UTSA opens season by beating Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime

Christian Tucker. UTSA beat Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Christian Tucker sank 12 of 15 from the free-throw line and scored a team-high 18 points Monday as UTSA started its 43rd season of basketball with a 78-68 overtime victory against the Western Illinois Leathernecks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

As far as the UTSA Roadrunners were concerned, overtime was winning time Monday night at the Convocation Center. The Roadrunners fended off a late challenge by the Western Illinois Leathernecks and won 78-68 in OT in the season-opener for both teams.

Guard Christian Tucker led the way, scoring 18 points and passing for eight assists.

Forward Trey Edmonds also came up big. In his first game with the Roadrunners, he produced seven clutch points in the extra period, helping to boost UTSA coach Steve Henson to his 100th career victory.

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson emerged with his 100th career victory on the strength of a solid defensive effort against Western Illinois in the season opener for both teams. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Afterward, Henson discussed with reporters how the Roadrunners steadied themselves to win it in the OT after allowing a five-point lead to slip away — shockingly — in the final 28 seconds of regulation.

“When you’ve got control of the game towards the end in regulation and you lose it in that fashion, you worry about how the guys are going to respond,” the coach said. “They had that shell-shocked look on their face when they came over to the huddle. We were trying to pump ’em back up there, and didn’t really know how they’d respond. Certainly, we did.”

Edmonds, a 6-foot-10, 255-pound transfer from Utah Tech, finished with 15 points and eight boards. Combining with seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., the twosome provided a formidable new look on the front line for the Roadrunners as they combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds.

Linguard, a transfer from Kansas State, produced 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in his first game at UTSA. The former Stevens High School standout, who was in the Roadrunners’ program last season but didn’t play, hit two of five shots from beyond three-point arc.

Additionally, two other transfers in their UTSA debuts played key roles. Six-foot-six senior Dre Fuller Jr. finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while 6-4 guard Isaiah Wyatt came off the bench for 10 points and six boards.

Wyatt hit an eight-footer off the side with 1:52 remaining, a shot that sparked the Roadrunners on a 6-0 run to end the game.

Much of the conversation between reporters and the head coach afterward centered on Tucker, a 6-3 guard from Arizona who entered the program a few years ago as a walk-on. After being rewarded with a scholarship in the summer, he paid dividends in the season opener, scoring 15 of his points after intermission.

Time and again, he sped around screens, soared to the rim and got fouled. Once at the free-throw line, he made the Leathernecks pay, hitting 12 of 15 at the stripe, including 11 of 13 in the second half and beyond.

Trey Edmonds. UTSA beat Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Trey Edmonds utilized his size (6-10 255) and strength to contribute 15 points and eight rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Down the stretch (in regulation) there was a lot of Christian Tucker with the ball in his hands,” Henson said. “(Defenders) were staying at home with guys on the perimeter (and) the bigs (for the Roadrunners) were doing a good job picking.”

As a result, Tucker was able to turn the corner and take it to the basket. In the overtime, UTSA took charge with a size advantage in the post. Tucker dumped it inside a couple of times to feed big men scoring.

Consequently, he finished the overtime with a near perfect line. One for one from the field. Two for two at the free-throw line. Four points. Two assists and zero turnovers.

Tucker credited his friends for creating driving lanes and setting him up to have success.

“I was just really proud of my teammates for staying solid during the overtime,” Tucker said. “A lot of people can fold under pressure when it gets away like that. We stayed (with it) and we’re leaving here 1-0.”

Guard James Dent Jr. led the Leathernecks with 20 points and seven rebounds. It was Dent who hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into the overtime. Shay Davis scored 12 points and Jesiah West produced 11 points and 13 boards.

Western Illinois entered the game with the dubious distinction of being one of only 30 teams in NCAA Division I to never reach the NCAA tournament. The Leathernecks are credited in online reference material with playing their first season in 1981-82 — coincidentally, the same year that UTSA started its program.

Last season, Western Illinois finished 16-14 to record the program’s first above .500 record since 2012-13.

UTSA also entered the new season needing to establish some momentum. The Roadrunners have suffered through some discouraging times recently, finishing 10-22 in each of the past two years. UTSA has made it to the NCAAs four times, the last trip coming in 2010-11.

Coming up

UTSA at Minnesota, 6:30 p.m.

First half

All in all, the Roadrunners had to feel pretty good about themselves going into intermission. Despite shooting 23.7 percent from the field, they still managed to slug it out for a 28-28 halftime tie with the Leathernecks. Wyatt and Linguard scored six points apiece for the Roadrunners, who connected on only 9 of 38 field goals.

Dre Fuller Jr. UTSA beat Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Dre Fuller Jr. overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 10 points and seven rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

On the other end, UTSA displayed a fierce tenacity, protecting the rim and limiting the Leathernecks to 8 of 26 shooting. Shay Davis hit a couple of three-pointers and scored nine and James Dent Jr. had eight. UTSA’s interior defense proved to be more than reliable with Chandler Cuthrell pulling down six rebounds and recording two of the Roadrunners’ four first-half blocks.


UTSA, interestingly enough, scored 225 points in two exhibitions against non-scholarship programs over the past two weeks. Against McMurry last Monday, they shot 55 percent from the field. But for awhile against Western Illinois, they couldn’t get anything going. They started 3 for 20 from the field for 15 percent in the first 11 minutes.

In the end, the Roadrunners finished 4 for 4 afield in the OT, boosting them to 23 of 64 for the game — good for 35.9 percent.

Though their offense didn’t inspire awe, they did a good job preventing the Leathernecks from going on any extended runs. The visitors were held to 29.6 percent from the floor in the first half and finished the game at 32 percent. Western couldn’t get much of anything done at the three-point line, hitting only 21.4 percent. Guard Quinlan Bennett, one of the team’s leading returning scorers, was held to two points on one of six shooting

Carlton Linguard Jr. UTSA beat Western Illinois 78-68 in overtime in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Seven-foot Carlton Linguard Jr. made his UTSA debut and fared well with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. – Photo by Joe Alexander


Show time: UTSA men host Western Illinois in season opener

Adante' Holiman. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore Adante’ Holiman is expected to start in the backcourt for the UTSA Roadrunners Monday night when they host the Western Illinois Leathernecks. The former prep star from McAlester, Okla., played a season at UT Rio Grande Valley last year and then elected to transfer. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners blew out a couple of non-scholarship opponents recently, scoring 225 points combined in two lopsided exhibition victories. Now the regular season looms. UTSA will kick off its 43rd campaign in NCAA Division I men’s basketball when it hosts the Western Illinois Leathernecks Monday night at the Convocation Center.

“We’re trying to get that first real one,” sophomore guard Adante’ Holiman said. “Trying to get that first real one out the way. Everybody’s excited to get that jersey on, like everybody else. You know, we’ve seen the same bodies (in practice) for a while. The exhibitions (against Trinity and McMurry) helped us out a little bit. But now, getting to see a different opponent, a Division I opponent, everyone’s excited to see that.”

Holiman said he wants the fans, particularly the students, to turn out in force so that they can make a push for a winning season.

“We’re trying to get that (fan support) going a little early,” Holiman said. “(We want to) get some dubs, get some people in here. Hey man, I can’t wait. Just the feeling of it, the adrenaline at game time obviously is going to be crazy. We’ve been waiting for this for a while. Some of us have been here since May, waiting for this day. It came quick.”

After a second straight season of 22 losses concluded last March, UTSA lit up the transfer portal with 10 players electing to leave in search of better opportunities. Roadrunners coaches responded with a massive effort to re-tool the roster, signing 10 newcomers.

Based on the early returns, UTSA fared well in the remake. Several first-year players in the program have raised eyebrows with their talents, including Holiman, Dre Fuller Jr., Chandler Cuthrell — all transfers — and freshman Nazar Mahmoud.

Against Trinity, one player who was in the program last season but did not play stepped up to show in the first exhibition that he wants to make an impact. Seven-foot Carlton Linguard Jr. led eight players in double figures with 20 points and nine rebounds against Trinity.

In addition, the Roadrunners took liberties driving into the paint and kicking out to the perimeter, where they made 15 three-point baskets.

McMurry, meanwhile, more or less stayed home to defend perimeter shooters, but UTSA’s offense adjusted by driving it inside for easy baskets at the rim and scoring in transition (with 29 fast-break points). As a result, the Roadrunners shot 65 percent from the field in the first half and 55 percent for the game.

“We like our versatility,” Henson said recently. “We’re an older group. We’re not alone in saying that, in this day and age. There’s a lot of older teams right now. But we think this group’s got a chance with our versatility and hunger and desire to do something special.”

Coming up

Monday — Western Illinois at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Friday — UTSA at Minnesota, 6:30 p.m.

UTSA players to watch

Carlton Linguard, Jr. — Seven-foot center from Stevens HS, a transfer from Kansas State, is set to play a regular-season game for the first time since the spring of 2022 after sitting out last season at UTSA. Linguard had 29 points and 21 rebounds in two exhibitions.

UTSA men's basketball player Carlton Linguard Jr. at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Carlton Linguard Jr. played in high school in the local area at Stevens. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Trey Edmonds — Power forward with a 6-10, 255-pound frame played the last two seasons at Utah Tech. He’ll be asked to supply rebounding, defense and a physical presence.

Dre Fuller Jr. — A small forward at 6-6 and 220 pounds will play for the first time since 2022 when he attended Central Florida. Fuller is adept at driving into the paint and either finding shooters on the perimeter or finishing at the rim.

Christian Tucker — The 6-foot-3 guard, in his third season at UTSA, will take on his biggest role since he’s been a Roadrunner. He’ll be tasked with pushing the pace and finding gaps to drive it inside.

Adante’ Holiman — A UTSA newcomer, at 6 feet, has shown ability to hit shots from the perimeter and score at the rim. The sophomore from Oklahoma shot 43 percent from three, including 50 percent in conference play, last year at UT Rio Grande Valley.

Chandler Cuthrell — Another newcomer who is expected to play a major role this season. The 6-8 forward, from Baltimore via Odessa College, can spring off the floor for rebounds — he had five off the offensive glass in each of the team’s two exhibition games — and can ignite emotions with his dunking ability.

PJ Carter — A lithe, 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 16.3 ppg last year at Georgia Highlands. He hit four 3-point shots combined in two exhibitions.

Nazar Mahmoud — The freshman from Leander, who played in prep school last year in Plano, has come on strong in two exhibitions with 26 points combined in two games. Mahmoud looks extremely comfortable launching shots from the three-point line.

Isaiah Wyatt — Native Ohioan played last year at Division II Chadron State. A 6-4 guard, he played a little tight in the exhibition against Trinity but calmed down and enjoyed a solid outing against McMurry.

Massal Diouf — Returning starter from last year likely will be utilized off the bench. The 6-9, 240-pounder is rounding into form after battling through knee rehabilitation this summer. If he can play with aggression and not foul, he’ll see consistent playing time.

Eye on opening night

Western Illinois is coming off a 16-14 season, the program’s first winning record since 2012-13. Returning starters are Jesiah West and Quinlan Bennett. Sixth man KJ Lee and reserve JJ Kalakon also return. James Dent Jr., Drew Cisse, Joe Petrakis and Ryan Myers highlight the newcomers. WIU reloaded the roster with eight transfers. Chad Boudreau takes over as Leatherneck head coach, being promoted from associate head coach last spring. Boudreau was the lead WIU assistant the past three seasons.

Nazar Mahmoud. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Nazar Mahmoud had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists against McMurry last Monday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander