By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Bouncing back from a sub-par, first-half performance, the UTSA Roadrunners hit 13 of their school-record 19 three pointers after intermission on Sunday and rolled to a season-high in points in a 93-60 victory over the NCAA Division II Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions.
Center Carlton Linguard scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds as UTSA (5-4) won its third straight game. Guard Isaiah Wyatt added 20 — his second straight with 20 or more — in UTSA’s first game after a nine-day break for final exams.
The game was an exhibition for Arkansas-Fort Smith (1-8) and did not count on the team’s win-loss record. Guard Roland McCoy scored 13 for the Lions, who had lost five straight coming into San Antonio, including a 75-62 setback on Saturday in Odessa against UT-Permian Basin.
Given the travel schedule and the quick turnaround for the Lions, a noon start on Sunday in South Texas, it was something of a surprise to see them within single digits of the Division I Roadrunners for most of the first half.
In fact, in the final 15 minutes of the opening period, Arkansas-Fort Smith outscored UTSA, 24-19. As a result, the Roadrunners led by only seven at halftime.
“I didn’t know they played yesterday,” Linguard said. “That was big. They came out with some energy. Kind of got us off (our game) a little bit.”
The Lions even made it interesting in the early going following intermission, pulling to within three after two minutes of play. From there, the Roadrunners decided that enough was enough, outscoring the Lions 56-26 the rest of the way.
“Second half was a lot better than the first,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “I thought we were getting quality shots the entire game. I mean, it was obvious the way they were guarding our spacing, the shots were going to be available. I didn’t have any issue with that, early on.
“Early in the half in a timeout, I said this could be a game where we could get another single-digit turnover night. Then the rest of the half, we did not do a very good job of taking care of the basketball. So that was a little disappointing, in the first half, our value of the basketball.”
In the second half, the Roadrunners did much better in that area, turning it over only three times in one of their better stretches of the season. After intermission, they connected on 21 of 39 shots from the field, including a sizzling 13 of 24 from the 3-point arc.
Perhaps fittingly, the 19 triples broke a three-year-old school record. The previous high was 18 made against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Jan. 9, 2020. The 47 attempts also went into the school records as the most in a game since the Roadrunners shot 44 long balls at Southern Miss on Jan. 6, 2018.
“We started knocking down shots,” said Wyatt, who has scored 27 and 20 in his last two games. “That’s the big (difference, from the first half). I hit some down the stretch. We started finding each other. Tuck (Christian Tucker) started finding open players. Dre hit a big one out of the corner. Just really, everyone getting in a rhythm.”
Arkansas Fort-Smith 1-8
UTSA at Little Rock, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Oregon State, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2 p.m.
UTSA played without starting guard Adante’ Holiman, who was sidelined with concussion symptoms. Holiman, one of UTSA’s leading scorers and a three-point threat, was hurt in practice last Thursday. With Holiman out, it raised some eyebrows that UTSA finished with 19 threes on a startling 47 attempts from deep. Linguard and Wyatt both hit five three-pointers and Christian Tucker had four of them.
UTSA’s offense is averaging 89.7 points in its last three outings, wins over Incarnate Word, Lamar and Arkansas-Fort Smith. Holiman’s status for UTSA’s next game at Little Rock on Wednesday is uncertain. Little Rock (4-6) plays in the Division I Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans lost at home on Sunday, falling to the Winthrop (S.C.) Eagles.
Last year, Japhet Medor and John Buggs III played in the same backcourt for the UTSA Roadrunners. In the offseason, Medor transferred to play for the Fordham University Rams of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Buggs also moved on, taking his game to Denton to play for the North Texas Mean Green. On Sunday in New York City, they played each other, with Medor and Fordham beating Buggs and North Texas, 60-59. Medor had eight points and four assists for the Rams (5-5). Buggs produced eight points and four rebounds for the Mean Green (5-4).