Women’s basketball: AAC tournament title quest starts Monday for UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Hungry to prove that they belong as one of the favorites to win the championship, the fourth-seeded UTSA Roadrunners will open in the American Athletic Conference’s women’s basketball tournament today against the No. 5 South Florida Bulls.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 77-61 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The return of forward Jordyn Jenkins late in the season gives the UTSA Roadrunners another quality player leading into their first AAC tournament. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Tipoff in the AAC quarterfinals is set for 2 p.m. at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. In terms of which team will hit the floor with more motivation to win, it might be a toss-up.

On one hand, South Florida is a program with quite a bit of pride and tradition and a veteran coach in Jose Fernandez who knows how to win.

On top of that, the Bulls (19-13) may believe they have a score to settle with the Roadrunners (16-13), who beat them 65-42 on Jan. 16 in San Antonio.

On the flip side, while UTSA hasn’t done much in women’s basketball since back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009, the Roadrunners also will come into their first AAC tournament with players who believe they haven’t quite received the respect they deserve.

Despite a 10-8 finish in the conference race, UTSA was shut out of individual honors when the all-conference teams were announced last week. Not one Roadrunners player made the first, second or third team.

Same thing with the all-newcomer team. UTSA didn’t have a representative listed. A few in the Roadrunners’ camp were so taken aback by the snub that they said very little in the way of a public response.

“I’m surprised,” Aston said. “That’s about all I know to to say.”

Clearly, players such as Elyssa Coleman, Kyra White, Sidney Love and freshmen Idara Udo and Aysia Proctor were key contributors on the first winning team at UTSA since 2015 and deserved some mention somewhere.

“I have a lot to say about that but I’m going to just keep it to myself,” Coleman said. “I think I’m going to internalize that. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do. Just internalize it and let that power us through the tournament.”

White brushed off the snub as not that important.

“Internally, it’s like, ‘Dang, I wish that teams out there would have seen what I’ve seen all year, looking at my (teammates) and playing with them,” she said. “But at the end of the day, those are the kind of things that aren’t really talked about a lot in our locker room.

“Our main goal is playing in March and holding up the American trophy. Those awards would have just been the cherry on top. So, we just want to go out there and win as a team and have fun together.”

Back in December, the Bulls were a bit shell-shocked when Sammie Puisis, a long-distance shooter and one of the standouts from the team’s 2022-23 title team, made it back into the lineup in December and then exited after one game with a knee injury.

When they arrived in San Antonio in January in the early stages of the conference race, they were still a bit uncertain who they were as a team. In addition, maybe they weren’t quite prepared mentally to face the physical play that they encountered from the home team at the UTSA Convocation Center.

In rebounding, the Roadrunners beat the Bulls on the boards, 55-33, including 20-12 on the offensive end. Moreover, UTSA held South Florida to 21.1 percent shooting, with Bulls stars Romi Levy and Vittoria Blasigh both held to 3 of 16 from the field.

UTSA blew the game open early, building a 21-point lead at halftime. In the third quarter, Blasigh hit a couple of threes late in the period, allowing the visitors to pull within 14 going into the fourth.

But after that, the Roadrunners kept applying the pressure, never allowing the visitors to come closer than 12. They outscored the Bulls 16-7, with White and Proctor each scoring five in the period.

Fernandez said Sunday night after his team’s victory over Wichita State that he likes his team’s position.

“We’re at 19 wins, with the adversity we’ve had,” the coach said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to have to play better. I think our team knows that. Our team understands that … Same thing I told our kids after non-conference, everything’s going to come down to Fort Worth. For everybody in our league. It’s going to be a one-bid league (to the NCAA tournament).

“So, everything we talked about then, is still in front of us.”


UTSA 16-13
South Florida 19-13

Coming up

Monday’s quarterfinals
(9) East Carolina vs. (1) Tulsa, noon
(5) South Florida vs. (4) UTSA, 2 p.m.
(10) Rice vs. (2) North Texas, 6 p.m.
(14) Tulane vs. (3) Temple, 8 p.m.

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