With two players sidelined in health and safety protocols, the UTSA Roadrunners experienced a horrible start and an even worse finish to a basketball game played on their home court Friday night.
Objectively speaking, though, the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros had a lot to do with Roadrunners’ misery both early and late.
The Vaqueros held the home team to 3 of 17 shooting in the game’s first eight minutes, and then they hit 57 percent from the field themselves in the second half to claim a 68-50 victory at the UTSA Convocation Center.
UTRGV’s determined play notwithstanding, the Roadrunners clearly missed starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry.
Both Ivy-Curry and reserve forward Aleu Aleu were forced to sit out in protocols designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Against slumping UTRGV, the Roadrunners failed to make up for what Ivy-Curry gives them as a scorer, as a defender and as a floor leader.
“We just missed some real, real easy (shots) early in the game, and then forced some things,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the UTSA radio broadcast. “Didn’t get any rhythm.”
After falling behind by 13 points in the first half, the Roadrunners briefly found a spark, surging behind Jacob Germany to pull within one at intermission.
In the second half, they played well early, forging a 34-28 lead at one point. But after that, the Roadrunners just couldn’t hang on against a team intent on breaking a five-game losing streak.
The Vaqueros went on a monster 29-5 run to blow the Roadrunners out. During the streak, the Roadrunners went scoreless for nine agonizing minutes.
Associate head coach Mike Peck told Henson that UTSA went 15 straight possessions without a basket.
“You can be pretty good defensively, and you go 15 straight trips without putting the ball in the hole … at some point, it’s really, really going to stress your defense,” Henson said.
For the Vaqueros, the win was sweet. It was their first victory since Nov. 23 when they registered a 72-67 decision over Cal Fullerton. The Vaqueros had lost five in a row since then, falling in difficult road games at Illinois and at Texas along the way.
Coming into the game, UTSA was just starting to find a rhythm on offense. The Roadrunners had won five of seven games. In their last game, they hit 47 percent of their shots from the field in a five-point, neutral site victory over Sam Houston State.
Against UTRGV, the Roadrunners were held to a chilly 25.7 percent from the field. With the Vaqueros packing their defenders inside to stop the 6-foot-11 Germany, UTSA couldn’t capitalize, making only 2 of 21 from three-point territory.
UT Rio Grande Valley 5-7
Tuesday — UTSA at Illinois State, 2 p.m.
Wednesday — Our Lady of the Lake at UTSA, 7 p.m.
UTRGV — Forward Marek Nelson produced a team-high 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Guard BJ Simmons scored 12 and Xavier Johnson came off the bench to add 11. Both knocked down three, 3-point baskets. Justin Johnson, UTRGV’s leading scorer, was held to four points on 2 of 10 shooting.
UTSA — Center Jacob Germany had 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Cedrick Alley Jr. went for 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Dhieu Deing, UTSA’s leading scorer, had his toughest night of the season with only seven points to break his string of 10 straight games in double figures. Deing was held to 3 of 18 shooting.
The UTSA trainer delivered the news to Henson about Ivy-Curry and Aleu late Wednesday night. On Thursday, the two players were not at practice, and Henson acknowledged their status. Henson said he wasn’t sure how long they would be out. UTSA opens Conference USA play on Dec. 30 at Middle Tennessee State.