Last place? UTSA hosts Southern Miss, hoping to make amends

Steve Henson. UTSA beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson (right) hopes to get his team turned around this weekend after losing five of six to open the C-USA schedule. — Photo by Joe Alexander

As the last-place UTSA Roadrunners prepare to host the Southern Miss Golden Eagles this weekend, players and coaches are like sailors at sea, peering out over the bow at rolling waves crashing higher and higher on the side of the ship.

They have felt the winds gust and the rain sting their faces at times over the past few years, but nothing like what they have experienced lately.

The Roadrunners (5-8, 1-5 in Conference USA) are off to their rockiest start to a conference schedule in eight years. Veteran fans of the men’s basketball program need to flip through the pages of history to 2012-13, when their team opened with seven straight losses in the Western Athletic Conference, to find a tougher start.

In addition, UTSA has never been four games under .500 after six games in seven previous seasons in the C-USA. But it is notable that Coach Steve Henson started 2017-18 at 2-4 and finished his second year in the program with an 11-7 ledger in the conference.

Last week, the Roadrunners left town, coming off a home victory over North Texas, and lost twice in two days at Louisiana Tech. With little time to wring hands over seeing themselves in last place in the seven-team, C-USA West Division standings, they did what they always do, win or lose.

They went back to practice.

“I think our mindset is pretty good,” Henson said. “You know, disappointed that we didn’t play a little better. Realistic to know that we got to shore some things up. Got to play harder defensively. Got to execute better offensively. Got to shoot better shots.

“But (players) came in with the right mindset. We’ve had some good stretches of practice the last couple of days.”

A sense of urgency could be detected in a Wednesday afternoon zoom call, with junior forward Phoenix Ford talking about working through “a little” adversity as they fine tune for the Golden Eagles.

“It’s definitely a concern, but not too much of a concern where we’re worried or panicking, but there’s definitely a little adversity,” junior forward Phoenix Ford said. “Definitely didn’t expect to start the conference like this, for sure. Just have to bounce back and win the next ones.”

Coming up

Southern Miss at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Southern Miss at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

Southern Miss 7-6, 3-3
UTSA 5-8, 1-5

Archibald, Louisiana Tech romp past UTSA, 82-66

Guard Amorie Archibald was a perfect 4-for-4 on three-point shots in the first half Saturday night en route to a 22-point performance. Likewise, his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs teammates made it look easy in throttling the UTSA Roadrunners, 82-66.

While UTSA’s offense sputtered for most of the night, the Bulldogs sank 14 threes and shot 49 percent from the field to sweep both games from the Roadrunners in a Conference USA series at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.

The Bulldogs jumped on the Roadrunners early for the second time in two nights. On Friday night, they pushed out to a 25-12 lead, lost some momentum and the lead in the second half and then gathered themselves for a 77-66 victory.

A night later, they surged 17-3 at the outset, held a 20-7 margin with 10:10 remaining and went on to lead the rest of the way.

Once again, UTSA’s early shooting was not great. The Roadrunners missed their first 14 of 15 attempts from the field. Finally they got it going and finished the half, 13 of 37, including 8 of 16 from three. Keaton Wallace hit three long balls in the late surge, as the Roadrunners pulled to within five at intermission.

In the second half, the Roadrunners hung around and pulled within six with 7:15 remaining on a Jhivvan Jackson three-pointer. But the Bulldogs rattled off seven points in a row at that point to take charge.

Inexplicably, UTSA’s impatience on offense fueled the surge, taking three ill-advised shots in a row, one of them leading to an Isaiah Crawford three-pointer and another setting up another Crawford bucket, this one an eight-foot, stick back off an offensive rebound.

All of a sudden, LA Tech led 68-55 with 5:20 remaining. UTSA never got closer than eight the rest of the way to remain winless on the road (0-7) this season.

Louisiana Tech played for the second straight night without its leading scorer, guard Kalob Ledoux, who sat out with an injury.

Notable

UTSA finished with a season-low 33.8 shooting from the field (22 of 65). Jackson and Wallace combined to take 40 of the shots, making only 11. Wallace finished with 22 points and Jackson 14. Jacob Germany, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, had seven points on a 3 of 8 night afield. Louisiana Tech hit 25 of 51 as a team and spread out the scoring among several players. Crawford finished with 15 points and Kenneth Lofton, Jr., a freshman from Port Arthur, produced 12. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Lofton also pulled down 13 rebounds.

Quotable

“We started the game so poorly offensively…Hung in there. Hung in there. Yeah, they were bombing in threes the whole game. Never really stopped,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. The coach said some of Louisiana Tech’s open perimeter shots came as a result of UTSA double-teaming in the post, but others were cases where defenders “were there (in position to defend), just not aggressively enough contesting.”

After the poor start offensively, Henson said his players strung together some good possessions with ball movement. But in the second half, the decision-making was questionable. “We don’t get anything inside,” Henson said. “We can’t drive it and get fouled. That element is lacking for us. (If) we’re settling for hard, contested shots, it’s going to be rough.”

Records

UTSA 5-8, 1-5 (7th place in the 7-team C-USA West)
Louisiana Tech 11-4, 4-2 (tied for 3rd, C-USA West)
Note: Six teams from the West and East divisions qualify for the C-USA tournament)

Coming up

Southern Miss at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Southern Miss at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Louisiana Tech rallies at home for a 77-66 victory over UTSA

Chalk this one up as a missed opportunity.

Jhivvan Jackson was on fire. The UTSA Roadrunners were up by six with just under 10 minutes left. And the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were without injured leading scorer Kalob Ledoux.

It didn’t matter. The Bulldogs shut down the Roadrunners’ offense down the stretch and cruised to a 77-66 Conference USA victory at the Thomas Assembly Center, in Ruston, La.

Louisiana Tech closed on a 21-4 run in the final 9:18, improving to 10-4 on the season and to 3-2 in the C-USA. On the cusp of what might have been its first road win of the year, UTSA nevertheless fell to 5-7 and 1-4.

Amorie Archibald led the Bulldogs with 19 points, followed by Jacolby Pemberton with 18. Boosting the play of the two guards, 6-foot-10, 260-pound center Andrew Gordon scored 14 off the bench, including 10 in the last five minutes of the game.

Jackson, NCAA Division I’s leader in career scoring among active players, finished with 25 points to lead the Roadrunners. Keaton Wallace had 18. Jacob Germany, UTSA’s third leading scorer behind Jackson and Wallace, was held to two points.

Notable

UTSA’s offense was humming, having hit six shots in a row, when a drought cost the team the game. The Roadrunners connected on only 2 of 13 in the final 9:21. UTSA didn’t enjoy the best of fortune during the fateful stretch as Jackson hoisted three or four that looked like they were going in, only to dance around on the rim and then lip out.

Quotable

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it was a “difficult stretch” during which he thinks the Roadrunners lost some of their composure. “Just didn’t get good shots,” he told the team’s radio broadcast. “I mean, Jhivvan had the hot hand. Obviously, we tried to keep riding that when we could. Sometimes when a guy takes over like that, then everybody gets caught watching. We needed him to keep going. But we needed someone else to step up there. We couldn’t get that done.

“We talk about our concerns defensively. We got to be a better defensive team. I get frustrated with our offense. We’re in a position to win a game on the road against a great team. We come down there and don’t compete, don’t execute for a good shots. Again, Keaton and Jhivvan can hit shots that look hard. But we still got to get the ball moving and take the right types of shots in those situations.”

By the numbers

Among the UTSA starters, Jackson and Wallace combined for 43 points. But the three others — Jacob Germany, Eric Parrish and Erik Czumbel — scored only four between them. Cedrick Alley Jr., who has missed time lately with a groin injury, returned to play 17 minutes. He scored eight points on 3 of 5 shooting. Freshman guard Jordan Ivy-Curry finished with nine points on 4 of 7 shooting. He also had three rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes. With the loss, UTSA fell to 0-6 on the road. In conference play, UTSA has two road losses at Rice, a split at home against North Texas and now another road loss at Louisiana Tech.

Records

UTSA 5-7, 1-4
Louisiana Tech 10-4, 3-2

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m.

True to the nickname, ‘Juice’ brings a spark to UTSA

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry averaged 31.5 points last year as a senior for the Class 4A La Marque High School Cougars. — Photo by Joe Alexander

His given name is Jordan Ivy-Curry. But all his friends at UTSA call him “Juice.” As in, plug him into a basketball game and feel the electricity. How did he get the nickname?

“Around seventh or eighth grade, playing at a park in the neighborhood,” the UTSA freshman said. “You know, I was playing against some grown-ups. Shooting the ball. Making a lot of shots. It was like, ‘You got the juice.’ So ever since then, they been calling me ‘Juice.’ ”

Getting a nickname is a badge of honor in the Houston area, where Ivy-Curry grew up. Back in the ‘60s, they had David “Big Daddy” Lattin, who went on to lead the Texas Western College Miners to the 1966 NCAA title.

In the ‘80s, they had Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on a couple of Final Four teams at the University of Houston, along with Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Larry “Mr. Mean” Michaux.

Ivy-Curry started to turn heads on the playground when he was 11. Within a few years, he gravitated to games with players much older. With high school-age players. Though he was under-sized, he challenged himself.

“Yeah, I got some buckets,” Ivy-Curry recalled. “Two from half court.”

Years later, playing for the La Marque High School Cougars, “Juice” continued to shoot it. He had the green light and the skills to rack up more than 2,000 points in his career, eclipsing 50 points in a game three times as a senior last season.

At UTSA, the scoring machines in residence are seniors by the name of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. “Juice” plays off the bench in a supporting role for the Roadrunners, averaging a modest 5.8 points in 15.5 minutes per game.

But to a certain extent, those numbers belie his value to the team.

With the Roadrunners scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday at Louisiana Tech, the freshman has emerged as a player who has seen court time in the second half in all four of UTSA’s Conference USA games, including crunch-time minutes in a 77-69 victory over North Texas last Saturday.

In one memorable sequence, sophomore guard Erik Czumbel fired a skip pass cross the court to Ivy-Curry. As a North Texas defender ran at the UTSA freshman, he dribbled into open space and lobbed it up for center Jacob Germany, who dunked it.

“It felt good,” Ivy-Curry said. “I felt like, when I made that play, it brought the team energy up, the crowd energy up. We just had the momentum our way. Just a great feeling. Even though I had zero points (in the game) I felt like I had five points on that play.”

Germany called Ivy-Curry “a great player,” who will get better as the years go by. “In high school, he was a huge scorer, and I could see him doing that here in a year or two,” the sophomore from Oklahoma said. “For him, it’s just experience and confidence.”

When told that Ivy-Curry had mentioned playing against older players as a young man, Henson smiled, because he has seen some of that competitive fire from him in practices already.

“He’s got that right level of confidence, swag,” Henson said. “He respects Jhivvan and Keaton. He tries to get after ‘em in practice every day. He’s usually matched up with one of those two guys, and he fights and competes. Got a great deal of confidence. He just plays. It’s kind of refreshing.”

Continued Henson: “He reads situations well. His instincts offensively are very, very good. Defensively, he’s conscientious. He’s trying to learn our schemes. Trying to work on his habits. Yeah, he’s fun. He’s fun at practice.

“(We) had a practice prior to North Texas, and at the end of a segment he rattled off 10 straight. Two threes and two twos. Just like it was nothing. It doesn’t really even phase us that he does that. He’s just such a natural scorer.”

He is the “Juice.”

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6:30 p.m., Friday
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6 p.m., Saturday

Records

UTSA 5-6, 1-3
Louisiana Tech 9-4, 2-2

Beating the blues: UTSA whips North Texas to snap three-game skid

UTSA's Jhivvan Jackson celebrates with teammate Jaja Sanni after the Roadrunners' 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson celebrates with teammate Jaja Sanni after the Roadrunners’ 77-69 victory over North Texas. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Another bout with the basketball blues loomed for the UTSA Roadrunners.

One more week with a bad feeling in the pit of the stomach, followed by grinding practices and lingering questions about the viability of the ball club.

Trailing by one point at home against the North Texas Mean Green with 3:38 remaining, the Roadrunners were on the brink of getting swept in a two-game series for the second week in a row.

It didn’t happen. In perhaps a pivotal moment in their season, they deployed a small lineup, executed well on both ends of the floor and claimed a 77-69 victory Saturday over the Mean Green for their first win in Conference USA.

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 throws down a dunk with 2:18 left to give UTSA a 69-65 lead. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It was great,” UTSA guard Keaton Wallace said. “We had guys making good plays. We were knocking down shots and getting stops. All the way down to the end.

“Those are the type of games that feel good, that you worked really hard for. That was a good victory right there.”

Guard Jhivvan Jackson led the way with 31 points, including 26 in the second half. He also had six rebounds. Center Jacob Germany scored 16 and Wallace 14. Javion Hamlet had 18 for the Mean Green, but he was held in check with 5 of 14 shooting. As a team, the Mean Green hit only 38 percent, well below their season average of 49.5.

A bumpy ride

Despite an erratic summer caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, UTSA entered the season feeling good about its chances. But ever since games got underway in the last week of November, it’s been a bumpy ride. The team endured a couple of ugly losses at UT Rio Grande Valley and Oklahoma, and then rebounded with two straight victories leading into the C-USA phase of the schedule.

Last week in Houston against the Rice Owls, the Roadrunners gave up a combined 179 points and lost twice.

Returning home, they played better on the defensive end Friday night but watched at the end of the game as the Mean Green pulled out a 77-70 victory. With the decision, UTSA dropped to 0-3 in conference for the first time in the Steve Henson coaching era.

UTSA coach Steve Henson talks to an official after a foul called on the Roadrunners in the final minutes of their 77-69 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson talks to an official after a foul called on the Roadrunners in the final minutes. Henson went with a four-guard lineup down the stretch. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Moreover, the Roadrunners didn’t have much time to adjust for Game 2 against the defending C-USA champions. They were back on the court early Saturday morning for a shootaround and then reported to the arena a few hours later for a 3 p.m. start. None of it mattered.

Trailing by three at intermission, UTSA outscored North Texas 46-35 in the second half, including 15-6 in the final three minutes, to make something of a statement. So, instead of traveling winless in conference to Louisiana Tech next week, the Roadrunners (5-6, 1-3) they will travel with some confidence.

Making progress

“It’s really big,” Henson said. “In this context, it feels like it’s more than one game, simply because of the nature of it. You go on the road, lose two to Rice. Looking ahead, you see North Texas on the schedule. Then you see LA Tech on the schedule. It was pretty important. You know, LA Tech’s loaded. We understand that.

“It was very, very important (to win today). It reinforced what we’ve been telling them. We think we’re making progress.”

Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace hit two three-point buckets in the Roadrunners’ closing run. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson paused to consider the statistics sheet, particularly the second-half numbers. He liked what he saw.

“Second-half field goal percentage for them — 30 percent,” he said. “Second-half field goal percentage for us — 60 percent … That gives us something to hang our hat on.”

Playing small ball

With the teams trading runs for most of the second half, North Texas got into foul trouble, sat down big man Zachary Simmons and went with a smaller lineup. Henson answered by going small himself, using Jhivvan Jackson, Erik Czumbel, Jordan Ivy-Curry and Wallace, along with either Phoenix Ford or Jacob Germany.

The Roadrunners clicked. In the final three minutes, Ivy-Curry found Germany rolling to the rim and lobbed it up high for a dunk. Wallace hit a couple of threes. Jackson knocked down three of four free throws.

Records

UTSA 5-6, 1-3
North Texas 5-5, 1-1

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m.


UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson, the school’s all-time leading scorer, leaps to block a shot by North Texas guard JJ Murray midway through the second half. Jackson played all 40 minutes of games Friday night and Saturday afternoon. He scored 31 points Saturday, finishing his weekend’s work with 57.

UTSA vs. North Texas photo gallery

UTSA's Keaton Wallace (top left) and Eric Parrish (bottom right) wrestle with North Texas' Thomas Bell (bottom left) for a loose ball on Saturday at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Keaton Wallace (top left) and Eric Parrish (bottom right) wrestle with North Texas’ Thomas Bell (bottom left) for a loose ball on Saturday at the Convocation Center.

UTSA took the lead for good with 3:23 left in the game to beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday at the Convocation Center. Jhivvan Jackson led UTSA with 31 points, Jacob Germany had 16 and Keaton Wallace had 14.

Sorting through a few issues before North Texas-UTSA, Part II

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA lost to North Texas 77-70 in Conference USA action on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Weaving his way through traffic, pulling up for floaters or hitting from deep, Jhivvan Jackson scored 26 points in 40 minutes Friday night. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Good afternoon, all.

I wanted to drop a few opinions here in the lead-up to North Texas-UTSA, Part II. The Mean Green defeated the Roadrunners 77-70 in Game 1 of a two-game, Conference USA series Friday night at the Convocation Center. The two ball clubs meet again today, in the same arena, on UTSA’s home floor. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.

First of all, North Texas looks like a team capable of winning another championship. The Mean Green have everything. A point guard who runs the show. Players who can pass it and catch it. Players who are smart and know what to do when they’re under pressure. Players who defend aggressively. Point guard Javion Hamlet? He’s a handful. Forwards Thomas Bell and Zachary Simmons? I don’t remember them being game-changers last season, but they were Friday night.

Keaton Wallace had 12 points in the second half and 14 for the game for UTSA in Friday's Conference USA loss to North Texas at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace

Next, I go back and forth between notions that the Roadrunners can be a good team this year, or, alternately, that they lack the right pieces in place to make a serious run in March. When my my thoughts drift to the second part of that notion, I think, what are they missing? Well, maybe they need a creative point guard, a distributor, an assertive force who can take over a game without shooting.

In Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Erik Czumbel, they have three really talented combo guards. Jackson and Wallace are at their best when they can roam the perimeter for catch-and-shoot opportunities. The faster the pace, the better.

Wallace and Czumbel are excellent defensively. But the offense tends to bog down when either runs the point for too long. Jackson is the best distributor and is the most creative of the three on the dribble. But if he brings it up time after time, his effectiveness as one of the nation’s best scorers decreases.

Alternately, I tend to think that the Roadrunners may, in time, work all this out in the coming weeks. Maybe they’ll mesh all their talents together and rip off a series of victories. It has a chance to happen, I think, if a couple of things happen. First, I’d like to see Jackson start at an off-guard position as he did Friday night. Give him the green light to shoot until he gets hot. Same with Wallace.

Both are smart enough players to be able to keep their teammates involved. But the team is built on their talents. Let them go to work. As for Czumbel, he’s starting to get more aggressive when he brings the ball up or when he runs the half court offense. Just give him some time to grow.

Next, they’ll be instantly better on defense when Cedrick Alley, Jr., returns to full speed. Right now, he’s limited with a groin injury. Remember, last week at Rice, Alley enjoyed a great first half before the groin tightened up on him. Get him back in the flow, and he could become a force as a two-way player, an aggressive defender and rebounder, and also one who can also knock down shots.

Today, the Mean Green probably have the edge. Jackson played 40 minutes Friday night. Weaving his way through traffic, finding open spaces, rising up for clever shots in the mid-range, UTSA’s all-time scoring leader was as good as he’s ever been. It may be too much to ask him to do that again in 18 hours. So, others will need to play well. But, as mentioned, North Texas looks like it’s built of championship timber. UTSA is still building.

UTSA vs. North Texas photo gallery

Jhivvan Jackson scored a team-high 26 points for UTSA in Friday's Conference USA loss to North Texas at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 26 points, but it wasn’t enough as North Texas closed out a close game down the stretch and dropped UTSA to 0-3 in conference.

Defending Conference USA champion North Texas beat UTSA 77-70 in Conference USA on Friday at the Convocation Center. UTSA and North Texas play again Saturday at 3 p.m.

UTSA trying to find a spark against North Texas

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

Jhivvan Jackson has averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Roadrunners. But he says he is ‘struggling’ with his shot. — Photo by Joe Alexander

More than a few questions linger for the UTSA Roadrunners as they prepare to host the defending Conference USA champion North Texas Mean Green on Friday night.

After losing two games to open C-USA play last week at Rice, can they finally find some consistency to get on a hot streak?

Keaton Wallace scored 12 points as UTSA beat Lamar 88-66 on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Keaton Wallace enters a two-game series against North Texas averaging 13.2 points. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Can they find it with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace scoring a combined 29.5 points per game, roughly two thirds of their output from last year?

In 2019-20, the dynamic twosome was the highest scoring backcourt in the nation, averaging a combined 45.6. So, yes, it probably would help if they could get closer to that number.

But even if they can regain the magic in a two-game series against North Texas, will it be enough to beat a team that won 20 games last year?

Against UTSA (4-5), Grant McCasland-coached North Texas (4-4) hopes to get off to a fast start in an effort to repeat its 14-4 run through the conference a year ago.

“They won the league last year and they got a lot of those guys back,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “The challenges they presented last year are here again.”

The talented Mean Green play a methodical pace on offense and then, on the other end, they try to force poor possessions by cutting off passing lanes and keeping the ball on one side of the floor.

Anchored by a couple of 6-foot-10 post players, North Texas used the approach to hammer UTSA by 20 points last year in Denton.

“We’re excited to play them,” Jackson said. “I think everybody wants that challenge to play the conference champions. So, we’re getting ready for them. They’re going to come over here, and they’re going to get our best.”

Jackson poured in 37 and Wallace had 24 last year in Denton.

But UTSA is, by design, a different team this season, with more balance to foster more sustained success. Jackson averages 16.3, Wallace 13.2 and center Jacob Germany 10.3.

Forward Eric Parrish (8) and back-up post Luka Barisic (7.3) are also involved in a fast-paced attack.

“I mean, everybody’s making plays,” Jackson said. “Kea, he’s starting to get it going. We got Luka making shots. We got Jacob. He’s scoring at a high percentage.

“We got EZ (Erik) Czumbel. He’s shooting almost 50 percent from the three-point line. We got Juice (Jordan Ivy-Curry), who comes in and gives us a stretch of points and hustle plays.

Added Jackson: “I think I’m doing a great job, as well, just looking for people. I mean, I think everybody is kind of getting the shot that they want. We just got to defend better.”

The Owls beat the Roadrunners 95-86 and 84-69 last week in Houston.

Though defense continues to be the focus for UTSA this year, the Roadrunners likely need to get much better shooting out of their best two players if they want to make a run at the upper level of the C-USA Western Division.

Jackson (43.6 percent from the field, 28.3 from three) and Wallace (40.2 and 31) are much better shooters than those numbers would indicate.

“I’m struggling offensively,” Jackson said. “But I’m getting my teammates open. Getting them some good looks. I’m running the point. So, running a lot of the plays for my teammates.

“I’m good, you know. I’m going to get on my rhythm. I’m not really stressed about that. We just focusing on getting better on defense.”

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

The status of injured Cedrick Alley Jr. is in question. Alley sat out last Saturday at Rice. — Photo by Joe Alexander

A victory would help to smooth out most problems, and Wallace said he’s confident that the Roadrunners can get that done against a team that will be playing its conference opener.

“They got us pretty good last year,” he said. “We scored a lot of points … We couldn’t stop them.

“We going to make some small tweaks to our game on defense, and they’re going to translate to (this) game.”

North Texas, scheduled to tip off C-USA play last week in Alabama at UAB, had its openers postponed because of virus issues with the Blazers.

Records

North Texas 4-4, 0-0
UTSA 4-5, 0-2

Coming up

North Texas at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
North Texas at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Alley’s status uncertain as UTSA prepares for North Texas

The status of injured UTSA forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., is uncertain for Friday’s home game against the North Texas Mean Green.

“He’s pretty sore,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on a zoom call with reporters Wednesday.

Henson said Alley has spent “a lot of time” with the training staff as the Roadrunners resumed practice this week following a pair of losses at Rice last weekend.

Alley, a starter at power forward, fueled an 11-2 UTSA run late in the first half in Game 1 of the two-game series against Rice in Houston last Friday.

In one sequence, he had a steal and then hit a 3-pointer as UTSA rolled to a 48-42 intermission lead.

For the game, Alley hit 5 of 11 from the field and scored a season-high 15 points in a 95-86 loss for the Roadrunners.

He aggravated his groin during the game, Henson said. Subsequently, Alley warmed up Saturday but wasn’t able to play in Game 2 when Rice knocked off UTSA, 84-69.

UTSA has been watching him closely this week as it prepares to host North Texas, the defending Conference USA champions.

“Right now I don’t know what he’ll be able to do (Thursday) or Friday,” Henson said.

Henson said he’s hopeful that Alley’s showing at Rice is a glimpse of what he can produce as the 18-game C-USA schedule continues.

Coming up

North Texas at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
North Texas at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

North Texas 4-4, 0-0
UTSA 4-5, 0-2