By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The Western Kentucky Lady Toppers hit four three-point shots in a dominant third quarter Friday night, blowing open a close game and then rolling to a 70-55 victory to eliminate the UTSA Roadrunners in the semifinals of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.
A key sequence came when WKU’s Teresa Faustino hit one from long distance, followed moments later by two in a row from Karris Allen. After Allen’s long ball swished through the nets, the Lady Toppers had a 48-34 lead with 4:26 left in the period.
WKU widened the lead to as many as 21 points early in the fourth, and UTSA never recovered. As a result, the Lady Tops will move on to play for the title Saturday against the Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders.
UTSA will return home, its season ended on an off night when its star player couldn’t avoid foul trouble. Jordyn Jenkins, the C-USA Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, played only 19 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter with seven points and seven rebounds.
After the game, played at The Star in Frisco, second-year Roadrunners coach Karen Aston expressed some bittersweet feelings. She felt bad for her players, who were playing mostly on heart in their third game in three days.
But in another sense, she expressed pride that her team reached the semifinals of a postseason tournament, a level that the UTSA program hadn’t attained since the 2009 Southland Conference championship season.
“We ran into a better team today, for sure,” Aston said, in an interview with JJ Perez of InsideRunnerSports.com. “They probably had fresher legs, and we just ran into a buzz saw, to be honest with you.”
For the game, the Lady Tops hit 11 three-point shots as they raced to their fifth win in a row and their second in two days in Frisco.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm, when you run into a team like that, and you don’t have probably all the gas in your tank that you need,” Aston said. “I think this is also a learning experience for us, how to handle being in the third round. How to handle your emotions as you get through the tournament.
“This team hasn’t been here before (so) this is a tremendous amount of progress for this program. I hope we’ve gained some respect from some people, including you guys (in the media), and I hope that people will continue to follow our team.”
Entering the C-USA semifinal on a six-game winning streak, including two in the last two days at the tournament, the Roadrunners never got their game untracked. They shot 38 percent from the field and hit only one of 14 three-point attempts.
Moreover, they couldn’t sustain possessions, turning the ball over 20 times to offset their 47-27 rebounding advantage. Sidney Love was the only UTSA player in double figures with 13 points. Freshman forward Maya Linton finished with nine points and six boards.
Elyssa Coleman, in foul trouble in the first half, pulled down 10 rebounds for the game but scored only five points. Kyra White, a junior guard who transferred with Jenkins from Southern Cal to UTSA in the offseason, played 37 minutes and finished with two points and five rebounds.
Forward Jaylin Foster led the Lady Tops with 13 points, while guards Acacia Hayes and Hope Sivori scored 10 apiece.
In the first half, Jenkins was whistled for two offensive fouls in the first three and a half minutes of the game and went to the bench. In the second quarter, both Jenkins and Coleman were on the bench with two apiece as WKU maintained the lead in a close game.
Late in the third quarter, as WKU was surging, Jenkins was whistled for her third and fourth fouls only 47 seconds apart, forcing Roadrunners coach Karen Aston to take her out again.
Jenkins scored five points in the fourth period before getting called for her fifth, fouling out with 25 seconds remaining.
It was a tough way for the season to end for the 6-foot transfer from Southern Cal, who set the school’s single-season scoring record and led the C-USA with an average of 21 points per game.
C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco
No. 1 Middle Tennessee State (27-4) vs. No. 2 WKU (19-12), 4:30 p.m.