Loopy swings? UTSA explodes for 15 hits in a 7-2 victory to sweep WKU

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

At the risk of nit-picking a program that very well may have something special going this season, the UTSA Roadrunners have looked out of sorts at the plate lately. Coach Pat Hallmark has acknowledged that the swings have been “a little loopy,” which often leads to weak contact.

Digging down deep in the energy reserves and taking it back to the basics, UTSA players worked diligently in batting practice the past few days in an effort to iron out the glitches, and it all paid dividends Sunday with a 15-hit barrage, a 7-2 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and a sweep of a three-game Conference USA home series.

“I know our offense has been struggling in the past few games,” UTSA outfielder Shane Sirdashney said. “We kind of went back to the basics in (batting practice) today and yesterday. We just kind of put it on display today (and) bought in with Coach Hallmark’s approach at the plate. I’m just glad we got the hitting rolling today going into next week. To get the sweep, it felt good.”

With the victory, UTSA (23-6, 8-1) stayed in firm control of first place in the C-USA through three weekends of play. Western Kentucky (16-13, 2-7) sent hard-throwing lefty Devyn Terbak to the mound, but UTSA lit him up with two runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fifth to take charge.

Sirdashney led the uprising with four hits, including a solo home run. Matt King had three hits and Antonio Valdez, Taylor Smith and Leyton Barry two apiece. For Hallmark, it was a welcome change from the first two games of the series when Hilltoppers pitching went for extended stretches stringing zeroes on the scoreboard against the Roadrunners.

UTSA had only four hits in a 3-2 victory Friday night and then six in a 5-4 decision Saturday afternoon. As a result, batting practice for the Roadrunners started at 9:30 a.m. for the series finale, which would start at 12:30 p.m.

“The bats came back a little bit today, which was nice to see,” Hallmark said. “We pitched well again. But it was important to get those bats going. The guys have been working really hard. Hitting is cyclical like this, where it comes and goes. That’s just the nature of it.

“Big league hitters, the best ones, don’t always hit. The guys have been very persistent, trusting (the process) and it worked out today.”

Hallmark acknowledged the emphasis on a different approach at the plate.

“We’ve been a little loopy,” the coach said. “There’s been a little bit of what we call length of arc in our swings. So we’ve just been working at it. You know, it wasn’t like we just worked at it today. We’ve been working at it for awhile. But sometimes it manifests itself later than what you want.

“Those guys have some good pitching, so that’s part of it, too. But today it did work itself out.”

Drake Smith, Daniel Garza and Braylon Owens combined to hold the Hilltoppers to eight hits. Between the three of them, they didn’t walk a batter. Garza (4-1) earned the victory with 4 and 2/3 innings of relief, allowing only one run.

Defensive plays also had the fans in the grandstands buzzing from time to time. After allowing a ball to get over his head for a double, Sirdashney ended one inning with a catch and a perfect relay throw to King, who fired to third to cut down a runner. A few innings later, King stole a hit with a diving stab of a low and sinking line drive.


Western Kentucky 16-13, 2-7
UTSA 23-6, 8-1

Coming up

UTSA at Incarnate Word, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Thursday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Friday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Saturday, noon

Today’s video replay

Bullpen-rich UTSA holds off Western Kentucky to clinch a C-USA home series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Right now, Pat Hallmark has more aces than a card shark in poker.

Just when you think he’s in trouble in a baseball game, the coach of the UTSA Roadrunners looks down to the bullpen and motions for another pitcher to get loose.

Most of the time, the move serves to frustrate the opposing team.

Hallmark was up to his old tricks again Saturday. His starter didn’t make it through the third inning, so he called on freshman Ruger Riojas.

Riojas, Daniel Shafer and Simon Miller combined for 6 and 1/3 innings of relief on a hot and muggy afternoon, helping the Roadrunners hold off the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 5-4.

As a result, UTSA (22-6, 7-1) won its first two in a three-game home series to maintain its hold on first place in Conference USA.

Western Kentucky (16-12, 2-6) battled hard and held a 2-1 lead through the middle of the fourth inning.

But after UTSA scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, an outburst highlighted by Josh Killeen’s two-out, two-run single, the Roadrunners never trailed again.

Though the Roadrunners have scored C-USA series victories against FAU, Rice and Western Kentucky, their ride hasn’t been without its bumps.

For instance, coming into the weekend, a once red-hot offense cooled off a bit and UTSA lost three of five overall, all on the road, including non-conference losses at UT-Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The offense remains in something of a funk, having struck for only four hits in a 3-2 victory Friday night and six more on Saturday.

Thanks to the pitching, though, UTSA has a chance to go for the sweep tomorrow.

“We’re kind of a little displaced with the offense at the moment,” Killeen said. “Hitting comes and goes. It kind of comes in waves. So it’s good to take the series already.”

Riojas (3-0) pitched three innings, yielding single runs in the fourth and in the sixth, to earn the victory.

More importantly to the big picture, he remained undefeated in his first season of college baseball out of Wimberley High School.

“He’s a great pitcher for us,” Killeen said. “We saw it in the fall. He has a really good fastball that kind of takes off out of his hand. Mixes with a pretty good breaker that he hits for strikes.

We like that. And he also can throw his change up pretty well, too. It’s also hard. It’s not a floating changeup. But, he’s got a lot of confidence. We knew that from the start.”

Riojas just looks comfortable on the mound. Even though he entered in the top of the third with bases loaded in a 1-1 game, the 5-foot-11 righthander escaped unscathed by getting a ground ball to end the inning.

“Just wanted to do my job,” he said, “throw strikes and hit my spots as best I could each and every pitch.”

Western Kentucky touched him for four hits as he worked into the sixth inning, including a solo home run by Ty Batusich leading off the fourth.

But he didn’t walk anyone, which has become a trademark. Riojas has walked only five while striking out 22 in 21 innings this season.

His earned run average has increased over his past few outings against Rice and WKU, respectively, but it’s still a more than respectable 3.00 for the season.

“Honestly, I think it’s going really good (for me),” Riojas said, “trusting my stuff, trusting my defense. Just letting my body work as it should … I love it. Just happy to be out there.”

Teammates say Riojas has played quite a bit of baseball in his career, which accounts for his poise in tough situations.

“It’s a lot different than high school,” he said. “I played at a small 4A in the area. There wasn’t as much competition as there is here. Every hitter you face here is good. Staying on top of that I think (is important).”

It also helps that when he gets in trouble, as he did in the sixth when he yielded a two-out single and then hit a batter, he had Shafer to come in behind him.

Though Bret Blomquist greeted Shafer with an RBI double down the line, that was the extent of the damage. With runners at second and third, Andrew Delaney popped up in the infield to end the threat, leaving UTSA with a 5-3 lead going into the late innings.

Shafer retired three straight in the seventh and three of four in the eighth, keeping WKU off the board in each inning.

In the ninth, Shafer was about the close out the game, but a throwing error by first baseman Sammy Diaz on a potential double play ball loaded the bases and kept the door open for the Hilltoppers.

Aidan Gilroy responded with a fly ball that brought in a run for the final 5-4 margin. But with dangerous Drew Reckart coming to the plate, Hallmark didn’t want to take any chances. He called for Miller, who is enjoying one of the best seasons statistically in the nation.

Miller struck out Reckart on three pitches for his fifth save of the season and his second in two days. On the last pitch, WKU’s runs batted in leader was caught looking, as a Miller slider bit down to catch the inside corner.

“Sometimes his slider likes to break hard, and then sometimes it kind of sits,” Killeen said. “It’s hard to hit if you don’t know which slider is coming. That was pretty impressive by him, that last (at bat).”


Western Kentucky 16-12, 2-6
UTSA 22-6, 7-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.


With the series finale scheduled Sunday afternoon, the Roadrunners have the best record after 28 games (22-6) in school history, one game ahead of the 1994 team (21-7).

For perspective, Coach Jimmy Shankle’s ’94 team was 12-3 at home and 9-4 on the road in its opening 28. This year, by contrast, Hallmark’s fourth UTSA team has played a home-heavy schedule. UTSA is 17-3 at Roadrunner Field and 5-3 on the road …

Catchers normally don’t bat leadoff, but Josh Killeen isn’t paying attention to that. With Hallmark tweaking the lineup, the senior from Reagan High School is just trying to make hard contact.

He’s hit in the No. 1 hole the past two games. On Friday night, Killeen went one for three and scored a run. On Saturday, he went two for four and drove in two. In the process, he boosted his batting average to .362, which is No. 2 on the team.

“I enjoy the position,” Killeen said. “I think it’s great. I’m just sticking with my approach. Not trying to do anything more, anything less. A lot of people like to think, ‘Oh, you get to see more pitches.’ I just like to see a pitch and hammer it.” …

Simon Miller, in 12 appearances this season, has constructed a 6-0 win-loss record, with an 0.59 ERA. At the start of the week, he led the nation with an 0.64 ERA and was also tied for the national lead with the six victories. He’s had saves in UTSA’s two home games this weekend, boosting his season total to five.

JB’s video replay

Diaz reflects on a Colorado mining-town, baseball bash after homering in UTSA’s 3-2 victory

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday at Roadrunner Field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

After UTSA pitchers Luke Malone and Simon Miller combined to shut down the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3-2 Friday night at Roadrunner Field, first baseman Sammy Diaz stole the show in postgame interviews, telling tales of his participation last summer in a mountain-top, long-ball competition in a Colorado mining town.

The subject of his trip to the mountains came up after Diaz smashed a titanic solo home run that helped the Roadrunners remain in first place in Conference USA.

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz circles the bases after his fourth-inning solo home run. It was his third of the season and his second in three games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not too long after he hit a fourth-inning blast well over a 405-foot sign perched atop a two-tiered section of fencing in center field, giving UTSA the one-run lead that would stand up for the rest of the game, a Roadrunners’ fan on the concourse said he saw a news story online about the long-ball event held last August in Victor, Colo.

Diaz, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior from Palm Desert, Calif., confirmed after the game that he competed in the event and said he took second place with a ball that he hit 531 feet.

“It was at a community field in an old mining town, a super-old mining town,” Diaz said. “It was really cool. It was really good to go out there. Super nice. It was like, historic, one of the oldest cities in Colorado. They’ve got a bunch of gold mines out there. We were hitting on top of a mountain (in a field). There was no fence. I hit mine over City Hall. I hit mine into downtown.”

Located at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet on the southwest side of Pikes Peak, the town of Victor harkens back to the 1890s Gold Rush era.

Diaz, for one, has a few stories to tell about his trip.

The event got a little bit wild at one point when one of the competitors lost control of the bat, which flipped from the tee area out into an area with some parked cars. Diaz said “it went into the news reporter’s car, right into his window. I don’t know what happened with that, with the insurance or what. But, it made for a good video.”

Like a raucous competition in an old mining town, the fortunes for the UTSA baseball team have been mostly golden all season. The one-run victory over the Hilltoppers in the first game of a three-game C-USA series was no different. Malone pitched seven innings to pick up his third victory of the season against two losses.

Miller, one of the top pitchers in the nation statistically, worked a scoreless eighth and ninth for his fourth save. The Hilltoppers allowed a few opportunities to win the game get away from them, most notably their last at bat when Kirk Liebert led off with a double.

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings and got the save. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings to earn his fourth save. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Ricardo Leonett followed with a well-hit ball to center, which allowed Liebert to take third. But with one out and the potential tying run 90 feet away, Miller steadied himself and closed the door on the visiting team from Bowling Green, Ky.

First, Ty Batusich smashed a ball to the left side. UTSA shortstop Matt King made a nifty pickup on a short hop and fired to first. With two down, Andrew Delaney came to the plate but was no match for Miller, who fanned him to clinch the team’s 21st victory of the season.

It’s the most wins for a UTSA team before April 1 since the 1994 squad went 24-9 through the end of March in 1994.

“This definitely feels good,” Miller said. “We’re playing good baseball right now. As long as we continue to play it, we’ll continue to beat teams. So, it’s nice. It’s really nice.”

Coming into Friday’s series opener, UTSA had been off its game, as much as a team with a 21-6 record and a 6-1 mark in conference can be off. On a five-game road trip, the Roadrunners went 2-3, losing at UT Rio Grande Valley, winning two of three at Rice, and then losing at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.

There was no panic at practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I don’t think it was any different,” Miller said. “We knew what we had to do. That was just to get to work and focus and be better next time out. I think that’s what we did.”

UTSA starter Luke Malone worked seven innings and struck out eight. He allowed two runs, both of them earned, on six hits and a walk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said it’s definitely a confidence boost for the team when Malone starts a game and Miller finishes.

“Luke is just so steady,” Hallmark said. “Throws all his pitches for strikes. He’s a wonderful competitor. He checks every box, you know, and then to have Simon. Simon has those tough low breaking pitches that are really hard to get off the ground. It’s hard to get extra bases (off him).”

Hallmark said Liebert’s double into the right-center gap in the ninth was only the second extra-base hit off Miller all season.

“That makes the other team have to get multiple hits,” the coach said. “Generally they need to get three hits to beat him. Simon, his stuff is really elite. He’s ready for pro ball. And Luke, it’s the nature of the mixing of the pitches and the junk-yard dog that he is.”

For the season, Malone has a 3-2 win-loss record with a career-low 2.00 earned run average. In his last four starts, he is 3-0. Miller, along with his four saves, is 6-0 with an 0.59 ERA. The 6-foot-2 junior from Canton has struck out 44 and walked only seven in 30 and 1/3 innings.


Western Kentucky 16-11, 2-5
UTSA 21-6, 6-1

Coming up

WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.


After receiving the invitation to hit in the long-ball competition from event organizer Earnie Granville, Diaz participated with YouTube stars such as Portland-based Will Taylor of the Baseball Bat Bros, Eric “The King of JUCO” Sim, and Jeremy “The Swingman” Nowak, according to a story published in the Pike’s Peak Courier.

The newspaper reported that competitors were trying to break a Guinness world record.

According to Guinness, Babe Ruth holds the record for longest home run in a Major League game, hitting one 575 feet for the New York Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in July 1921. The longest balls hit in Colorado reportedly traveled 534, 531, 515 and 508 feet. The Pike’s Peak Courier reported that Diaz had the 531-foot shot.

Asked about Diaz’s long ball in Colorado, Miller smiled, joking that he wasn’t sure.

“I’ve heard about it,” Miller said. “I don’t know much about it. You know, in Colorado, the air is thinner, so the ball flies farther. So, we don’t know how true it is.”

To that, Diaz said, “These guys always make fun of me. They say I need the wind to hit home runs. It’s not my fault when I hit ’em when the wind’s blowing out.” The home run Diaz hit against Western Kentucky, based on its trajectory, likely traveled 420 feet or farther. It was Diaz’s third home run of the season and his second in two games.

JB’s video replay

UTSA aims for victory No. 21 tonight against Western Kentucky

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Sitting in first place in the Conference USA baseball race, the UTSA Roadrunners host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers tonight at 6. UTSA and WKU also will play Saturday and Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game series. All games will be played on campus at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA (20-6, 5-1 C-USA) has won its first two series in conference play, sweeping the FAU Owls at home on March 17-19 and then winning two of three at Rice University in Houston last weekend. WKU (16-10, 2-4) lost two of three at Middle Tennessee before dropping two of three at home last week against Louisiana Tech.

Winning games at a rate that is slightly off a school-record pace, UTSA has notched 20 victories by the end of March for only the second time in program history. In 1994, UTSA started out 24-9 before April 1, going on to finish the season 39-18. The ’94 team reached the NCAA tournament, playing in a regional at Austin.

After sweeping FAU two weeks ago, UTSA had won 10 straight for an 18-3 record on the season. Since then, the Roadrunners have cooled off a bit, losing 5-3 at UT Rio Grande Valley on March 21, losing in the middle of the three games at Rice, 13-8, and then falling at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 8-2 on Tuesday night.

Baylor transfer Antonio Valdez leads the team with a .412 batting average, eight home runs and 40 RBI. Caleb Hill (.363) ranks second on the team in batting average but hasn’t played since he was hit by a pitch on March 24 in the first game of the series at Rice.

Pitcher Luke Malone (2-2, 1.89 ERA) has been the team’s Friday night starter, followed by Uli Quiroga (4-0, 4.35) on Saturdays. Simon Miller (6-0, 0.64) leads the staff in victories and earned run average. Miller has 41 strikeouts in 28 and 1/3 innings. Daniel Shafer (2.35 ERA) leads the team with five saves.


Western Kentucky 16-10, 2-4
UTSA 20-6, 5-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky University at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

Western Kentucky names S.A. native Steve Lutz as head coach

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

San Antonio native Steve Lutz on Saturday was named head basketball coach at Western Kentucky University.

A&M-Corpus Christi coach Steve Lutz at the UTSA Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Lutz led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to a 47-23 record and two NCAA tournament appearances in the past two years. — File photo by Joe Alexander.

WKU director of athletics Todd Stewart made the announcement in a release posted on the school’s athletics website. Lutz is a 1991 East Central High School graduate.

He played basketball at East Central for Stan Bonewitz, Sr., and at Texas Lutheran University before embarking on a college coaching career, which has included stops as an assistant at the University of the Incarnate Word, Stephen F. Austin, SMU, Creighton and Purdue.

Lutz has been the head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the past two seasons.

“We are excited to name Steve Lutz as our next head coach,” Stewart said. “He is a proven winner and a respected coach with a track record of consistent success in recruiting, player development, academics, and community involvement.”

In his only two years as a head coach, Lutz led the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders to NCAA tournament appearances following the 2021-22 and ’22-23 seasons.

Both years, the Islanders won the postseason tournament title in the Southland Conference.

This year, he won both the SLC regular-season and the postseason crowns en route to the NCAA tournament.

On Tuesday night, the Islanders beat the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 75-71, in Dayton, Ohio, in the NCAA First Four. His team was eliminated Thursday in Birmingham, falling 96-75 to the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide.

“I am very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to be the next head coach at Western Kentucky,” Lutz said. “This is a storied program with a rich history of success. Our teams will wear the WKU uniform with pride and represent the Hilltopper Nation in everything we do.”

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.”


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


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.


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.


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

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.”


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.


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.


“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.”


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.”


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


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.