WKU eliminates UTSA from the C-USA women’s tournament

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.


WKU 19-12
UTSA 13-19

C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Saturday’s game

No. 1 Middle Tennessee State (27-4) vs. No. 2 WKU (19-12), 4:30 p.m.

Lady Tops’ surge in final two minutes sinks the Roadrunners

Kyra White. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 73-67 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Kyra White had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but UTSA came up short against the WKU Lady Toppers, 73-67. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

A two-game winning streak in women’s college basketball is a modest achievement. Most players just smile and shrug when it happens, because just about every team has one.

But for the struggling UTSA Roadrunners, it surely would have felt good — even euphoric — to win Thursday night for their first set of back-to-back victories of the year. It just didn’t happen.

Deborah Nwakamma. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 73-67 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Deborah Nwakamma exploded for eight points late in the third quarter to spark a UTSA rally. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The second-place WKU Lady Toppers outscored the Roadrunners 6-0 in the final two minutes to win 73-67 in Conference USA play.

“I thought we played really, really well,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “There was a segment in the third quarter where we ran out of gas a little bit and lost some attention to detail.

“I really thought that was a big moment in the game, because we were playing really well and in control … But that’s a good team, and they made the run that they needed to make. They made the plays they needed to make.”

A pair of 6-0 runs for WKU — one each at the end of the third and fourth quarters — proved to be critical in a hotly-contested game.

In the final minute of third, the Lady Tops scored six straight, erased a four-point deficit and took a 53-51 lead.

Later, with a little more than two minutes left in the game, the Roadrunners cleared the defensive boards and sent the ball to Jordyn Jenkins, the C-USA’s leading scorer.

Jenkins converted on a driving layup to tie it, 67-67.

In response, the Lady Tops pushed the ball ahead and called on guard Hope Sivori, who broke the tie, scoring left-handed on a drive with 2:10 remaining.

After Sivori’s bucket lifted WKU into a two-point lead, UTSA had plenty of time to secure what would have been its biggest victory of the season, but it didn’t work out that way.

Though the Roadrunners made a couple of defensive stops, their offense faltered with 0-for-5 shooting from the field in four straight possessions.

First, Jordyn Jenkins missed a runner off the side. Next, Elyssa Coleman had the ball on a break-out but couldn’t convert underneath the bucket.

On the other end, Sivori misfired on a 3-point shot, leading to a timeout with 40 seconds remaining.

UTSA had two chances on the next possession, with Jenkins missing the first on a drive. After an offensive rebound, Roadrunners guard Siena Guttadauro took a three that did not go down.

Finally for WKU, Alexis Mead knocked down a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left for a four-point lead. After another missed triple by the Roadrunners, Jaylin Foster was fouled and hit two more freebies with two seconds left for the game’s final points.

With the victory, the Lady Tops (12-9, 9-3) won their third straight game and stayed in hot pursuit of the C-USA’s front-running Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders. WKU is 8-1 in its last nine games.

For the Roadrunners (5-16, 3-8), the game served as another reminder of how hard it is to build a winning program at the mid-major level.

Two years ago, UTSA was 2-18 overall and 0-14 in the C-USA in its last season under a previous coaching staff.

Last season, Aston took over. As a highly-successful veteran coach, she patched it together well enough to finish 7-23 and 3-14.

Now in her second season with the Roadrunners, Aston’s team has played 21 games over a three-month period and has yet to win two in a row.

“This UTSA (team) is way better than their record,” WKU coach Greg Collins said. “This team is more than capable of being just about any team in our conference.”

Last weekend, Aston’s Roadrunners won on the road at Louisiana Tech, 66-63, and then returned home to play in front of the home fans.

A victory over WKU would have been a big deal for confidence in a locker room filled with freshmen, and yet Aston was left searching once again for positives in a close loss — the team’s 12th of the season by seven points or less.

One bright spot centered on an offensive performance that featured five players reaching double figures in scoring, 46.6 percent shooting from the field as a team and 23 assists on 27 made baskets.

“That’s two games in a row with multiple players in double figures,” Aston said. “We’ve made a lot of progress as far as ball reversal, having a little more patience, moving the ball, finding the open people. I definitely think we’ve made significant strides in that area.”

All the Roadrunners can do now is look ahead for another opportunity, which will come Saturday at 2 p.m. when they host Middle Tennessee State, a team ranked 21st in the nation.

The Lady Raiders (18-3, 11-1) had their 16-game winning streak snapped Thursday night, falling 65-62 to the UTEP Miners in El Paso.


Freshman guards Sidney Love and Madison Cockrell did not play for UTSA against WKU. Cockrell was out with a knee injury. Aston declined to comment on why Love, a starter, didn’t get in the game. “I can’t disclose,” the coach said. In the all-time series against WKU, UTSA has now lost seven straight. The Roadrunners haven’t beaten the Lady Tops since 2017.


WKU — Alexis Mead, 19 points, plus four rebounds and four assists. Jaylin Foster, 12 points and eight rebounds. Karris Allen, 10 points, all of it in the second half on three of six from the field and three of four from the 3-point arc. Acacia Hayes, who scored 31 points against UTSA in an eight-point victory on Jan. 7 in Bowling Green, Ky., was held to five in the rematch.

UTSA — Jordyn Jenkins scored 14 points on six of 14 shooting. Also had three rebounds and two blocked shots. Elyssa Coleman, 13 points, with 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Hailey Atwood, 12 points, with Kyra White and Deb Nwakamma 11 points apiece. White played an outstanding all-around game that included nine assists and six rebounds.


Western Kentucky 12-9, 9-3
UTSA 5-16, 3-9

Coming up

Middle Tennessee at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Third quarter

Fending off a scoring burst by Roadrunners guard Deb Nwakamma, the Lady Toppers scored six points in the final 21 seconds to take a 53-51 lead on the Roadrunners.

Nwakamma hit a couple of three-point baskets and addd a 10 footer off the glass to lift the Roadrunners into a 51-47 lead.

With under two minutes remaining, the Lady Tops fought back. First, Karris Allen nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Next, Nwakamma turned the ball over in traffic. Taking advantage, Alexis Mead drove inside and scored and was fouled. She hit the free throw with 6.2 seconds left for the two-point lead.

UTSA’s Jordyn Jenkins was on the bench for much or the period in foul trouble. She had only two points in the quarter.


Playing without two freshmen guards, including starter Sidney Love, the Roadrunners forged a 32-31 lead on the WKU Lady Toppers at intermission.

UTSA relied on solid shooting from the field (48.3 percent) in hanging tough against Conference USA’s second-place team, which employed an up-tempo style and a blizzard of 3-point shot attempts.

For the Roadrunners, Elyssa Coleman was 4-for-4 from the field and led the team with nine points. Guard/forward Hailey Atwood had eight and Jordyn Jenkins six.

The Roadrunners were without both Love and Madison Cockrell, who was on the bench but was not in uniform.

WKU stayed in the game with seven of 21 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Jaylin Foster hit a couple of triples and finished the half with 10 points. Alexis Mead also hit a couple of threes for the Lady Tops.

The Roadrunners did a good job defensively on WKU sparkplug Hope Sivori, who came into San Antonio on the heels of 17, 18 and 16-point games. Sivori, who plays off the bench, was held to one of four shooting and four points.

First quarter

Jordyn Jenkins scored six points, and the Roadrunners outrebounded the Lady Toppers by a wide margin in forging a 14-14 tie after the first period. UTSA held a 15-8 edge on the boards. The Lady Tops controlled their end of the floor by hitting four triples. They also scored eight points off seven UTSA turnovers. Jalyn Foster led the Lady Tops with eight points.