— UTSA Basketball (@UTSAMBB) March 8, 2018
Steve Henson on Wednesday morning proudly accepted the Conference USA’s Gene Bartow Coach of the Year Award.
By Wednesday night, he felt even better after his UTSA Roadrunners defeated UTEP 71-58 in the opening round of the C-USA tournament.
“Just proud of our guys,” Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “The award today was very nice. But it’s really a reflection of what these guys have done and the progress we’ve made and the direction we’re heading.”
The tournament is being held for the first time in the Ford Center at the Star, in Frisco.
With the victory, fifth-seeded UTSA (19-13) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals against the No. 4 Marshall Thundering Herd (21-10).
UTSA entered the postseason with 18 victories, the most for the team in six years.
In the days leading into the tournament, Henson, along with players Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace and Deon Lyle had pulled down major awards from the C-USA.
But UTSA shrugged off the hype and defeated UTEP for the third time this season.
“I know our younger guys got some awards (earlier in the week),” Henson said. “But we need to come in here and keep winning.”
Lyle, the sixth man of the year in the conference, started for the third straight game in the absence of Jackson, who is out with a knee injury.
He led the Roadrunners with 18 points, including 15 in the second half.
UTSA forward Byron Frohnen had 14 points and 14 rebounds, including 13 points in the first half and nine boards after intermission.
The nitty gritty
UTSA’s defense flustered UTEP again, holding the Miners to less than 40 percent from the field for the third time this season.
UTEP was 22 of 60 from the field for 36.7 percent. Evan Gilyard led the Miners with 29 points.
He hit 10 of 25 shots and 3 of 11 from three.
UTEP took a 2-0 lead on a jumper by Paul Thomas, but UTSA scored seven straight points and never trailed again.
The Roadunners hiked the lead to 10 at halftime and expanded it to 17 with 9:10 remaining.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row,” UTSA forward Nick Allen said. “I’m glad we got that accomplished.”
The next challenge
UTSA and Marshall play similar styles. Both like to shoot the three.
The Roadrunners defeated the Thundering Herd 81-77 on Feb. 1 in San Antonio.
But Marshall has won seven of its last nine, including a 76-67 victory at Middle Tennessee on Saturday, the final day of the regular season.