UTSA picks up its first victory, racing past Wiley College, 90-68

Freshman point guard Erik Czumbel on Friday night shrugged off the pressure of making his first start in college basketball.

He just played his game, guiding the UTSA Roadrunners to their first victory of the season, a 90-68 win over the NAIA Wiley College Wildcats.

Afterward, the 6-foot-3 native of Italy couldn’t hide his joy at moving into the starting lineup in only his sixth game for the Roadrunners.

“It feels great,” Czumbel said. “It gives me a lot of confidence, and the home crowd gave me energy. It gave all the team energy, especially in the second half.”

Playing its home opener in front of an announced 917 at the Convocation Center, UTSA turned it on after intermission, shooting 54 percent from the field and outscoring the visiting team, 51-37.

As a result, the Roadrunners finally notched a mark in the win column, improving to 1-5.

Coach Steve Henson acknowledged some sloppy play by his team early, which allowed the visitors to stay close.

“Second half, (we) kind of let them hang (around) and then finally at one point, a couple of guys really stepped up,” Henson said. “I thought Atem (Bior) and Keaton (Wallace) stepped up defensively, and Jhivvan (Jackson) got a little more active.

“I thought Erik was terrific all night all night long. When those two or three guys really set the tone for us defensively, our activity picked up and we got some transition, and that kind of allowed us to pop the game open.”

Jackson led the Roadrunners with 31 points on 10 of 19 shooting. Bouncing back from some sub-par outings earlier in the season, Wallace filled the box score with 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds. He also had five steals.

Bior came off the bench for 11 points and six rebounds. But it was the play of Czumbel, who had 10 points, five assists and six rebounds, that had the media on press row talking.

If he can emerge as a steadying force as a starter at the point, UTSA has a chance to make a run for a conference title in March.

Czumbel played well on Monday in a loss at Utah State, which prompted coaches to consider giving him an expanded role against Wiley. He continued to play well in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and, by Friday, he was the starter.

“Really proud of him,” Henson said. “I thought he did a lot of good things the other day against Utah State. He’s been steady all year in practice. Again, it’s just the impact we think he can have on getting Keaton back to his normal self.”

First-half recap

The Roadrunners hit six 3-pointers in the first half, racing to a 39-31 lead on Wiley College at intermission.

Playing its first home game of the season at the Convocation Center, UTSA nailed 6 of 18 from long distance and out-rebounded the Wildcats, 27-15.

Nine offensive rebounds for the Roadrunners contributed to a 22-5 advantage in second-chance points.

Records

UTSA 1-5
Wiley 2-2

Notable

The Roadrunners are 3-1 in home openers under Henson.

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