. “Two in a row and we’re not done yet,” Tucker told the team’s radio broadcast.
Coach Steve Henson’s Roadrunners will take a two-game winning streak into Dallas for a meeting with SMU on Saturday. – Photo by Joe Alexander
As UTSA avenged its worst loss of the season, Tucker emerged as the spark that ignited the offense, passing for a conference and school-record tying 14 assists.
His artistry in driving into the teeth of the defense and then whipping passes to the perimeter led, in large part, to the Roadrunners hitting 14 three-point baskets.
“All credit to my coaches and teammates for putting me in that position,” he told broadcaster Andy Everett on The Ticket, AM-760. “I give all the credit to them. They make me look good when I’m giving them the ball and they’re making shots.”
On Jan. 17, the Roadrunners met the Golden Hurricane for the first time as members of the American. For UTSA, its trip to Oklahoma wasn’t a pleasant experience. Tulsa revved its offense after intermission and routed UTSA 54-30 in the second half, en route to a 107-78 victory.
But that was then, and this is now, with UTSA using every day at practice to improve, and then applying it on the court.
The Roadrunners have actually played well in their last three games. A week ago, with AAC-leading South Florida coming into San Antonio, they showed up and played one of their best defensive games, collapsing late in a 66-61 loss. Last weekend, the defense held up again. This time, the Roadrunners won 64-62 as they bottled up North Texas for the team’s first road win in Denton since 2015.
Tucker blocked a shot in the final seconds as UTSA players celebrated the end of the seven-game skid. Now, they’ve done it again. While the game against Tulsa wasn’t a defensive masterpiece, it was a good showing nonetheless against a team that likes to push the pace faster than most.
Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 20 points to lead the Roadrunners, his third game in the last four with 20 or more. – Photo by Joe Alexander
“Pretty good on the defensive end,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Obviously, offensively, we were really clicking. Got back to what we were doing earlier in the year with Tuck just serving it up to people. He was terrific.”
Six players scored in double figures, led by Jordan Ivy-Curry with 20 points. Chandler Cuthrell had 14. Tucker and Dre Fuller Jr. added 12 apiece. Tre Edmonds had 11 and PJ Carter 10 for the Roadrunners, who made 44 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.
Eleven of UTSA’s 14 triples came in the first half.
For Tulsa, redshirt freshman PJ Haggerty showed why he has been billed as an honors candidate nationally, as he scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Haggerty, a TCU transfer, deftly scored from all three levels. Either the native of Crosby, Tex., was pulling up from 22 feet, or he was driving it, drawing fouls. He went to the line 18 times and made 12 of them.
At the same time, many of the players who hurt the Roadrunners earlier in the season weren’t quite as proficient this time around. Isaiah Barnes, Cobe Williams and Tyshawn Archie all scored 17 points apiece against UTSA at Tulsa. In San Antonio, none of them reached double figures.
“Defensively, that’s three games in a row,” Henson said. “I don’t know if our points per possession will be quite as good as the last two ball games. But it was pretty good. They didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm. They didn’t do what they typically do.”
The UTSA Roadrunners played one of their better halves of the season, knocking down 11 three-point baskets en route to a 53-34 halftime lead.
Chandler Cuthrell, shown here in a file photo, came off the bench to sink four three-point shots. He scored 14. – File photo by Joe Alexander
After missing their first eight shots in the game, the Roadrunners surged, hitting 16 of 35 from the field and 11 of 21 from three in the half. Ivy-Curry paced UTSA with 12 points, while Cuthrell had 10 and Dre Fuller Jr. nine. The three of them combined for eight field goals from behind the three-point arc, including three each by Cuthrell and Fuller.
Tucker had seven points and 10 assists for the Roadrunners, who were attempting to win a second consecutive game this season for the first time since December.
Tulsa 14-14, 5-11
UTSA 10-19, 4-12
UTSA at SMU, Saturday, 2 p.m.
With games against SMU and Temple remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Roadrunners remain tied for last in the AAC with Wichita State. They’re one game in the loss column behind Tulsa, Tulane and Temple. The Roadrunners last won consecutive games in November and December, in the opening weeks of the season, when they won three in a row. In that stretch, they beat UIW on Nov. 25 before downing Lamar on Nov. 30 and then Arkansas-Fort Smith on Dec. 10.
Originally, Issy Washington set the UTSA single-game school and Convocation Center records for assists with 14 on Nov. 29, 1986. Playing for Coach Ken Burmeister in only the sixth season of basketball at the school, Washington established the standard in a 113-67 victory over Jarvis Christian College. SMU’s Kendric Davis set the AAC single-game record of 14 on Jan. 7, 2021. Davis set the mark at home, at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, in a 76-69 loss to Cincinnati.
In Memphis, Tenn., the UTSA women ran into a team that seems to be peaking for the AAC tournament. The Memphis Tigers won their fourth in a row by muscling past the Roadrunners, 60-53, at the Ella Roane Fieldhouse. Guard Alasia Smith led the Tigers with 12 points and 17 rebounds. For UTSA, Jordyn Jenkins paced the Roadrunners with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Three UTSA standouts — Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Idara Udo — all fouled out of the game. Despite mounting foul problems, UTSA made a run to lead by one point at the end of three periods, but Memphis wouldn’t fold. The Tigers outscored the Roadrunners 18-10 in the final quarter with forward Hannah Riddick notching six of those points.
UTSA 14-13, 8-8
Memphis 12-15, 8-8
UTSA at Wichita State, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA will be investing $57 million in new facilities and capital projects over the next five years, it was announced Wednesday afternoon. The investment includes funding secured for a volleyball and basketball training center and also for upgrades to baseball and softball facilities. Baseball and softball are slated to get player development centers. In addition, the university is planning to add a nutrition performance center for all student-athletes. Football will get a covered football pavilion.
Christian Tucker leads the American Athletic Conference with an 88.6 free-throw percentage and also ranks tied for second with 5.15 assists per game. — Photo by Joe Alexander