By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay
A two-game winning streak in women’s college basketball is a modest achievement. Most players just smile and shrug when it happens, because just about every team has one.
But for the struggling UTSA Roadrunners, it surely would have felt good — even euphoric — to win Thursday night for their first set of back-to-back victories of the year. It just didn’t happen.
The second-place WKU Lady Toppers outscored the Roadrunners 6-0 in the final two minutes to win 73-67 in Conference USA play.
“I thought we played really, really well,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “There was a segment in the third quarter where we ran out of gas a little bit and lost some attention to detail.
“I really thought that was a big moment in the game, because we were playing really well and in control … But that’s a good team, and they made the run that they needed to make. They made the plays they needed to make.”
A pair of 6-0 runs for WKU — one each at the end of the third and fourth quarters — proved to be critical in a hotly-contested game.
In the final minute of third, the Lady Tops scored six straight, erased a four-point deficit and took a 53-51 lead.
Later, with a little more than two minutes left in the game, the Roadrunners cleared the defensive boards and sent the ball to Jordyn Jenkins, the C-USA’s leading scorer.
Jenkins converted on a driving layup to tie it, 67-67.
In response, the Lady Tops pushed the ball ahead and called on guard Hope Sivori, who broke the tie, scoring left-handed on a drive with 2:10 remaining.
After Sivori’s bucket lifted WKU into a two-point lead, UTSA had plenty of time to secure what would have been its biggest victory of the season, but it didn’t work out that way.
Though the Roadrunners made a couple of defensive stops, their offense faltered with 0-for-5 shooting from the field in four straight possessions.
First, Jordyn Jenkins missed a runner off the side. Next, Elyssa Coleman had the ball on a break-out but couldn’t convert underneath the bucket.
On the other end, Sivori misfired on a 3-point shot, leading to a timeout with 40 seconds remaining.
UTSA had two chances on the next possession, with Jenkins missing the first on a drive. After an offensive rebound, Roadrunners guard Siena Guttadauro took a three that did not go down.
Finally for WKU, Alexis Mead knocked down a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left for a four-point lead. After another missed triple by the Roadrunners, Jaylin Foster was fouled and hit two more freebies with two seconds left for the game’s final points.
With the victory, the Lady Tops (12-9, 9-3) won their third straight game and stayed in hot pursuit of the C-USA’s front-running Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders. WKU is 8-1 in its last nine games.
For the Roadrunners (5-16, 3-8), the game served as another reminder of how hard it is to build a winning program at the mid-major level.
Two years ago, UTSA was 2-18 overall and 0-14 in the C-USA in its last season under a previous coaching staff.
Last season, Aston took over. As a highly-successful veteran coach, she patched it together well enough to finish 7-23 and 3-14.
Now in her second season with the Roadrunners, Aston’s team has played 21 games over a three-month period and has yet to win two in a row.
“This UTSA (team) is way better than their record,” WKU coach Greg Collins said. “This team is more than capable of being just about any team in our conference.”
Last weekend, Aston’s Roadrunners won on the road at Louisiana Tech, 66-63, and then returned home to play in front of the home fans.
A victory over WKU would have been a big deal for confidence in a locker room filled with freshmen, and yet Aston was left searching once again for positives in a close loss — the team’s 12th of the season by seven points or less.
One bright spot centered on an offensive performance that featured five players reaching double figures in scoring, 46.6 percent shooting from the field as a team and 23 assists on 27 made baskets.
“That’s two games in a row with multiple players in double figures,” Aston said. “We’ve made a lot of progress as far as ball reversal, having a little more patience, moving the ball, finding the open people. I definitely think we’ve made significant strides in that area.”
All the Roadrunners can do now is look ahead for another opportunity, which will come Saturday at 2 p.m. when they host Middle Tennessee State, a team ranked 21st in the nation.
The Lady Raiders (18-3, 11-1) had their 16-game winning streak snapped Thursday night, falling 65-62 to the UTEP Miners in El Paso.
Freshman guards Sidney Love and Madison Cockrell did not play for UTSA against WKU. Cockrell was out with a knee injury. Aston declined to comment on why Love, a starter, didn’t get in the game. “I can’t disclose,” the coach said. In the all-time series against WKU, UTSA has now lost seven straight. The Roadrunners haven’t beaten the Lady Tops since 2017.
WKU — Alexis Mead, 19 points, plus four rebounds and four assists. Jaylin Foster, 12 points and eight rebounds. Karris Allen, 10 points, all of it in the second half on three of six from the field and three of four from the 3-point arc. Acacia Hayes, who scored 31 points against UTSA in an eight-point victory on Jan. 7 in Bowling Green, Ky., was held to five in the rematch.
UTSA — Jordyn Jenkins scored 14 points on six of 14 shooting. Also had three rebounds and two blocked shots. Elyssa Coleman, 13 points, with 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Hailey Atwood, 12 points, with Kyra White and Deb Nwakamma 11 points apiece. White played an outstanding all-around game that included nine assists and six rebounds.
Western Kentucky 12-9, 9-3
UTSA 5-16, 3-9
Middle Tennessee at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Fending off a scoring burst by Roadrunners guard Deb Nwakamma, the Lady Toppers scored six points in the final 21 seconds to take a 53-51 lead on the Roadrunners.
Nwakamma hit a couple of three-point baskets and addd a 10 footer off the glass to lift the Roadrunners into a 51-47 lead.
With under two minutes remaining, the Lady Tops fought back. First, Karris Allen nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Next, Nwakamma turned the ball over in traffic. Taking advantage, Alexis Mead drove inside and scored and was fouled. She hit the free throw with 6.2 seconds left for the two-point lead.
UTSA’s Jordyn Jenkins was on the bench for much or the period in foul trouble. She had only two points in the quarter.
Playing without two freshmen guards, including starter Sidney Love, the Roadrunners forged a 32-31 lead on the WKU Lady Toppers at intermission.
UTSA relied on solid shooting from the field (48.3 percent) in hanging tough against Conference USA’s second-place team, which employed an up-tempo style and a blizzard of 3-point shot attempts.
For the Roadrunners, Elyssa Coleman was 4-for-4 from the field and led the team with nine points. Guard/forward Hailey Atwood had eight and Jordyn Jenkins six.
The Roadrunners were without both Love and Madison Cockrell, who was on the bench but was not in uniform.
WKU stayed in the game with seven of 21 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Jaylin Foster hit a couple of triples and finished the half with 10 points. Alexis Mead also hit a couple of threes for the Lady Tops.
The Roadrunners did a good job defensively on WKU sparkplug Hope Sivori, who came into San Antonio on the heels of 17, 18 and 16-point games. Sivori, who plays off the bench, was held to one of four shooting and four points.
Jordyn Jenkins scored six points, and the Roadrunners outrebounded the Lady Toppers by a wide margin in forging a 14-14 tie after the first period. UTSA held a 15-8 edge on the boards. The Lady Tops controlled their end of the floor by hitting four triples. They also scored eight points off seven UTSA turnovers. Jalyn Foster led the Lady Tops with eight points.