By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay
Center Carlton Linguard Jr. once suited up at Kansas State University for a basketball team that granted him only a minor role in the Power 5 program. It seems like a long time ago now, but in the 2021-22 season, he played 15 games and averaged only 8.1 minutes for the Wildcats.
On the nights when he did play, the 7-foot center from San Antonio’s Stevens High School played in short spurts and rarely took more than two or three shots before the final buzzer. Mostly, Linguard was an afterthought, as his 19 field goal attempts for the season would indicate.
Given the background, it would be easy to think that Linguard’s 20-point, nine-rebound debut for the UTSA Roadrunners on Tuesday night against Trinity University would have meant something special to him — and maybe it did.
But if that was the case, Linguard downplayed it after the Roadrunners rolled to a 100-70 exhibition victory over the Division III Tigers at the Convocation Center.
Afterward, Linguard did a round of interviews with the media and fielded more than a few questions. Once, he was asked whether it was important for him personally to score 20 in his first game back.
“Not really,” he said in response. “I told myself I had to come out here and dominate. That was kind of me and the other bigs’ goal tonight, and I feel like for the most part we did that.
“We still got stuff to work on. But, like, my mindset in my first game back was just to get my feet wet, get comfortable and just play my game.”
The Roadrunners, for the most part, handled business to the satisfaction of just about everyone in the arena. As anyone in the building could attest, UTSA thoroughly dominated early and late in running away with a 100-point game and a 30-point margin of victory for the first time in a couple of seasons.
In three-point shooting, UTSA showed some real firepower, with the team making 15 of them from distance. Moreover, UTSA big men turned out to be some of the better long-distance shooters, with the 7-foot, 220-pound Linguard making four of them and 6-8, 220-pound Chandler Cuthrell hitting two.
Rebounding was another area of dominance for the Roadrunners, who won the battle of the boards decisively, 60-34. In addition, team play and ball movement was generally good, with 22 assists leading to 41 field goals.
So, the game went pretty much to the liking of the home team except for some extended dry spells for the UTSA offense on shots from the field and in free-throw shooting. Oddly, the smaller Tigers hit 16 of 24 at the line to only three of six for UTSA.
“I felt OK (with the way we played),” Linguard said. “I felt we could have defended a little better and got to certain spots quicker. But, overall, I felt we played an OK game. That’s why we’re playing this game — to grow and get better. I think it’s a good little starting point for us.”
The Roadrunners did play well defensively, overall. They held Trinity scoreless for the first 3:08 of the ball game in jumping out to a 10-0 lead. And even though they allowed the Tigers to get on a streak early in the second half, they also closed the game by holding their opponent without a point for the final 3:37.
“I liked the way we started the game, defensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “When you don’t play a game for months, the excitement is generally going to be on the offensive end. We had parents drove in. (They) flew in. Guys want to play. They’re itching to play.
“So we kept challenging them. ‘Envision yourself playing. Envision yourself getting a stop. Getting a rebound.’ Not making shots. Defensively we opened with five straight stops. Set a really good tone there.. Very agressive. Very locked in. That probably excited me the most.”
McMurry University at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m. Monday.
UTSA — Linguard, in playing 23 minutes, hit eight of 12 shots from the field. He also knocked down four of seven from beyond the arc. Six-foot, 10-inch Trey Edmonds, who weighs 255 pounds, also imposed his will with 14 points and seven boards. Guard PJ Carter scored 13 on three of five shooting from three-point range, while Chandler Cuthrell, a 6-8 power forward, came off the bench to record a double double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Trinity — Guard Tanner Brown led the Tigers with 15 points. Guard Dean Balo had 13 points and seven rebounds on a night when he worked inside to draw seven fouls and then converting nine of 10 from the free-throw line. Guard/forward Abdullah Roberts had 12 points and guard guard Jacob Harvey 10.
UTSA guard/forward Dre Fuller Jr. showed off a flashy all-around game with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The former three-year player at Central Florida started the game in a lineup of two bigs — Linguard and Edmonds — plus Fuller, who checked in at 6-6 and 220. The guards were Christian Tucker and Adante’ Holiman, both with quick, with active hands.
Holiman sat out five days last week with Covid. It may have cost him a bit on the offensive end with 1 for 7 shooting from three. A few others who struggled in the game included power forward Massal Diouf and shooting guard Isaiah Wyatt. Diouf, who missed time this summer rehabilitating a knee injury, fouled out in 10 minutes. Wyatt, who has enjoyed good moments shooting the ball at practice, couldn’t get it going in the game. He missed all five of his three-point attempts.
A few other players played productive minutes off the bench, including junior college transfer Carter and freshman shooting guard Nazar Mahmoud. Mahmoud scored 11 points in 17 minutes in his first game after prepping last year at Spring Creek Academy in Plano. At 6-foot-5, he took advantage of his size with smaller defenders and knocked down four of seven from the field, including two of three from distance. Mahmoud was active on the boards with nine rebounds, four of them on the offensive end.
“I work on my craft a lot, so the nerves (weren’t) really too much for me. I really was just having fun out there with my guys.” — UTSA freshman Nazar Mahmoud.
Mahmoud also commented on Fuller’s passing ability, saying, “Dre is a spectacular talent. He’s going to be a big part of this team. Obviously he can score at three levels. One thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is his passing. He definitely sets up his teammates to get them involved, and also look for his shot when he needs to score, too.”
Carlton Linguard, on Trinity’s parade to the free throw line : “I feel like on defense, we got to stop fouling. We got to stay in front of our man. Little stuff like that. If we didn’t give ’em so many free throws, the game would have been a lot different.”
Linguard has been working through some aches and pains during preseason training, notably some stiffness in his back. “I’ve been doing a lot of rehab. I’m in rehab every day for an hour and a half. I’m trying to stay pro-active. Not reactive. (Trying to do) a lot of stretching, a lot of little exercises.”
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) October 24, 2023