Jackson-led Roadrunners rally late, down the UAB Blazers, 66-59

Jhivvan Jackson scored 28 points to lead UTSA past UAB on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center in a Conference USA bonus play game. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jhivvan Jackson scored 28 points to lead UTSA past UAB on Sunday at the Convocation Center in Conference USA basketball. – photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by nine points with 4:53 remaining Sunday afternoon, the UTSA Roadrunners didn’t seem to have the spark necessary to win on the first day of March.

But, you know what they say about March and college basketball.

Jhivvan Jackson exploded for 14 points in a maddening 16-0 run as the Roadrunners rallied for a dramatic 66-59 victory over the UAB Blazers.

Sophomore forward Adrian Rodriguez made his first career start as UTSA beat UAB 66-59 in Conference USA bonus play on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore forward Adrian Rodriguez produced five points and seven rebounds in his first career start. – photo by Joe Alexander

“I think once we started getting stops in the second half, that gave us that little intensity to get back on offense,” Jackson said. “We started making easy shots. I made a couple of shots.

“I got a couple of looks, and they went in. Coach gave me the trust just to go to work. I was kind of hot, and the shots went in.”

For most of the day, Jackson wasn’t his usual self, missing 15 of his first 20 shot attempts and picking up a technical foul mid-way through the second half.

But in a riveting span of 2 minutes and 24 seconds at the end of the game, he hit four three-pointers, sank two free throws, assisted on a basket and made a steal.

Near the end of the explosion, the nation’s second-leading scorer hit threes on consecutive possessions that had the home crowd at the Convocation Center roaring in approval.

On the first one, he drifted into the corner, jab-stepped inside the arc and then stepped back outside the line before drilling the shot.

With the crowd still energized, he did it again with 2:07 left, swishing a 25-footer over 6-foot-10 Makhtar Gueye for a 62-55 lead.

UTSA forward Adrian Rodriguez credited Jackson for shooting the ball well under pressure.

“It happens all the time,” said Rodriguez, who started the first game of his career at power forward. “It’s insane. That kid has a lot of talent. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Records

UTSA — 13-16, 7-9
UAB — 17-13, 8-9

What it means

For UTSA, the victory provided a boost to morale after a rough stretch in which the team had lost two straight and five out of seven.

With Jackson shooting poorly for most of the afternoon and some calls from the officiating crew not going their way, the chances for victory going into the last five minutes were not promising.

In that regard, it was an impressive showing to come back and win, and much needed, especially with the final two games of the regular season and the Conference USA tournament looming.

“Players are tired at this point in the season,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Officials are tired. Yeah, you got to stay together. You got to stay focused.

“This was an important win for us, just to get us re-charged. It would have been tough to bounce back (ordinarily) but I’ve been very impressed with our guys’ resiliency.

“I’ve mentioned that, almost every time we come off a loss, our guys have done great with that … We needed this one, for sure.”

Coming up

UTSA at Old Dominion, Wednesday at 6 p.m. Marshall at UTSA, Saturday at 3 p.m. (End of regular season.) UTSA at the Conference USA tournament, March 11-14, at Frisco.

By the numbers

UTSA — Jackson had 28 points on 10 of 26 shooting, including 5 of 6 in the last five minutes. Keaton Wallace added 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Byron Frohnen had three points, four assists and seven rebounds. Rodriguez had five points and seven rebounds.

UAB — Tyreek Scott-Grayson 18 points, eight rebounds. Tavin Lovan, 13 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Will Butler, four points on two of four from the floor. Lovan had 19 points and Butler 18 in a 76-68 victory at UTSA on Jan. 30.

First half recap

Struggling early in the game, Roadrunners tightened up on defense and emerged with a 23-23 tie.

UAB dominated in the opening minutes with a couple of dunks in forging a 9-3 lead. From there, UTSA started playing well, forcing the Blazers into awkward possessions and churning out a 14-0 run.

When Jackson hit a driving layup, the Roadrunners held a 17-9 edge.

Just as fast as the momentum shifted for UTSA, however, the visitors turned it around for themselves.

The Blazers kept Jackson bottled up during a 14-4 spree to produce a 23-21 lead going into the final minute.

Jacob Germany dunked on an alley-oop play for UTSA’s final bucket.

Notable

UTSA shuffled its starting lineup, with Rodriguez getting the start alongside Germany on the front line.

Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson started in the backcourt, along with Frohnen at small forward. Guard Erik Czumbel, a starter at point guard for most of the season, came off the bench and played 25 minutes.

Defensively, UTSA played well, holding UAB to an NCAA Division I opponent-low for scoring this season.

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