UTSA claims 18th win, beats Rice, 79-60, in Houston

Junior Deon Lyle said the basket just looked big.

Whatever the case, Lyle hit it with regularity in scoring a season-high 33 points Saturday, lifting the UTSA Roadruners to a 79-60 road victory at Rice.

In the regular-season finale for both teams, UTSA surged into a 24-5 lead in the first 11 minutes en route to the team’s 18th victory.

As a result, UTSA (18-13, 11-7) will be the fifth seed in the Conference USA tournament next week in Frisco.

The Roadrunners will open against the No. 12 UTEP Miners at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Rice (7-24, 4-14) was edged out by UTEP for the last spot in the tournament.

Interviewed on the team’s radio broadcast, Lyle said his teammates “did a great job” driving into the paint and kicking the ball out to him on the wing.

“The whole (Rice) team would collapse, Lyle said. “They’d lose me and I’d get open and knock one in.”

Lyle finished 11 of 24 from the field and 8 of 19 from three-point range.

His final point tally broke the team season-high of 31 points held by Jhivvan Jackson, who is out for the year with a knee injury.

“Last game we played, we played real selfish,” Lyle said, talking about an 80-62 loss Thursday night at North Texas. “We didn’t play team ball. I just wanted to make sure we got the win (tonight).

“Me and Jhivvan are real close. He’s like my brother. Then he gets hurt. I just wanted to go out and do it for him and do it for my team tonight.”

UTSA tied a season-high with 15 three-point shots and seemed to be much more locked in defensively, especially in the first half.

“We got off to a real good start,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Defensively, we were very, very sharp. I thought we made a lot of the right plays, offensively.

“When the ball goes through the net, that keeps your energy going.”

The 18 wins are the most for UTSA since an 18-14 finish in the 2011-12 season, the team’s last year in the Southland Conference.

In addition, the 11 conference wins are also the most for the program in the post-SLC era.