Olivari, Fiedler lead rally as Rice takes down UTSA in overtime

Japhet Medor. 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

Point guard Japhet Medor led the UTSA Roadrunners with a season-high 30 points on 11 of 21 shooting from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Guard Quincy Olivari tied his season high with 30 points and center Max Fiedler had a triple-double Monday night as the Rice Owls erased an 18-point deficit to down the UTSA Roadrunners, 88-81, in overtime.

Fiedler, a 6-foot-11 junior, hit 10 of 12 shots from the field and finished with 24 points. He also produced 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Playing with poise on UTSA’s home court, the Owls also received a boost from guard Travis Evee in the extra period. The 6-foot-1 playmaker buried a three on the end of a long possession with 1:56 remaining to help the visitors pull away.

Massal Diouf. 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

Massal Diouf (at right) had his hands full all night as he tried to check Rice center Max Fiedler, who finished with a 24-point triple double. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Evee finished with 19 points for the Owls, who improved to 13-5 on the season and 4-3 in Conference USA.

Japhet Medor scored 30 points to lead the Roadrunners. UTSA fell to 7-12 overall and 1-7 in the C-USA despite playing well for most of regulation. The Roadrunners played for the second straight game without injured center Jacob Germany, who is out with a concussion.

Rice coach Scott Pera said “it came down to defense” in climbing out of double-digit deficits that spanned much of both halves.

“I thought (assistant coaches) Van (Green) and Greg (Howell) did a great job making a huge adjustment for the second half,” Pera said in a video posted to Rice’s Twitter page. “We got just enough stops. I thought we could get good shots offensively.

“Obviously, we weren’t making ’em in the first half. Even in the second half, we just struggled. We struggled with things we are normally good at. But our kids are old enough now to stay with it. They also listened to the game plan down the stretch, and that was to own three feet and in.

“Keep getting that ball three feet and in. Get to that foul line, because they were in the double bonus. You know, Mekhi (Mason) hit a huge three when Quincy drove. Travis hit a huge three. And then Cam (Sheffield) made an unbelievable play to get us the ball late. And Travis hit a big shot — again (in the overtime).

“Just a great team win, and I thought our three older guys (Olivari, Fiedler and Evee) certainly carried us.”

For UTSA, the loss stung badly. It was the team’s fourth straight setback. It was also a lost chance for the Roadrunners to prove that they could beat one of the better teams in the C-USA.

In addition, they needed the momentum with two home games remaining this week, including a Thursday night test against the conference-leading FAU Owls.

They needed the win, but they couldn’t get it, despite holding an 18-point lead with four minutes left in the first half and a 13-point spread at intermission. When Christian Tucker hit a jumper with 7:06 left in the game, the Roadrunners hiked the advantage to 16.

At that juncture, things started to unravel for the home team.

DJ Richards. 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

Freshman DJ Richards scored 14 points for his seventh straight double-figure scoring effort. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Owls, one of the better offensive squads in the nation, started to roll. Olivari hit a jumper with 6:47 remaining to start a 21-5 run by Rice to the end of regulation.

A couple of misses on the front end of one-and-one free-throw situations and a turnover against the Sheffield-led backcourt pressure in the final minute cost UTSA dearly.

In addition, Medor had a chance to win it for the Roadrunners with 1.1 seconds left, but he couldn’t get it done. With UTSA trailing by one, he went to the free throw line and missed the first attempt, and then he tied it 72-72 by knocking down the second.

Once the game reached overtime, the Owls took control. They played better defense and outscored the Roadrunners 16-9. With UTSA failing to generate offense on its own end, Olivari knocked down six free throws in the final 1:24 to seal it.

Asked about the mood in the locker room afterward, UTSA coach Steve Henson said it “was what it should be.”

“Our guys were devastated,” the coach said. “This one hurts bad. I wouldn’t expect any other response.”

Notable

Jacob Germany suffered the concussion sometime during the UTEP game last Wednesday in El Paso, Henson said. As a result, he sat out last Saturday at Charlotte and again Monday night against Rice.

Henson said he doesn’t expect Germany to to play on Thursday against the FAU Owls. He said “there’s a chance” that the 6-foot-11 senior will be ready by Saturday.

The timeline for the return of forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah is also murky. Addo-Ankrah has missed all eight conference games with a fracture in his left wrist. Henson said he could begin shooting some at the end of this week and could have the cast removed next week.

Records

Rice 13-5, 4-3
UTSA 7-12, 1-7

Coming up

FAU at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Individuals

Rice — Guard Quincy Olivari scored 30 and pulled down eight rebounds. He also had 30 points on Dec. 17 at home against Northwestern State and on Dec. 4 on the road at Texas State. Olivari hit nine of 18 from the field and five of 12 on three-pointers. Max Fiedler had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end. Travis Evee had 19 points and five assists.

Aleu Aleu. 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

With Jacob Germany not playing, Aleu Aleu started at forward and contributed nine points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA — Japhet Medor scored 30 points, including 19 points on seven of 11 shooting from the floor in the first half. In the second half, he cooled off to three for eight, and then one for two in the overtime. On free throws, Medor was six for eight for the game, but he missed a couple in the final minute. DJ Richards scored 14 and John Buggs III 13. Aleu Aleu started and produced nine points, eight rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes.

First half

Playing without their starting center for the second straight game, the Roadrunners kicked up the tempo and raced to a 45-32 halftime lead on the Owls.

UTSA hit eight three-point shots en route to one of their best offensive halves in weeks. Buggs and Richards buried three triples each, and Medor had two. Medor led the way with 19 points and three assists.

The Roadrunners played with pace from the outset. Even though the Owls rank as one of the top-scoring teams in NCAA Division I, the Roadrunners didn’t back down from the challenge. With 4:07 remaining, they had built their biggest lead at 18 points.

UTSA played without injured senior center Jacob Germany for the second game in a row.

UTSA’s Jacob Germany ‘a game-time decision’ for Rice

The status of injured UTSA center Jacob Germany is uncertain leading into tonight’s Conference USA home game against the Rice Owls.

Jacob Germany celebrates as time runs out. UTSA beat Texas State 61-56 in men's basketball on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany and the UTSA Roadrunners host the Rice Owls tonight in the first of three home games this week. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A spokesman said Germany is “probably a game-time decision.”

Germany was hurt last Wednesday near the end of the Roadrunners’ game in El Paso. He sat out for the first time this season at Charlotte on Saturday afternoon.

UTSA plays at home three times this week instead of the usual two games, and the homestand starts tonight against the Rice Owls.

After facing high-scoring Rice, UTSA will also play the C-USA leading FAU Owls on Thursday night and the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

Germany averages 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds, so his health is significant given the extra game on the schedule and also the team’s struggles — the Roadrunners have lost three in a row and six of their last seven.

Records

Rice 12-5, 3-3
UTSA 7-11, 1-6

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, tonight at 7, at the Convocation Center

Notable

The Roadrunners are 7-4 at home this season. Their last victory was at home on Jan. 5 when they downed the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-72. On Jan. 7, the Roadrunners stumbled in front of the home fans, falling 74-64 to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

DJ Richards. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

DJ Richards has averaged 10.3 points as a UTSA freshman. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Last week on the road, they lost at UTEP, 69-57, on Wednesday. On Saturday, with Germany sidelined, they fell 72-54 at Charlotte, dropping them into 11th and last place in the C-USA standings.

UTSA freshman D.J. Richards continued his solid first season with the program, scoring a combined 10 and 14 points, respectively, on the trip. With his performance at Charlotte, he ran his string of double-figures scoring games to six in a row.

In games at UTEP and Charlotte, the 6-foot-5 guard from Houston hit nine of 20 shots from the field and four for 11 from three combined. For the season, he’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. His 38.4 percent accuracy from long range is second on the team to John Buggs III.

Rice downed UTEP 83-82 in Houston on Saturday. Guard Travis Evee hit a left-handed floater at the buzzer for the win. The Owls are 20th in the nation in scoring at 81.7 points per game. With talented long-range shooters, they spread out the defense by averaging 25 three pointers and nine made threes.

UTSA women roll to a 64-50 victory over the Charlotte 49ers

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA beat Charlotte 60-54 in a Conference USA women's basketball game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA sophomore center Elyssa Coleman stepped up to produce 16 points as the Roadrunners beat the defending C-USA champion Charlotte 49ers. It was UTSA’s first victory over Charlotte since 2014. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Forward Jordyn Jenkins registered another double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds Saturday as the UTSA Roadrunners notched a signature victory, knocking off the defending Conference USA champion Charlotte 49ers, 64-50.

Center Elyssa Coleman added 16 points and eight rebounds for the UTSA women, who snapped out of a three-game losing streak and, in the process, downed the 49ers for the first time since 2014.

The Roadrunners (4-11, 2-4) played a smothering 2-3 zone defense and held the visitors to 31.1 percent shooting. The 49ers (7-8, 3-3) were led by guard Dazia Lawrence, who scored 13 points.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Charlotte 60-54 in a Conference USA women's basketball game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins had 23 points and 11 rebounds to follow her 37-point, 11-rebound outing against UTEP on Wednesday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But nobody else hit double figures on the day for the C-USA champs, who were limited to 19 of 61 shooting from the field. The zone also worked to limit the 49ers from getting to the free throw line.

They were only five of eight on free throws, compared to 15 of 16 for UTSA. Roadrunners players expressed both satisfaction and relief that they were able to beat the 49ers, an NCAA tournament entry last year.

“We’ve been trying to get over the hump,” Coleman said. “We’ve been losing every game, like, by less than 10, this whole season. So to beat the last conference champion, that means a lot.”

In 2021-22, Charlotte not only had the best record in the conference, but it also swept through the C-USA tournament to win the postseason crown.

“Today was a good win for us,” said UTSA freshman Madison Cockrell, who scored a career-high nine points off the bench. “It got us back on our feet. So, excited for our next game on Monday.”

The Roadrunners open a three-game road swing at Rice University in Houston on Monday. The trip will also take the team to Florida, where it will play at Florida Atlantic on Thursday and at FIU in Miami on Saturday.

With the victory over Charlotte, UTSA improved to 4-2 at home. At the same time, the team has yet to win away from the Convocation Center.

Madison Cockrell. UTSA beat Charlotte 60-54 in a Conference USA women's basketball game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman guard Madison Cockrell enjoyed a career-best nine points on three of three shooting from 3-point distance. With her performance, she affected the game in only 14 minutes – Photo by Joe Alexander

In nine games away from the Convo, the Roadrunners are 0-9, which includes an 0-7 record in true road games and 0-2 on neutral courts.

Seemingly every time UTSA plays away from home, the fouls start to stack up, and the opponent gains an upper hand.

It even happens at home, on occasion, as evidenced by Coleman’s showing Wednesday night against the UTEP Miners. The Miners won 74-67, with the 6-foot-3 sophomore on the bench most of the night.

She eventually fouled out with only two points and three rebounds in 18 mintues. Against the 49ers, she picked up two quick ones in the first quarter and sat down for the rest of the half.

In the third quarter, Coleman turned the tables. She scored eight points and drew a couple of fouls on the 49ers, which she converted into four for four at the free-throw line.

“I was in foul trouble in the first half, which I was trying not to do since I fouled out last game,” she said. “But, things happened. I warmed up on the bench, got my time in the second half and then just did what I needed to do.”

Coleman said she knew she had to stay mentally engaged even while she was just watching.

Maya Linton. UTSA beat Charlotte 60-54 in a Conference USA women's basketball game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Maya Linton pulled down six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. The Roadrunners won the battle under the boards, 43-39. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“You can’t just sit at the end of the bench and go sulk,” she said. “You have to still stay engaged, hype up the people on the floor so they can make a difference.”

Fortunately for UTSA, Jenkins caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 13 points on a variety of shots — inside and out.

For the second straight game, she was rolling, and when it was over, she emerged from her week’s work with a combined 60 points and 22 rebounds against both UTEP and Charlotte.

While Jenkins has been putting up all-conference type numbers all season, only recently has Cockrell, a freshman from Dallas Bishop Lynch, started to play well.

Even though she didn’t score against the Miners, she made an impact with her defense, and then against the 49ers, she did it on both ends of the floor.

Against Charlotte, she knocked down three 3-point shots, including two in the second half, when the Roadrunners kicked the lead up to as many as 22 points.

Afterward, she seemed to delight in talking about her teammates.

“We played amazing today,” she said. “Off the court, everyone came in at shootaround with the right mindset. It was just a great day all around.”

Cockrell hinted that attitude might have been the difference between winning and losing against the 49ers. After a disappointing loss against the Miners, players kept their heads up.

“We did,” she said. “We took (the loss to UTEP). It happened. That’s what it was, and we bounced back today and came back a lot better. Stronger. Harder. Everything.”

Records

Charlotte 7-8, 3-3
UTSA 4-11, 2-4

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Monday, 7 p.m.

Notable

Charlotte has dominated the C-USA series against UTSA ever since the teams started playing in 2014. The Roadrunners won the first meeting in 2014, but the 49ers won the next seven times through last season. Last January, the 49ers romped to a 58-33 victory against the Roadrunners in San Antonio.

Quotable

Talking about employing a zone defense, Aston said, “Realistically, we were just doing everything we could to keep those guards (Dazia Lawrence and Jada McMillian) out of the paint. They are really, really good.”

First half

Three days after scoring 37 points at home against UTEP, forward Jordyn Jenkins exploded for 13 of her 17 points in the second quarter against Charlotte, lifting the Roadrunners into a 34-20 halftime lead.

On one end of the floor, UTSA played 2-3 zone to frustrate Charlotte. The Roadrunners, with the junk defense, held the 49ers to nine points in the second quarter and 27.6 percent shooting for the half.

On the offensive end, UTSA kept going to Jenkins, who hit six of 12 shots from the field and five of five at the free throw line in the half. Sidney Love added seven points on two of five shooting.

Defending champs in town: UTSA women host the Charlotte 49ers

After losing three games in a row and six of their last seven, the youthful UTSA Roadrunners will host the defending champion Charlotte 49ers today at 2 p.m. in Conference USA women’s basketball.

The Roadrunners are looking for their first victory since New Year’s Eve when they won at home, defeating the UAB Blazers, 71-68.

Since then, they lost at Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky on the road last week.

Hoping to reverse their fortunes at home Wednesday night, they fouled too much and couldn’t make stops when they needed them, falling 74-67 to the UTEP Miners.

Not even a 37-point, 11-rebound performance from Roadrunners forward Jordyn Jenkins could offset a huge deficit in trips to the free-throw line (39-16) and in free throws made (26-11).

Playing defense and keeping opponents off the line have been dual problems for the UTSA women all season. Opponents have hit 228 of 324 at the stripe. UTSA, by comparison is 142 for 202.

Despite their problems, the Roadrunners have played hard and have been in most games for all 40 minutes.

Of their 11 losses, eight have come by seven points or less. Jenkins, averaging a C-USA leading 19.3 points, hit 15 of 22 from the field against UTEP. The 6-foot Washington native has scored 30 or more twice in her last six games.

The headliners for the 49ers include guards Dazia Lawrence and Jada McMillian. Lawrence had 31 points and five steals in the team’s last outing, a 77-67 victory at home last Saturday against Florida Atlantic. McMillian leads the C-USA in assists.

Charlotte guard Mikayla Boykin, formerly of the Duke Blue Devils, announced on Nov. 30 a career-ending injury. In making the announcement, she said she had suffered a fifth anterior cruciate ligament tear.

Records

Charlotte 7-7, 3-2
UTSA 3-11, 1-4

Notable

UTSA’s Karen Aston landed her first NCAA Division I coaching job in 2007 at Charlotte.

Under Aston, the 49ers were 86-47 with four national postseason tournaments. In 2009, they reached the NCAA tournament to cap a 23-9 season. They also won 27 games and advanced to the Women’s NIT semifinals in 2011.

Cara Consuegra has coached the 49ers since the 2011-12 season. Under Consuegra, a former star at the University of Iowas, the 49ers have won 20 or more games in three of their last six years.

Last season, Consuegra’s Niners went 22-9 overall and posted the best regular-season record in the conference at 15-3. After claiming the C-USA postseason title, they advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Aston’s 2009 trip.

UTEP wins 74-67 as UTSA’s Jordyn Jenkins scores 37

Jordyn Jenkins. 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

UTSA standout Jordyn Jenkins (at right) drives on UTEP’s Avery Crouse Wednesday night in Conference USA women’s basketball at the Convocation Center. Jenkins finished with 37 points and 11 rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Forward Elina Arike converted a three-point play and guard Jazion Jackson added a three-point shot in the last two minutes Wednesday night, helping the UTEP Miners hold off the UTSA Roadrunners 74-67 in Conference USA women’s basketball.

In what may have been one of the top individual performances in school history, UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins scored a career-high 37 points for the Roadrunners, who lost their third straight. Jenkins hit 15 of 22 shots from the field, including three of four from beyond the arc. She also pulled down 11 rebounds.

Sidney Love. 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

UTSA freshman guard Sidney Love finished with seven points, six rebounds and five assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“She’s a very skilled basketball player,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “She puts in the work. This is a player who gets to practice an hour early and does everything she wants to do individually before it’s time for the team, and that’s what really good basketball players do.”

While Jenkins soared to her best performance in her first season at UTSA, the Miners (11-3, 4-1) outplayed the Roadrunners (3-11, 1-4) in several areas.

The visitors had better balance with their scoring, with Jackson notching 19 points to lead four players in double figures. Arike had 15 points, while N’Yae Boyd contributed 12 and Erin Wilson came off the bench to add 11.

Additionally, the Miners shot it well from three-point distance (six of 10), with Jackson drilling all three of her attempts from beyond the stripe. UTEP also showed a good sense of when to drive it and how to get fouled. UTEP went to the line 39 times and made 26.

Other than Jenkins, UTSA didn’t have anyone else in double digit scoring. Hailey Atwood scored eight points, while Kyra White and Sidney Love each scored seven apiece. Running the team at the point guard, White, probably a more natural player on the wing, shot three of 14 from the field.

The Roadrunners were getting open looks at the three-point line, but hit only six of 19. They also struggled to get to the line, making 11 of 16.

Hailey Atwood. 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

Guard Hailey Atwood had eight points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal.- Photo by Joe Alexander

Even though UTSA has lost three in a row and six of seven, Aston is not discouraged. She knows it will take time for a team playing two and three freshmen at a time to become a consistent winner.

“I wish we had the first half back,” the coach said. “I didn’t think we shared the ball, and it’s not intentional. It’s just everybody wanting to make a play. We just weren’t patient enough. We were a little bit antsy. Some of that’s youth and being in different roles.

“But I definitely think that every game, we’re growing. We’re playing a lot of young players in a lot of situations. Today, I really thought Maddie (Cockrell) gave us some good minutes off the bench. Lex (Parker) is starting to get comfortable again …

“I mean, those guys just have to learn in the fire. They made some mistakes, that a month from now, if we keep coaching them, they may not be making those same mistakes.”

For Jenkins, an all-Pac 12 player last year at Southern Cal, the game served as another step forward in her burgeoning UTSA career. It was her second game with 30 or more points (she had 35 at Houston on Dec. 19) and her seventh with 20 or more.

“I guess it was bittersweet,” she said. “getting my career high but still losing. I think we made a lot of progress on the court, though. We tend to be a little more immature on the road … not working as well together.

“But I feel at home, I feel like we’ve got a really good connection and a really good bond on the court. It’s nothing really negative when we lose. Yeah, it’s only bitter because we got the ‘L.’ But it’s sweet because everyone played hard and worked hard and talked to each other.”

Notable

Last spring, center Elyssa Coleman had 21 points and 11 rebounds as UTSA upset UTEP 58-57 in the first round of the C-USA tournament. Coming off a case of strep throat that kept her out of practice Tuesday, Coleman finished with two points and three rebounds in the rematch. “I’m really appreciative that she played for her team today,” Aston said.

Records

UTSA 3-11, 1-4
UTEP 11-3, 4-1

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Jordyn Jenkins. 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

Jordyn Jenkins protects the rim and registers one of her three blocked shots. – – Photo by Joe Alexander

Crunch time

With 2:21 remaining, UTSA’s Coleman took it insde and scored to make it a one-point game. But UTEP, leading 63-62, started to make big play after big play to put the game out of reach. First, Arike drove to the bucket, hit a shot and was fouled. Not only did Arike make the free throw, but it was Coleman’s fifth foul, sending her to the bench.

Next, the Roadrunners turned it over on an offensive foul, and on the other end the Miners swung the ball to Jackson on the left wing. Her three-pointer lifted UTEP into a 69-62 lead with 1:02 left. UTSA could get no closer than four the rest of the way.

First half

Guard Erin Wilson came off the bench to score nine points as the Miners surged into a 35-25 lead. The Roadrunners shot 33 percent in the half and, except for Jenkins, failed to establish much on the offensive end. UTSA’s starting backcourt hit only 3 of 15 from the field. Jenkins carried the load with 15 points. The junior transfer from USC hit 6 of 9 shots in the first 20 minutes.

Trailing 17-9 after one quarter, the Roadrunners found a rhythm early in the second. They outscored the Miners 10-2 in the opening minutes to tie the game. With three minutes left in the half, Love scored on a drive, chopping a UTEP lead down to two points. From there, the Miners went on a 10-2 run to the buzzer. Wilson scored seven points in the run including a three from the corner with 1:22 remaining.

JB’s video replay

Western Kentucky stops its five-game skid, downing UTSA, 74-64

Josh Farmer. Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Josh Farmer (right) helped spark a second-half rally that ultimately fell short against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who won 74-64 at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners executed a spirited rally in the second half, chopping into most of what had been a 19-point deficit, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for them against the towering presence of Jamarion Sharp and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Sharp, a 7-foot-5 center, dominated with 11 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots, helping the Hilltoppers snap a five-game losing streak with a 74-64 victory in Conference USA men’s basketball.

Western Kentucky's Jamarion Sharp (33). Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Western Kentucky’s 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp (left) had a big day with 11 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. – Photo by Joe Alexander

At the end, Sharp picked up his fifth foul and then drew a technical on his way off the floor at the UTSA Convocation Center, setting up four straight free throws for the home team.

The Roadrunners made all of them, pulling to within six with two minutes remaining.

Without their big man on the court, the Hilltoppers didn’t waver. They steadied themselves, went to work on the offensive end and made the key play in front of an announced crowd of 922 fans.

Guard Dayvion McKnight backed a defender down inside and kicked it out to Emmanuel Akot, who hit a three. Trailing by nine points as a result, the Roadrunners would not get closer than seven the rest of the way.

UTSA coach Steve Henson agreed that his team’s first-half performance, a 20-minute slog in which the Roadrunners shot 25 percent from the field and fell behind 38-20, was just to much to overcome.

“First half was disappointing,” Henson said. “Thought we’d come out better. Just couldn’t get anything going.”

John Buggs III. Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

John Buggs III led the UTSA Roadrunners with 15 points. The redshirt sophomore from Louisiana hit three 3-point shots, all in the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson said he felt like the Roadrunners needed “some juice, some energy.” But part of the problem stemmed from the play of Sharp, who effectively turned off the power in the building with his defense.

In the half, he blocked four shots, altered a few others and made a steal. UTSA, in turn, didn’t take care of the ball, coughing up 12 turnovers that led to 20 of WKU’s 38 points.

The Roadrunners played better in the second half. John Buggs scored 13 of his 15 points down the stretch. Josh Farmer also got going, scoring eight of his 13 off the bench.

Indeed, it may have been best stretch of the season for the 6-foot-9 sophomore from Houston, as he dunked once on the fast break and then took it inside with confidence against Sharp.

But, in the end, it was too deep of a hole to dig out of. The Hilltoppers, playing under assistant coach Phil Cunningham for the fourth straight game, came into the Roadrunners’ building and seized a game they had to have.

“We had that monkey on our back and it was growing and growing and growing,” Cunningham said. “We had to take that monkey and throw him to the floor today, and we did it. We did it. Everybody had a role in it.”

Western Kentucky's Jamarion Sharp (33). Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Seven-foot-5 Western Kentucky center Jamarion Sharp (33) gets a hand on a hook shot attempt by UTSA’s 6-11 Jacob Germany. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Within the five-game skid, three of the losses came in C-USA play and all three came by five points or less. Sharp said his teammates were just tired of losing the close games.

“Honestly, after those three close games, we were like, ‘We’re not being short no more,’ ” Sharp said. “We’re coming in for the win, because we’re going to play as hard as we can and give it all we can.”

Sharp also said the players wanted to win for head coach Rick Stansbury, who has been out with what school officials are calling a “health matter.”

“We’re doing it for our coach,” he said. “He’s out sick now. So, it’s like, everything we do is for him. We think about him constantly.

“But it’s like, at the same time, he taught us that when one player gets hurt, another’s got to step up. If he’s out sick, we all got to step up and take charge.”

Western Kentucky assistant coach Phil Cunningham. Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Western Kentucky assistant Phil Cunningham served as interim coach for Rick Stansbury, who was home resting after a ‘health matter’ sidelined him just before the new year. Stansbury has been out for four games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

For the Roadrunners, they’ll need to take the positives from a weekend split at home and keep working. They beat a good Middle Tennessee State team, 75-72, on Thursday night and played well in the second half against Western Kentucky.

Lachlan Bofinger came off the bench and provided some energy during UTSA’s rally. Farmer, at times, was electric.

In one sequence, he capped a long possession by catching a kickout pass from Bofinger before draining a three. Thirty five seconds later, on the next possession, he followed with a driving layup.

“Love the effort, energy and passion that Josh is playing with,” Henson said. “He’s bringing that every game. We always try to direct his energy and his talk the right way, but, yeah, that’s something we need. With his length and quickness, he gives us a boost.”

Individuals

Western Kentucky — Emmanuel Akot, 16 points. Dayvion McKnight, 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He was two-for-two from three. Luke Frampton, 12 points. Jamarion Sharp, 11 points and 12 rebounds, five on the offensive end. Sharp blocked six shots, bettering his season average of 4.36.

UTSA — John Buggs III, 15 points. He hit three from distance, his 12th game with more than one. Josh Farmer, 13 points and six rebounds. Farmer made four of nine from the field. Japhet Medor, 12 points. Jacob Germany, 11 points and seven boards. DJ Richards, 11 and five.

Western Kentucky's Jamarion Sharp (33). Western Kentucky beat UTSA 74-64 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

NCAA Division I shot-blocking leader Jamarion Sharp totaled six blocks to give him 67 in 15 games. – Photo by Joe Alexander


Coming up

Records

Western Kentucky 9-6, 1-3
UTSA 7-9, 1-4

Coming up

UTSA at UTEP, Wednesday, Jan. 11
UTSA at Charlotte, Saturday, Jan. 14

First half

WKU’s Jamarion Sharp served notice on UTSA’s first offensive possession that he meant business. He blocked a shot by Roadrunners center Jacob Germany, spiking the ball to the floor with authority. Sharp finished the half with eight points, six rebounds, four blocks and a steal. As a result, the Hilltoppers dominated the scoreboard, as well, building a 38-20 lead.

JB’s video replay

Western Kentucky’s Cunningham will continue to serve as interim coach in Stansbury’s absence

Western Kentucky's Jamarion Sharp blocking a shot against UTSA in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Western Kentucky’s 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp averages an NCAA Division I-leading 4.36 blocked shots leading into a Saturday afternoon game at UTSA. Sharp is shown here protecting the rim against the Roadrunners last February. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

One of the traditional powers in Conference USA men’s basketball is in San Antonio to test the UTSA Roadrunners.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-6 overall, 0-3 C-USA) will face the Roadrunners (7-8, 1-3) on Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.

Unlike previous meetings when both teams were playing for position at the top of the standings, this meeting is an outlier in the series, with both trailing in the 11-team field and trying to gain traction in the conference race.

A spokeswoman for the Western Kentucky program said that coach Rick Stansbury did not travel with the team because of a health matter, and, for the fourth straight game, assistant Phil Cunningham will be the interim head coach.

Regardless, UTSA’s Steve Henson knows that Western Kentucky has the ability to compete with just about anyone in the C-USA on a given day.

“You look across the board, coming up, and every team we play here in the next two or three ball games is either really good or really athletic. Or, they play incredibly hard,” Henson said. “Or all of the above. There’s just not a break.”

“Heading into the year, I thought the top three or four teams might be the best they’ve ever been. But as the season’s unfolded, five through 10 are really good. I think it’s the best top to bottom that it’s ever been.”

UTSA gave itself a jolt of momentum Thursday night when it won at home against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-72. The Roadrunners led by 17 midway through the second half and then won by three at the buzzer.

Both Jacob Germany and Japhet Medor played well throughout for the Roadrunners, and then John Buggs III supplied the dramatic finish with a buzzer-beating three pointer.

“I think it’s huge for momentum,” said Germany, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds. “We can use this definitely as a stepping-stone in the right direction. You know, we started out 0-3 against good opponents, but … hopefully this jump starts us.”

Western Kentucky will be looking for a similar boost today. Only a few weeks ago, the Hilltoppers had an 8-3 record leading into the C-USA portion of its schedule.

Since then, they have lost their first three conference games by a combined 12 points — at home to the Rice Owls, on the road to Middle Tennessee State and at home again to the North Texas Mean Green.

Cunningham has led the team on the bench in all three games. Stansbury has posted four 20-win seasons in his previous six at the school.

Playing in Bowling Green, Ky., only two days ago, the Hilltoppers fell behind North Texas 21-2 in the opening minutes.

WKU didn’t score a field goal until 10:17 of the first half when guard Dayvion McKnight hit jumper from the left side of the basket. The Hilltoppers kept playing, kept scoring and pulled within 32-24 at the half.

Western Kentucky kept it close in the second half and trailed by single-digit margins through the last five minutes.

In the end, North Texas guard Kai Huntsberry provided enough cushion to secure the victory when hit three of four free throws in the last 40 seconds.

Dayvion McKnight, who led the Hilltoppers with 29 points, hit a shot with 15 seconds left to make it a three-point game. With Western Kentucky down by the eventual final score, McKnight missed twice from the field in waning seconds.

McKnight finished by hitting eight of 16 shots from the field and 13 of 15 at the free-throw line. He was 0-2 from three-point distance. Senior guard Jordan Rawls did not play because of a hand injury.

Notable

Western Kentucky center Jamarion Sharp leads the conference and the nation in blocked shots, averaging 4.36 a game, while teammate Luke Framton leads the conference with 50 percent three-point shooting. Hilltoppers guard Dayvion McKnight leads the team with 17.1 points per game. Japhet Medor leads UTSA with 13 points per game, while Germany leads in rebounding and is second in conference with 7.6 rebounds. John Buggs leads UTSA and is third in C-USA three-point percentage at 42.4.

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

UTSA 7-8, 1-3
Western Kentucky 8-6, 0-3

C-USA men
Standings through Jan. 6

Florida Atlantic 3-0, 13-1
UAB 3-1, 12-3
North Texas 3-1, 12-3
Rice 2-2, 11-4
Charlotte 2-2, 11-4
Middle Tennessee 2-2, 9-6
Louisiana Tech 2-2, 9-6
UTEP 1-2, 8-6
FIU 1-2, 7-7
UTSA 1-3, 7-8
WKU 0-3, 8-6

Buzzer beater: Buggs’ three-pointer lifts UTSA to victory over Middle Tennessee State

Jacob Germany (right) hugs teammate John Buggs III after Buggs hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in UTSA's 75-72 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany (right) hugs teammate John Buggs III after Buggs hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in UTSA’s 75-72 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

First, UTSA guard John Buggs III won the game with a three-point shot at the buzzer, and then he nearly got mobbed on his homecourt.

Not to worry.

After Buggs drained the acrobatic jumper with a defender in his face to secure a 75-72 victory over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Thursday night, he turned and outran his teammates, who had come off the bench in hot pursuit.

Jacob Germany. UTSA beat Middle Tennessee 75-72 in Conference USA on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany produced 23 points and 11 rebounds, helping the UTSA Roadrunners improve to 7-8 on the season and 1-3 in the C-USA. — Photo by Joe Alexander

He ran all the way off the floor and out of sight, somewhere on the south concourse of the Convocation Center.

“They were about to tackle me,” Buggs said, smiling and shaking his head as he sat at the table in the interview room. “I was trying to get away from everybody, you know what I’m saying? It turned from one person into 17. It was crazy.”

If officials had polled all the fans, they might have voted unanimously that the whole game was sort of crazy.

The Roadrunners entered the evening riding a three-game losing streak. They held an 0-3 record in Conference USA and were playing to keep their heads above water early in a 20-game schedule.

Moreover, all three of their C-USA losses were by 20 points or more.

The Roadrunners, however, put all of that behind them and played perhaps their best game of the season. At least, for the the first 32 minutes of the game, they did.

When DJ Richards knocked down a three with 8:19 remaining, it boosted UTSA into a 60-43 lead.

Middle Tennessee, a 26-11 team last season, refused to fold. The Blue Raiders mounted a charge that cut into the Roadrunners lead and made it a four-point game with 3:47 left.

Japhet Medor. UTSA beat Middle Tennessee 75-72 in Conference USA on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Roadrunners point guard Japhet Medor attacked the paint and scored 19 to help defeat a Middle Tennessee team that dropped to 9-6 on the season and 2-2 in the C-USA. The Blue Raiders won 26 games last season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA continued to lead by four as the clock ticked under one minute. Subsequently, Middle Tennessee started taking it to the basket off of middle ball screens.

Driving layups by Jestin Porter and Eli Lawrence chopped the advantage to one. Lawrence was fouled on his drive and sank a free throw to tie it 72-all with 13 seconds left, prompting UTSA to call time.

Back on the floor, UTSA inbounded on the far end of the court, 94 feet away from the rim.

As Roadrunners point guard Japhet Medor dribbled across halfcourt, Jacob Germany popped out to set a screen. Medor tried to get past the defense but was cut off, so he stopped and tossed the ball outside the 3-point line to Buggs.

Buggs caught it, elevated in preparation to shoot and then nearly had to double-clutch his attempt as Middle Tennessee guard Camryn Weston ran past him to contest. It didn’t matter. The shot was clean, swishing through the net at the buzzer.

“We ran a play for Japhet to get to the rim,” Germany said. “I was kind of on the three-point line cause I slipped the screen. I was calling for the ball. I see Buggs running out of the corner of my eye.

“He catches it. Double clutch. It was great.”

Records

UTSA 7-8, 1-3
Middle Tennessee 9-6, 2-2

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Letting it fly

John Buggs III made the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in UTSA's 75-72 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

First in a sequence of photos capturing the game-winning shot: John Buggs III launches the eventual winner as Middle Tennessee guard Camryn Weston (No. 24, at right) leaps to contest it. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Seeing daylight

John Buggs III made the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in UTSA's 75-72 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Second in a sequence: UTSA’s John Buggs finds an opening and follows through on his shot as Camryn Weston from Middle Tennessee turns to watch the flight of the ball. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Feeling the satisfaction

John Buggs III made the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in UTSA's 75-72 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Third in a sequence: John Buggs watches the ball swish through the net to give UTSA its first C-USA victory of the season after three losses. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Individuals

Middle Tennessee — Guard Eli Lawrence, 20 points on eight of 12 shooting. Guard Camryn Weston, 15, on five of 11 from the field. Jestin Porter, 12, on five of five shooting off the bench.

UTSA — Jacob Germany, 23 points and 11 rebounds. Germany hit nine of 14 afield. Japhet Medor, 19 points. John Buggs III, 11. DJ Richards, 11.

First half

Germany hit four of seven shots from the field and scored 12 first-half points as UTSA surged to a 34-28 lead at intermission. Germany was active on both ends of the floor, snaring five rebounds including four on the defensive glass.

Medor also played well in the half, penetrating in the paint and scoring eight points. Forcing the action inside, Germany and Medor were a combined six for six from the free-throw line. Germany, with a height advantage on the Blue Raiders, was four for four.

Defensively, the Roadrunners did a good job on DeAndre Dishman, the Blue Raiders’ leading scorer. Dishman, slowed by a combination of different looks from UTSA, including a variety of zone defenses, was scoreless on the half. He was zero for two from the field. Weston led Middle Tennessee in the half with seven points.

JB’s video replay

Knocking down a buzzer-beater

Alley-ooping to a teammate

Scoring in the paint

Well-traveled Massal Diouf finds a new home at UTSA

Massal Diouf. 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

Freshman Massal Diouf is a UTSA biology major who expresses fascination about things such as the makeup of cells. He wants to attend medical school one day and says he’s aiming to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

As a former youth sports phenomenon from a small town in The Netherlands, affable UTSA freshman Massal Diouf left home four years ago to chase his basketball dreams.

From arenas in Europe, to the West Coast of the United States, and then on to Canada and South Texas, the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder has played the game he loves and has since taken on a new passion — the study of biology.

Now three months shy of his 20th birthday, Diouf’s days are spent either in the gym, trying to defend the pick and roll, or in the UTSA classroom, pondering the nature of cell structure.

The Roadrunners’ pre-med student in the pivot has been so busy in his first year of college, in fact, that he hasn’t really had time to consider whether he misses being home.

“Obviously I’ve been away for a long time, at this point,” Diouf said Wednesday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say that I miss home, where I’d want to be home.

“It’s more so I miss certain things about home. Certain days, I’ll wake up and crave a certain type of food. Or, want to talk to my mom. Want to talk to my dad. See my brothers. That sort of stuff.

“It’s not like I want to be home. It’s more so I’d like to have a little bit of home with me.”

By age 15, Diouf traveled from his hometown of Gouda, in South Holland province, to both Finland and Denmark as a member of The Netherlands’ under-16 national basketball team.

A year later, the former soccer, tennis and judo athlete left home and moved to California to finish high school.

After graduation from The Athenian School in Danville, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Diouf hit the road again.

In order to play a year of prep school and gain more experience on the basketball hardwood, he relocated to Canada, in Edmonton, in the western province of Alberta.

Now, Diouf has spent a little more than four months in San Antonio, charming those around him with a smile and old-school manners.

“He thanks the coaches after practice,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Every day.”

Diouf is also blessed with a wry sense of humor.

Ask him how he has adjusted to his new surroundings in Texas, a home half-way around the world from where they sell Gouda cheese in Europe, and he just smiles.

“I was getting prepared for Texas (while living in Canada),” Diouf explained. “In Alberta, where my prep school was, that (is a place) described as the Texas of Canada.

“So, I got the soft-core version in Alberta — and then I was ready for real Texas.”

Well, then, how is Alberta like Texas?

“A lot of truckers,” Diouf said. “I feel like the culture is very similar. A lot of pride in their own culture. That’s what I see a lot in Texas, too. Go big, or go home. That sort of stuff.”

Asked if he had been to a Buc-ee’s yet, he said he hasn’t but that “it’s still on the bucket list.”

“I’ve seen the logos,” Diouf said. “Unfortunately, haven’t stopped there yet. I was able to cross Cracker Barrel (off the list) on the last (road) trip. So I got that one out of the way.”

Over the past few days, UTSA has been preparing to host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

The Roadrunners (6-8, 0-3 C-USA) will play the Blue Raiders (9-5, 2-1) tonight at 7 at the UTSA Convocation Center. Somewhat surprisingly, Diouf is expected to start his fifth straight game.

A player who wasn’t high on coaches’ list of candidates to be in the rotation when he arrived on campus in late August, Diouf has played double-figure minutes in four of his last six games.

If he keeps rebounding and playing defense at his current level, he could join the likes of Giovanni De Nicolao, Byron Frohnen, Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace as players who have started 10 or more games as freshmen under Henson.

How did this happen?

“He just kept working, doing things right every single day,” Henson said. “We had been cycling through that fifth starter every few ball games, anyway. A couple of different guys played the four (power forward) for us.

“Decided to take a look at him with his rebounding and his toughness, to slide him in at the five (at center) and move Jacob (Germany) to the four. It hasn’t translated (as we expected). We thought it might jump start Jacob offensively.

“That hasn’t happened, but Jacob’s rebounding it very well now. I think Jacob’s rebounding numbers are better when he’s got a bigger front-line guy in there with him.”

Even though the Roadrunners have struggled recently, losing both games on a C-USA road trip to Louisiana Tech and UAB last week to fall to 0-3, advance metrics have suggested to Henson that Diouf has earned the right to be on the floor.

“Massal, with his physicality and his defense, his plus-minus numbers are No. 1 on the entire team,” the coach said. “If you can go in and defend and rebound and don’t turn the ball over, you can impact the game.”

Diouf, asked if he is surprised that he is starting and playing for the Roadrunners in his first year out of the Western Canada Prep Academy, shrugged and offered a diplomatic response.

“For me, it’s pretty easy,” he said. “You just always got to want to play. You always got to be ready to play. But I also understood that I’m coming in as a freshman.

“So I didn’t have any qualms about waiting, sitting on the bench, supporting my teammates.

“I know that all these guys have a lot more experience. I mean, they’re way more experienced at the college level (than me). I’m just grateful to have an opportunity to play.”

In a recent interview with Andy Everett on the team’s radio broadcast, Diouf revealed his long-term goals — to go to medical school and then, hopefully, become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

“I know that’s a long way away before I can get there,” he said. “But I’m just going to take it step by step.”

Diouf called his pre-med plans an “obsession” that he hopes to undertake after his career in basketball.

“I could not tell you where the obsession comes from,” he said. “There is no one in my family that does it. I do not have any direct relationships with doctors. I didn’t watch doctor shows growing up that made me fall in love with it. Honestly, it’s just really interesting to me.”

Being from Europe, Diouf brings an interesting perspective to the program. He grew up in a nation that did not have sports in high schools and didn’t have the facilities that American athletes enjoy.

He said athletes who wanted to play in The Netherlands joined clubs. His original club was called Bouncers Basketball.

“(Playing college sports in the United States) gets described as a full-time job a lot,” Diouf said, “But it really isn’t, because we’re all just doing what we love to do.

“I think that’s where our stamina and work ethic come from. When we’re playing basketball, practicing, it doesn’t feel like work, per se, it’s more so, ‘We get to practice. We get to practice at this level.’ ”

“At the end of the day, when I was growing up, Bouncers Basketball did not have a gym like (the Convocation Center) to play in. We had to rent gyms, and then we would all come in together and play in those gyms.

“But, to have a gym like this (at UTSA), that I can play in every day, that’s something that I could never have dreamed of.”

Coming up

Men’s basketball: Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, 7 p.m.

Records

Middle Tennessee (9-5, 2-1)
UTSA (6-8, 0-3)

Flipping the script: UTSA women ride a fourth-quarter rally to a 71-68 victory over UAB

Jordan Jenkins hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 9 seconds left. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble but hit the game-winning shot — a 3-pointer — with nine seconds left. With the victory, UTSA snapped a three-game losing streak. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA coach Karen Aston and her staff improved the program in so many areas since the end of last season. They brought in eight newcomers, including five freshmen, to bolster the roster. The returning players all made strides to better themselves.

At the same time, the Roadrunners took their lumps early in Aston’s second year as coach.

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

UTSA freshman Sidney Love scored a season and career-high 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They played through November and most of December and, because of late-in-the-game mistakes or bad breaks or, whatever, they couldn’t seem to turn the corner toward respectability — until Saturday.

Trailing by 10 points in the second half and by seven after three quarters, UTSA caught a spark and raced to a 71-68 victory over the UAB Blazers at the Convocation Center.

Junior forward Jordyn Jenkins hit the winner on a three-pointer at the top of the circle with nine seconds left, and freshman guard Sidney Love blocked a shot at the buzzer, as the Roadrunners prevailed to split two games on their first weekend of C-USA competition.

“I’m really happy for the girls,” Aston said. “It’s a growth process. But at the same time, you do need to be rewarded a little bit. Hopefully this gives us some confidence to know that (we) can win close games.

“In reality, all of our conference teams look like this. I think there’s a lot of parity in our league based on what you’re looking at and some of the teams I’ve seen.

“It’s going to be a possession game from this point forward, and I think we’re getting closer to understanding what every possession means.”

Siena Guttadauro. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

California native Siena Guttadauro also sparked the fourth-quarter rally with nine points, an assist and a steal. In one sequence, she hit back-to-back triples. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Calling it a game for the UTSA guards, Aston couldn’t have been happier with the way her freshman backcourt players performed in the fourth quarter. Love scored 11 points and Siena Guttadauro contributed nine in the last 10 minutes.

Finer details of the fourth quarter rally? Love and Guttadauro combined for seven field goals, including six threes, and they each made three apiece from long distance.

In addition, Kyra White executed a solid play on the game-winning three by Jenkins, driving on the right side and then hooking a pass out to Jenkins on the perimeter. UAB freshman Denim DeShields, sucked into the middle on the drive, ran out to the perimeter to contest Jenkins’ jumper with a hande up, but it was too late.

“I thought the game was about our guards today,” Aston said. “…They were aggressive. They were in attack mode. So I think that possession in particular was from the fact that they were aggressive the whole game, so everybody kind of drew to Kyra, which created Jordan being pretty much wide open.”

Jenkins, the C-USA’s leading scorer, said it felt “pretty good” to drain the three.

“There’s been a couple of games when it’s been close and I’d been taking shots that hadn’t fallen,” she said. “So, it was like tough on my mental … The last shot, (it) felt good. It gives me some confidence. Yeah. It’s cool. I love when my teammates celebrate.”

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by seven points going into the fourth quarter, Coach Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners rallied to win, improving to 3-8 overall and 1-1 in Conference USA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After Jenkins connected, the Blazers called time out to set up a play on the other end. But as the ball was inbounded and found its way to UAB forward Lyndsey Robson on the 3-point line, her shot was blocked by Love, and it bounded away as time expired.

All of that was a welcome change of fortune for the Roadrunners, who cheered wildly from the bench when the final horn sounded. At that point, too, the box score did not lie. There was Love, a first-year collegian out of San Antonio-area Steele High School, with a team-high 23 points.

“It always feels good when I can do anything to benefit the team,” Love said. “I guess this game, it just happened to be me and Siena, who sort of stepped up for the team.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was Guttadauro, who had not played in the team’s last three games. The native Californian hadn’t played since the Idaho game on Dec. 10, and yet she came in and sparked the team, including back-to-back threes at one point.

“No, it didn’t surprise me,” Love said. “I’m confident in Siena. She’s a pure shooter. She can shoot the ball with her eyes closed.”

Records

UTSA 3-8, 1-1
UAB 8-4, 0-3

Coming up

UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, Jan. 5
UTSA at Western Kentucky, Jan. 7

Individuals

UAB — Guard Denim DeShields had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Off the bench, Forward Destinee McGhee scored 11 and forward Tracey Bershers had 10. Margaret Whitley, the team’s leading scorer, was held zero for eight shooting and four points.

UTSA — Guard Sidney Love, a season-high 23 points. Also seven rebounds. Jenkins, averaging a C-USA best 20.6 coming in, had 13 points in 18 minutes limited by foul trouble. Guttadauro, nine points on three of five triples, all in the fourth quarter. Guard Kyra White, four points, 10 rebounds, nine assists.

Notable

The Roadrunners shuffled their starting lineup, going with Madison Cockrell, Hailey Atwood, Queen Ulabo, White and Jenkins. Love and Elyssa Coleman (seven points, seven rebounds) were the first players to sub into the game for UTSA.

Madison Cockrell. UTSA women's basketball beat UAB 71-68 on Saturday at the Convocation Center for the Roadrunners' first Conference USA win of the season. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Madison Cockrell started in the backcourt and produced six points, two assists and two rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA outrebounded UAB, 53-35, including 21-8 on the offensive glass. The Roadrunners also made a season-high 11 three-point shots. They held the best three-point percentage team in the C-USA to eight of 29 from distance.

Delino DeShields Sr. is the father of UAB’s freshman point guard. Her brother, Delino Jr., has played seven years in MLB, including last season with the Cincinnati Reds. Sister Diamond DeShields is with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

First half

The Roadrunners controlled the boards, winning the battle on the offensive glass decisively, as they battled the UAB Blazers to a 29-29 deadlock at halftime.

The game played at the UTSA Convocation Center featured a battle of freshmen point guards. Denim DeShields had 13 at the half for the Blazers, while Madison Cockrell had six points and two assists for the Roadrunners.

JB’s video replay

Drilling the game winner

Firing up the three ball

Making the simple play

Scooping the competition

Driving the lane to score