Western Kentucky downs UTSA, despite Germany’s 26 points

Jacob Germany. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 71-65 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany scored 26 points, but the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers escaped with a 71-65 road victory at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners entered a Saturday afternoon home game without the services of injured guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, their leading scorer.

Not a great sign for the team with the worst record in Conference USA.

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 Jamarion Sharp, a 7-5 center, rises up to block a shot against UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But instead of allowing the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to run away with an easy one, 6-foot-11 center Jacob Germany and friends played hard and stayed in contention to win until the end.

Getting big performances from guards Josh Anderson and Jairus Hamilton, who each scored 18 points, Western Kentucky fended off rallies by the Roadrunners in each half en route to a 71-65 victory at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Hilltoppers point guard Dayvion McKnight also made a big play down the stretch as the visitors escaped with their fourth straight win and their second in three days.

On the flip side, an inspired performance by Germany went for naught, with the Roadrunners losing their fifth game in a row.

Germany scored 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against the Hilltoppers and their 7-foot-5 center, Jamarion Sharp.

It was one of the best performances by a center this season against Sharp, the nation’s leading shot blocker.

Unofficially, seven of Germany’s 11 baskets came on jumpers or hooks hoisted from outside the paint.

“Let me tell you,” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said, “as you well know, I got a pretty good defender in there. I’ve never had a player go over him this year.

“We had one go through him, physically, but Germany’s the first guy that’s gone over the top of him. All year long. He was really good.”

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 71-65 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore Isaiah Addo-Ankrah started for the first time but struggled with his shot, hitting 2 of 9 from the field and scoring five points. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Sharp finished with five points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

“You go on the road, it’s never easy,” Stansbury said. “We knew this was a much better team than their record. They’ve been in every game like this, and they just haven’t pulled out some games.

“I thought they had a little extra emotion playing without their point guard, but we felt like the other guys made their team better, and they did.”

Germany said it’s always been a challenge for him to play against Western Kentucky. Last year, he faced Charles Bassey, now with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

This year, it was Sharp, who is less of an offensive threat than his predecessor but quite the presence as a defender.

“I think Western Kentucky does a really good job developing bigs into really elite big men,” Germany said. “That’s why Bassey’s in the league right now. You know, (Sharp) will probably be in the league in a few years.”

Germany made a statement with his individual performance, but he said he doesn’t know if he necessarily proved a point.

“I just went out there and competed,” said Germany, who hit 11 of 19 from the field. “They were giving me the looks that I wanted.”

As for the team, Germany said he thinks the Roadrunners are close to turning the corner on a difficult season.

“Tonight, they started out like five or six from three,” he said. “We just need to get through that. We just need to take a good half and put another good half together.”

Records

Western Kentucky 14-11, 6-6
UTSA 8-18, 1-12

Coming up

Feb. 17 — UTSA at Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 — UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 4 p.m.

Notable

Dragged down by Covid-19 issues and sundry other issues that have made game-to-game consistency nearly impossible, UTSA is 2-14 since mid-December. The Roadrunners’ 12 C-USA losses are the most in any of six seasons with Coach Steve Henson at the helm.

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 71-65 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says his players have maintained a positive attitude during a two-month streak of misfortune. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Four of the losses have been by six points or less. Previously, the Roadrunners’ worst showing in the C-USA under Henson came in 2019-20, when they went 7-11. The year before Henson took over, UTSA finished 5-27 and 3-15.

It’s uncertain when Ivy-Curry, who leads the Roadrunners in scoring at 15.4 points per game, could make his return. Henson says his explosive wing player is making progress, but the coach says he isn’t close to being able to practice. The 6-foot-2 sophomore sprained his ankle at the end of a game Monday night at Middle Tennessee State.

Quotable

“There were a lot of positives, but with the game on the line, we just didn’t make the play that we needed to make,” Henson said.

Henson said the Roadrunners definitely missed Ivy-Curry, who has had to sit out seven games this season, including six in Covid-19 protocols.

Erik Czumbel. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 71-65 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Erik Czumbel produced 14 points and four assists for the Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“For sure, he does so much for us,” Henson said. “He’s our leading scorer and one of our better three-point shooters … We missed him. (But) I’m proud of the other guys that did step up.”

Henson mentioned guard Erik Czumbel, who scored 14 points.

“Darius (McNeill), in the first half, got in the middle of the zone and made some nice plays,” Henson said. “(Lachlan Bofinger’s) energy was great.”

Individuals

Western Kentucky — Anderson came off the bench for 18 points, including 12 in the first half. He also had six rebounds and two steals. Hamilton scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. He also pulled down seven rebounds. McKnight posted up McNeill with 1:33 remaining and hit a shot that put the Hilltoppers in front, 68-63.

UTSA — Czumbel contributed 14 points and four assists. He hit a season-high four three-point shots. McNeill finished with six points, six assists and four rebounds. Starting for Ivy-Curry, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah scored five points. Meanwhile, Dhieu Deing was held to three. Together, Addo-Ankrah and Deing were a combined 2 of 13 from the the three-point line.

Video highlights

A moment to remember from the first half

One defensive gem deserves another

Shooting it from downtown

UTSA will face a 7-foot-5, shot-blocking force today

UTSA coach Steve Henson issued a warning to fans who may have noticed that the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers lost five in a row in January.

Henson said the Hilltoppers have returned to their winning ways.

“They’ve been terrific (in) their last three,” he said.

Coming off three straight victories, including two on the road last week, the Hilltoppers will tip off against the Roadrunners today at 3 p.m. at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA is expected to be without guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, its leading scorer who has an ankle injury and has not practiced this week.

Western Kentucky, anchored by 7-foot-5 center Jamarion Sharp, won on the road at Charlotte and Old Dominion last week and then knocked off the FAU Owls 76-69 Thursday night at home in Bowling Green.

“Their first five minutes of offense against Charlotte was as good as I’ve ever seen ’em, and this is our sixth year here,” Henson said. “I’ve never seen ’em have a stretch where they looked as precise as those possessions early.”

Henson said the Hilltoppers are mixing defensive schemes and playing with a shortened rotation.

“The ones playing all know their roles really well,” he said. “They’re hot, and they’re playing great basketball right now.”

Western Kentucky’s success on defense, and lately its offense, to a lesser degree, revolves around Sharp.

Sharp is 7-5 and 235 pounds and leads the nation in blocked shots, averaging 4.5 a game. He also averages 8.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. Sharp doesn’t shoot the ball much, but when he does, he makes most of them.

In fact, the native of Hopkinsville, Ky., shoots 73.4 percent from the field. He is 13 for 13 from the field in his last three games, including 7 for 7 in the victory over FAU two nights ago.

“He’s terrific,” Henson said. “He impacts the game on both ends of the floor. Just such a threat with his rolling at the rim. (They) throw it anywhere near the basket and he can go get it. He’s shooting 80 percent from the field because they’re all dunks.

“He moves pretty well, defensively, blocking a ton of shots. It’s not surprising with that length. But he’s not just standing and waiting … He moves around, gets after ball screens. He’s a good player.”

Records

UTSA 8-17, 1-11
Western Kentucky 13-11, 5-6

Coming up

Feb. 17 — UTSA at Southern Miss
Feb. 19 — UTSA at Louisiana Tech

UTSA’s Addo-Ankrah makes the most of an opportunity to play

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah celebrates after grabbing the final rebound of the game. UTSA beat Florida International 73-66 on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah celebrates after grabbing the final rebound of the game as UTSA beat Florida International on Jan. 27. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Sharp-shooting guard Isaiah Addo-Ankrah has mixed emotions about how his sophomore year with the UTSA Roadrunners has unfolded.

On one hand, the losing hurts. His Roadrunners have dropped four in a row and have registered a 2-13 record since the middle of December.

He doesn’t like that feeling at all.

Then again, Addo-Ankrah gets a measure of personal satisfaction from the way he has proven over the past three weeks that he can play at this level — as a walk-on, no less.

“It’s kind of weird,” Addo-Ankrah said Friday. “I’m happy because I’m playing now. (But) with the losing, I’m not as happy. You know, I’m scoring and helping the team, but we’re still losing.

“So it’s like a 50-50 type of mood.”

The 6-foot-6 Houston native spelled out his feelings Friday on the eve of a Saturday afternoon home game against the powerful Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

“I feel like we had a good week of practice,” Addo-Ankrah said. “I feel like the spirits are still up, which is a good thing. We still have the faith that we’re going to turn this around and start winning games.”

At the start of the season, UTSA players had high hopes for team success despite projections that had them pegged to finish below the middle of the pack in Conference USA.

By mid-December, the Roadrunners were 6-4 and were just starting to get some kinks ironed out with their offense when adversity struck.

A few players entered Covid-19 protocols and couldn’t make the trip to Illinois State. Since then, the problems have multiplied, seemingly on a weekly basis.

Everything from Covid protocols, to an academic casualty and to an incident in which one player just decided to leave the team for a few weeks — it’s all plagued a proud program that has posted winning records in three of the last four seasons.

In Addo-Ankrah’s case, he’s doing what he can to help right the ship.

Stepping into a role as a backup wing player in the wake of a season-ending injury to forward Aleu Aleu, the former standout at Houston Second Baptist High School has averaged nearly 10 points over his last three games.

For the season, Addo-Ankrah has played in 15 games, more than doubling the six he played last year as a freshman. Moreover, he’s also nailed 17 of 38 three-point shots for a team-leading 44.7 percent.

The first indication that Addo-Ankrah might be able to contribute more than just as a practice player came on Jan. 20 at UTEP when he knocked down three 3-pointers.

A few weeks later, on a trip to Houston to play at Rice, he broke out with his season-high of 15 points on five of six shooting from three. Perfect timing, considering his family and friends were in attendance.

“I was just happy to be out there,” he said.

The emergence of Addo-Ankrah is clearly one of the bright spots for UTSA coach Steve Henson in the past few months.

“It’s awesome to watch it happen right before our eyes,” Henson said. “He does everything right, every single day. Unbelievable teammate. Guys love him. Comes in here and just fights and competes.”

When Addo-Ankrah left high school in 2019, he attempted to walk on at the University of Houston, and after failing to make the squad, he elected to stay in school and help out as a practice player for the women’s team.

By the spring, he started looking around, sending out communications to see if UTSA coaches were interested. They were.

“You know, he’s been on the scout squad every day for two years now,” Henson said. “Never, ever flipped over to the main group. We threw him in a game. He made some shots, and he’s taken it and has run with it.”

Coming up

Saturday — Western Kentucky (13-11, 5-6) at UTSA (8-17, 1-11), 3 p.m.
Feb. 17 — UTSA at Southern Miss
Feb. 19 — UTSA at Louisiana Tech

Notable

Injured UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, the team’s leading scorer, will not play against the Hilltoppers. He rolled an ankle at the end of UTSA’s game at Middle Tennessee Statte on Monday night and hasn’t practiced at all in the wake of the mishap.

Western Kentucky ousts UTSA from C-USA tournament, 80-67

Keaton Wallace, Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat UAB 96-79 in Conference USA on the Roadrunners' senior day for Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Phoenix Ford on Feb. 27, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson speculated that both Keaton Wallace (left) and Jhivvan Jackson will elect to ‘move on’ in their respective careers next season. — File photo by Joe Alexander


If Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace have played in their last game for UTSA, it was a tough way to go out.

The Charles Bassey-led Western Kentucky Hilltoppers scored an easy 80-67 victory over the Roadrunners Thursday night in Frisco, in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA championships.

Wallace emerged as the only consistent threat on a frustrating night for the Roadrunners as he scored 30 points. Jackson, the school’s all-time leading scorer, was held to five on 2 of 12 shooting.

Bassey, a 6-foot-11 center, finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots for the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said he doesn’t know how Bassey would be feeling on Friday morning, when the team meets the UAB Blazers in the tournament semifinals. The C-USA’s Player of the Year apparently was in some discomfort near the end of the game, leaving the court at one point to stretch.

“We’ll see,” Stansbury told a television reporter for Stadium. “I know he went out there (off to the side) hurt a little. So, we’ll see where he’s at. It’s a quick turnaround. We just got to find a way to be ready. Hope he’s ready to go.”

With the loss, UTSA has been eliminated from contention for the NCAA tournament. In a zoom conference with reporters, Coach Steve Henson talked as if his team had played its last game of the season.

Asked if thought he would have an opportunity to play again, in another postseason tournament, the coach said he didn’t know.

“I mean, there’s not as many tournaments available this year,” he said. “The fields are smaller. I would think it would be a long shot. We have not had any conversations about that at this point.”

But would Henson be interested in playing if the opportunity presented itself?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think our team could beat a lot of teams in the country. I’d love to play again.”

Besides the National Invitation Tournament, which has been pared from 32 to 16 teams, with all games held in Dallas, Henson said he doesn’t know if any of the others are being played.

“We came here to try to fly to Indianapolis (for the NCAA tournament) at the end of the week and we didn’t get that done,” he said. “So, I don’t know. The NIT is the only one I’ve heard much about. They’ve reduced the field dramatically. I’m not with holding. I just don’t know.”

The College Basketball Invitational has reportedly been discussing either an eight- or 16-team field at a neutral site and that Texas State might be under consideration.

Officials announced last month that the CollegeInsider.com tournament, known as the CIT, has been cancelled. UTSA played in the CIT in 2018 and reached the second round.

Records

UTSA 15-11
Western Kentucky 19-6

Keys to the game

Western Kentucky’s defense on Jackson, primarily by freshman guard Dayvion McKnight. That, and physical play. Western Kentucky hammered the ball inside and went to the free-throw line, where they knocked down 24 of 25. UTSA finished 4 of 7 at the line.

First half

Western Kentucky showcased a physical style at the outset, and UTSA could not match it.

As a result, the Hilltoppers rolled to a 38-25 lead.

Offense was a struggle for the usually potent Roadrunners. Jackson (1 for 5 from the field) couldn’t get going. Neither could center Jacob Germany (1 for 4). Keaton Wallace (5 for 12) scored 12, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with the Hilltoppers.

Blocking seven shots, the Hilltoppers didn’t allow the Roadrunners any easy chances. As a result, UTSA shot only 27.8 percent. Western Kentucky wasn’t great either at 42.4 percent. But the C-USA East heavyweights had just enough to make life miserable for UTSA, from the C-USA West.

Carson Williams, averaging 7.4 points, scored nine in the first half Luke Frampton had seven and Taveion Hollingsworth seven. UTSA played a good half defensively on Western Kentucky star Charles Bassey, who was held to four.

Second half

Bassey poured it on in the second half with 17 of his team-high 21 points. The former San Antonio schoolboy, a native of Nigeria, also had nine rebounds and five blocked shots.

Pounding the ball inside to their big center, the Hilltoppers shot 52 percent in the final 20 minutes. At one point, they kicked the lead up to 23 points. At one juncture, with his team pulling away, Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury pulled his starters.

Just then, UTSA put on a spurt, scoring nine straight points. An 11-2 UTSA run capped by a Wallace jumper pulled the Roadrunners to within 56-46. As a result, Stansbury put Bassey and his starters back in the game.

Bassey kick-started another Western Kentucky surge, first with an inside move and a three-point play. Later, he hit a three from the top of the circle with 7:27 remaining to give the Hilltoppers a 62-48 cushion. Immediately after hitting the shot, Bassey back-pedaled and shrugged, turning both of his palms up, as the Roadrunners called time.

UTSA never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

Crediting the Roadrunners

For the record, the Hilltoppers squelched the Roadrunners’ hopes with a suffocating defense. UTSA shot 38 percent, in large part because Jackson was so far off his game. Jackson scored 46 points to set the arena record in an overtime loss at Western Kentucky in 2019. So, the Hilltoppers set their game plan, hoping to avoid another such explosion.

Stansbury told a television reporter for Stadium that his team’s defense on UTSA’s all-time scoring leader played a major role in the outcome.

“First of all, you’ve got to give San Antonio credit,” Stansbury said. “They’ve got a terrific team. Coach does a great job with ’em. I thought the difference in the game was what you just said, especially the first half. He’s so capable of beating you himself. We’ve seen that movie before. But I thought for the most part Dayvion (McKnight), a freshman guard, guarded him about as well as you can.

“You know, Wallace probably hurt us more than anything, more than anybody, but again, overall … I thought, defensively, we were pretty good.”

Fighting the good fight

Henson said Western Kentucky started to break the game open in the first half with a defense that led to offense.

“They got out pretty easily and ran in transition,” he said. “Just popped open a lead there. We’d already used a timeout early to try and slow down a run. Then we got trapped in the corner and used a second time out … So they built the lead there. We were so stagnant offensively. We just couldn’t get easy shots. Ball just wasn’t moving. Wasn’t zipping. Credit their defense, their length bothered us certainly. Bassey blocked some shots at the rim … Just a real struggle at the offensive end.”

Henson said Jackson’s struggles came with Western Kentucky’s physical style.

“We just couldn’t get him loose,” Henson said. “They were real physical with him … grabbing and holding, just couldn’t get him in space. He had some pullup jumpers that I thought he might hit. But, couldn’t get those down. Couldn’t get anything easy. Couldn’t get him off the ball. Couldn’t get him the ball screens.

“We’d been doing a pretty good job of mixing things up lately and finding different ways to get him going. Just couldn’t. Their length affected him a lot.”

Ready for the next chapter

With the five points against Western Kentucky, Jackson has scored 2,551 in his career. He is tied for 51st in NCAA Division I history with Rodney Monroe, who played for North Carolina State through 1991. Wallace has scored 2,080.

Because of NCAA actions in the wake of the pandemic, both have the opportunity to come back and play at UTSA for another season, but Henson said “we’ve been moving along with the idea that they’ll both move on. We’ll have a conversation about it. But we’re going to wish them well. I think they’re ready for the next chapter in their lives and in their careers.”

W. Kentucky wins in OT; UTSA’s Jackson breaks school records

Jhivvan Jackson. Western Kentucky beat UTSA 77-73 in overtime in Conference USA on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson set school records for career and single-season scoring during Western Kentucky’s 77-73 overtime victory at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson on Saturday established school records for career and single-season scoring, but he had a hard time celebrating any of it after the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers carved out a 77-73 victory in overtime.

An announced crowd of 1,576 at the Convocation Center watched as the 6-foot junior from Puerto Rico surpassed the records of UTSA legends Devin Brown (for career scoring) and Derrick Gervin (for single-season points).

Both Brown and Gervin went on to play in the NBA.

Jackson secured the single-season record late in regulation and established the career record during overtime.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough for the slumping Roadrunners, who lost to one of Conference USA’s powers, falling to 4-6 in their last 10 games.

By scoring 27 for the game, Jackson pushed his totals to 1,924 points for his career and 727 on the season.

“We still took the loss,” Jackson said. “To me, I mean, I don’t really play for records. I mean, it’s an honor. But we still took the ‘L.’ We just got to come in and get better on Monday and get better and get ready for pod play. Got to get better.”

Jhivvan’s day

Hounded by Taveion Hollingsworth and others for Western Kentucky, Jackson finished with 8 of 24 shooting.

He was off the mark on a long three and on a driving two in the final minute of regulation, either of which could have tipped the game into the Roadrunners’ favor.

In overtime, Jared Savage had five of his team-high 24 points as the Hilltoppers won the extra period, 13-9.

Jackson misfired on five of his six shots in OT, perhaps one reason why he was practicing his jumper in the gym long after most of his teammates were either still dressing or had left the building.

It’s the type of diligence that pushed him to become the No. 2 scorer in NCAA Division I this season and the leader in Conference USA each of the past two.

“I’m just going to remember how hard I worked,” Jackson said. “You know, I mean, that record is all about my work ethic. I take great pride in working out and getting better every day.

“That’s really what I just do. I mean, I just try to work hard every day and once I step on the floor in the game, I just translate it. It’s been working out for the past few years.

“I’m going to keep doing it, and hopefully we can get in the (C-USA)Tournament and make a run, because we all excited about it, and I know we will.”

Records

UTSA 12-15, 6-8
Western Kentucky 18-8, 11-3

First-half highlights

A story-line emerged in the opening half with the Roadrunners not shooting a free throw, while the Hilltoppers sank 11 of 15. Late in the half, the visitors kept pressing the action and exploded on a 14-4 run to take a 12-point lead. Keaton Wallace hit a three and Adrian Rodriguez a layup to bring the Roadrunners to within 41-34 at the break. Wallace kept UTSA in it with 16 points.

Second-half highlights

The Roadrunners played well enough to win the game for most of the second half but couldn’t make the key plays late. Early after intermission, the Hilltoppers were up by eight. But Jackson started to hit and UTSA rallied. The Roadrunners led by two three times down the stretch, the last time at 1:48 when Jackson drained a jumper. But in the final minute, Hollingsworth drove for a bucket to tie. Both teams misfired in the final 15 seconds.

Jacob Germany. Western Kentucky beat UTSA 77-73 in overtime in Conference USA on Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Jacob Germany had his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. – photo by Joe Alexander

Overtime

UTSA played poorly on the offensive end and, in spite of it, had a chance to win in the final minute. Wallace’s three pulled the Roadrunners to within two points with 48 seconds left. On Western Kentucky’s next possession, UTSA center Jacob Germany went for a steal and fouled, sending Hollingsworth to hit two for a four-point lead with 30 seconds left. That was, essentially, the ball game.

Coming up

Conference USA teams will begin bonus, or “pod” play next week. Teams in first through fifth place positions will compete in one pod. Teams from No. 6 through 10 (including UTSA) are in a second group. In addition, teams 11-14 are in a third. All teams play four games.

Former San Antonio Spurs guard Avery Johnson covering Saturday's UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Game for CBS Sports Network. - photo by Joe Alexander

Former San Antonio Spurs guard Avery Johnson calling the game for CBS Sports Network. – photo by Joe Alexander

Teams in the first pod are playing for top-four seeding and a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament. Meaning, the top four teams after pod play will only need to win three games to win the tournament for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Teams in the second and third groups can’t get the bye, meaning that if the Roadrunners have any hope of playing in the NCAAs, they’ll have to do it the hard way.

They’ll need to step up their level of play in their last four games, create some momentum and then hope to win four games in four days at the tournament from March 11-14 at Frisco.

UTSA edges Western Kentucky, 81-76, in overtime

Jhivvan Jackson scored nine of his game-high 29 points in overtime Wednesday night, lifting the UTSA Roadrunners past Western Kentucky 81-76.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA came back from 18 points down to beat Old Dominion 74-73 Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson (File photo by Joe Alexander)

In the game played at Bowling Green, Kentucky, UTSA survived amidst 12 ties and nine lead changes, taking over second place in Conference USA and clinching a bye in next week’s conference tournament.

For the Roadrunners, Giovanni De Nicolao scored a surprising 17 on 7 of 10 shooting, while Keaton Wallace added 13.

Jackson, the leading scorer in Conference USA, hit 8 of 22 from the field and 4 of 10 from three.

Charles Bassey, a 6-foot-11 center who played two seasons at St. Anthony in San Antonio, led the Hilltoppers with 21 points. He also added 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

UTSA will close out C-USA regular-season competition Saturday on the road against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

The C-USA will hold its tournament March 13-16 in Frisco.

Conference USA
Group 1 standings

Old Dominion 13-4, 23-7
UTSA 11-6, 17-13
Western Kentucky 11-7, 18-13
Southern Miss 10-7, 18-11
UAB 9-8, 17-13

Wednesday’s scores

UTSA 81, Western Kentucky 76, overtime
Southern Miss 59, Old Dominion 52

Notable

UTSA played shorthanded in the post against Western Kentucky. Starting forward Nick Allen, who has an injured toe on his right foot, didn’t play. In addition, Atem Bior fouled out and Adrian Rodriguez went to the bench in the second half with a bloody nose.

Quotable

‘The theme of the game was toughness. I thought our guys fought like crazy. I looked over and we’ve got guys jamming blood-sticks up their nose. (Trainer) Josh (Modica) was working on Adrian (Rodriguez), and Jhivvan needed some tape on his shoulder and Gio was cleaning his own bloody knee. We fought like crazy. I can’t say enough about those guys.’ – UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast.

Notable

With 20 seconds left in regulation, Jackson hit a long three to put UTSA up by one. Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden had a chance to win it but missed the first of two free throws with six seconds left. Jackson, a 6-foot sophomore, scored nine of UTSA’s 13 points in overtime.

Quotable

‘We just got to give credit to Gio (De Nicolao) in the first half and our bigs. Our bigs played great (against Charles) Bassey. He’s tough to defend. We tried to limit the passes inside, just by really bothering the passes. We did that, and down t he stretch, we just got some stops.’ — UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson.

. .

Old Dominion, UAB post C-USA bonus play victories

The Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday took another important step toward a Conference USA regular-season championship.

Trailing by three with 1:25 remaining, the Monarchs rallied with seven unanswered points down the stretch to defeat the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 67-63, at Norfolk, Virginia.

It was the first game of the C-USA’s Group 1 bonus play, a new scheduling twist employed this season to boost the conference’s appeal in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.

Other teams in the group include the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, the UTSA Roadrunners and the UAB Blazers. UAB won on the road, defeating Southern Miss 76-72 in overtime in another Group 1 game later Saturday.

UTSA was off.

Group 1 teams will continue the stretch drive for the C-USA title Thursday night, when the Jhivvan Jackson- and Keaton Wallace-led Roadrunners host the Monarchs at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UAB will host Western Kentucky.

Down by three against Old Dominion, Western Kentucky made a late push when Josh Anderson hit a couple of free throws and Lamonte Bearden scored on a driving layup.

Bearden’s bucket put the visitors up 63-60 with a little more than a minute remaining.

A that point, Old Dominion reversed the momentum and tied the score with an Xavier Green three-point jumper.

On the other end, Dajour Dickens blocked a shot by Hilltoppers’ freshman center Charles Bassey.

Green promptly knocked down another shot, a two-point basket, to give the Monarchs a 65-63 lead with 16 seconds left.

Western Kentucky went to Bassey again, and the former San Antonio high school standout got fouled.

A free throw miss and a turnover by Bassey gave the ball to the Monarchs and allowed B.J. Stith to clinch it with two free throws for the final points.

C-USA Standings
Group 1

Old Dominion 12-3, 22-6
UTSA 9-5, 15-12
Southern Miss 9-6, 17-10
Western Kentucky 9-6, 16-12
UAB 9-6, 17-11

Note: Each team in Group 1 has four games in bonus play. At the conclusion of the bonus-play schedule, the standings leader is the C-USA regular-season champion. The top four get first-round byes in the C-USA tournament.

Saturday’s results

Old Dominion 67, Western Kentucky 63
UAB 76, Southern Miss 72, overtime
UTSA is off

Thursday’s games

Old Dominion at UTSA
Western Kentucky at UAB
Southern Miss is off

UTSA to host Old Dominion on Feb. 28 in bonus play

The UTSA Roadrunners will get an 11-day break before opening Conference USA bonus play on Feb. 28 at home against Old Dominion, according to the C-USA schedule.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., with the game telecast on the CBS Sports Network.

UTSA, playing in Group 1 of the C-USA’s new scheduling format, also will host the UAB Blazers before going on the road to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

UTSA schedule

Feb. 28 — (1) Old Dominion at (4) UTSA, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

March 3 — (5) UAB at (4) UTSA, 3 p.m., CUSA TV

March 6 — (4) UTSA at (2) Western Kentucky, 6:30 p.m., beIN SPORTS

March 9 — (4) UTSA at (3) Southern Miss, 5 p.m., CUSA TV

C-USA Group 1

1) Old Dominion 11-3, 21-6

2) Western Kentucky 9-5, 16-11

3) Southern Miss 9-5, 17-9

4) UTSA 9-5, 15-12

5) UAB 8-6, 16-11

Notable

The Group 1 standings leader after bonus play is the C-USA regular-season champion. The top four teams after bonus play receive byes through the first round of the conference tournament.

UTSA versus the elite

Here is a recap of UTSA’s regular-season games against each of its four opponents in bonus play:

x-UAB 83, UTSA 73, at Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 19 – The Blazers took charge with 16-3 run to close the first half, followed by a 15-0 streak to open the second half

x-UTSA 74, Old Dominion 73, at San Antonio, Jan. 26 – The Roadrunners rocked the Bird Cage with a 25-6 run in the final 4:43 to erase an 18-point deficit.

x-Western Kentucky 96, UTSA 88, overtime, at Bowling Green Ky., Jan. 31 – Hilltoppers won in spite of 46 points from UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson.

x-Southern Miss 78, UTSA 71, at Hattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 14 – Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Leoard Harper-Baker combined for 56 points, leading the Golden Eagles on a comeback from an early 23-10 deficit.

Jackson scores a career-high 46, but UTSA loses in overtime

Jared Savage knocked down three 3-point shots in overtime Thursday night as Western Kentucky Hilltoppers subdued the UTSA Roadrunners, 96-88, in Conference USA.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA beat Southeastern Oklahoma State 70-67 on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored a career-high 46 points, the third most in UTSA school history.

In the game played at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Hilltoppers overcame a career-high, 46-point effort from UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson.

UTSA’s Keaton Wallace scored 26.

Charles Bassey led the Hilltoppers with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Western Kentucky point guard Lamonte Bearden had 22 points and seven assists.

But it was Savage, a junior from Bowling Green, who hit the shots that mattered in the extra period.

His third in the overtime lifted the Hilltoppers into a 91-85 lead with 1:38 remaining.

UTSA made a crucial turnover in the final seconds of regulation that allowed Western Kentucky to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Byron Frohnen inbounded to Jackson, who tried to pass it back to Frohnen. But Bearden stepped in to make the steal.

Fouled on the play, Bearden went to the line and made one of two free throws, tying the game at 78-78.

The Roadrunners still had a chance as they rushed the ball upcourt, but a Giovanni De Nicolao runner was off the mark.

Record-setting effort spoiled

The loss negated one of the greatest individual performances in UTSA history.

Jackson hit 16 of 31 shots from the field, including 8 of 14 from three. The 6-foot sophomore from Puerto Rico was 6 of 8 on free throws.

In the end, he finished with the scoring record for an opposing player at E.A. Diddle Arena, the second most points in C-USA history and the third most in UTSA history.

Jackson drove for a layup and made a couple of free throws early in the overtime, but in the face of intense pressure from the Western Kentucky defense, he missed his last three attempts.

For Western Kentucky, Bassey sank 7 of 8 from the field and pulled down four rebounds off the offensive glass.

The 6-11, 245-pounder from Nigeria played two years at San Antonio’s St. Anthony Catholic High School before transferring to Aspire Academy in Louisville last season.

Records

Western Kentucky 12-10, 5-4
UTSA 12-10, 6-3

Notable

The Roadrunners had a four-point lead with a little more than a minute left in regulation and couldn’t close out the game. As a result, they were knocked out of first place in the C-USA standings.

Quotable

“(I’m) sick for our guys. You know, we got to find a way to win that game. Just finish it. We turned it over, missed a free throw, turned it over again. We put ourselves in a position (and then) they make a couple of threes, bank in a three, and we lose. That just can’t happen. We gotta find a way to win that game.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson, in comments aired on the team’s radio broadcast.

Western Kentucky coach on UTSA: ‘They’re 6-2 for a reason’

Calling UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace “two of the better guards … in the country,” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said it’s not surprising that the Roadrunners have surged into a tie for first place in Conference USA.

The coach made his remarks on the eve of his team’s C-USA home game tonight against the surprising Roadrunners in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“They’re 6-2 for a reason,” Stansbury said. “They’ve got two of the better guards — not just in this league — in the country.

“When you’ve got guys … that can shoot it like that, you can come back from 17 down with three minutes and 45 seconds left.”

Trailing by 18 points with 4 minutes and 43 seconds remaining last Saturday in San Antonio, UTSA wiped out the deficit and beat Old Dominion, 74-73.

Perhaps more remarkably, the Roadrunners were behind by 17 with 3:45 left and still beat the Monarchs, thanks to the shooting of Jackson and Wallace.

The 18-point comeback is said to be the second largest point differential ever erased in NCAA Division I for a team trailing with less than five minutes on the clock.

The record is believed to be a 19-point deficit that was wiped out by the Nevada Wolf Pack in 2017, when they beat New Mexico, 105-104, in overtime and on the road.

For the Roadrunners, the performance against ODU was the third double-digit deficit that they have erased this season in a winning effort.

Previously, they knocked off Houston Baptist after falling behind by 11. They also beat UTEP after trailing by 10.

Stansbury pointed out that the Roadrunners nearly did it at Middle Tennessee, two weeks ago, as well.

In that game, the Roadrunners were down by 21 in the second half and ended up losing by three.

“They’re a really explosive team, offensively,” Stansbury said. “Jackson and Wallace can score that ball in bunches, in a hurry. When you’ve got guards that can do that, you got a chance against anybody on a given night.”

Jackson is leading C-USA, averaging 22 points per game. Wallace is fifth at 18.9.

Two freshmen, Taveion Hollingsworth and Charles Bassey, lead Western Kentucky and make the Hilltoppers one of the most dangerous teams in the conference.

Hollingsworth leads the Hilltoppers with 15.2 points per game.

Bassey, a 6-foot-11 native Nigerian who played at St. Anthony in San Antonio, averages 14.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.

In what should be a revealing trip for UTSA, the Roadrunners play at Western Kentucky tonight and at Marshall, in Huntington, West Virginia, on Saturday.

Marshall was the C-USA’s representative in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Records

UTSA 12-9, 6-2
Western Kentucky 11-10, 4-4