By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Women’s basketball practice at UTSA on Wednesday was not unlike many other sessions from the summer or from early in the fall, when the prospect of playing in actual games seemed not like months away, but years. Conditioning drills on warm and muggy mornings outside. Weight-room sessions. On-court scrimmaging.
When would it all end? Are we there yet? Take, for instance, one sequence in the Roadrunners’ last on-court workout in advance of tonight’s home game against the Houston Cougars. Coach Karen Aston had the players running up and down at top speed. Non stop. Back and forth. A few of the male practice players became particularly assertive.
If one of Aston’s posts tried to make a move to shoot a 6-footer in the paint, one of the biggest and tallest of the male players would swat it away. One or two of the men looked like they were new to the practices. Perhaps they were. Maybe the UTSA women had worn out some of the previous crew, so the newbies seemed fresh on this day.
It probably won’t last, if the UTSA women continue their tried-and-true, blue-collar workouts through the end of this month and into January, February and March. Ah, March. The month will arrive soon enough. Tonight, with Houston (7-1) coming into the Convocation Center with a team that looks and plays a lot like an NCAA tournament team, UTSA (5-3) will need to be ready.
UTSA’s Kyleigh McGuire said on the eve of the game with the Cougars of the Big 12 Conference that UTSA players have been looking forward to this moment for the past week. The Roadrunners haven’t played since Dec. 3. They’ve had a break to complete fall-semester academics. Now that they’ve taken care of that business, it’s on to the fun stuff.
The games. The prospect of a gymnasium full of supportive fans. The opportunity for UTSA to win a game against a Power 5 opponent for the first time since the players were in grade school. It’s here. McGuire and the others can’t wait for the opening tip at 6 tonight.
“We’ve been preparing for them for them for the (past) week, and we’re really excited,” she said.
McGuire forecasts a competitive contest because both teams rebound so well. “It’s going to be a battle on the boards,” she added.
It’ll also be a battle for the history books. The Roadrunners’ women haven’t won a game against a Power 5 opponent since they beat the Big 12’s Kansas State Wildcats in 2010. UTSA has lost 21 in a row to P5s since then. Regardless, the opportunity to make a statement in that way is not the only driving force for the them.
Last year, they had a chance to beat the Cougars in Houston, and after a determined effort to dig themselves out of a 21-point deficit, they let it slip away. In the end, they fell 93-89 in overtime.
“I remember that they were really tough,” McGuire said. “They’re a pretty scrappy team … One thing about them is toughness. They’re going to give you all that they have for 40 minutes. I feel like they’re a really good matchup for us.”
Houston at UTSA, tonight at 6.