Byron Frohen drives to the rim.

Byron Frohen drives to the rim. Ellyson Ortega/The Paisano

The UTSA men’s basketball (15-12, 9-5) team will begin Conference USA (C-USA) Bonus Play following their 14 games in conference play. UTSA opened the C-USA with four back-to-back wins, tying the best start in C-USA program history. The ‘Runners earned consecutive wins over UTEP, Rice with a 16-point win and North Texas.

As the 18-game pre and post seasons are finalized, 12 C-USA teams are placed into one of three respective groups, two groups of five and one group of four, based on their season standings and records. Of these four games played, two will be home and two will be on the road. The 2019 Air Force Reserve C-USA Basketball Championships will be played on March 13-16, at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.

Looking back on the season, the ‘Runners faced Old Dominion and won in a close game 74-73. Currently, UTSA is leading ODU 4-3 in C-USA, with the teams winning every other year since 2012. This will be one of the most exciting rematches in program history. The ‘Runners had come back from 18 points down with merely four minutes left, handing ODU a loss on Jan. 26. This game marked the second largest comeback in NCAA history and placed the ‘Runners in the competition for first place in C-USA. ODU reigns the seventh-best defense in college basketball and the best in C-USA. Back in 2017, UTSA won 73-55 but last year the ‘Runners fell short by 38 points to ODU.

Earlier in January, the ‘Runners fell short by 10 to UAB, 83-73. Wallace notched 33 points in that game and Jackson had 22 points. Despite the loss, UTSA came out ahead this game with a 36.6 field goal percentage and 75 percent accuracy on free throws.

The ‘Runners were outlasted by WKU 96-88 on Jan. 31. Jackson set an arena record of 46 points and a second-highest point total by one player for C-USA. He shot 16-of-31 from the floor and a career-best of eight 3-pointers on 14 attempts. This game reached overtime where WKU outscored the ‘Runners 18-10, giving them another win. UTSA remained behind in the first half but prevailed to tie due to a three by Giovanni De Nicolao.

On Feb. 14, the ‘Runners traveled to face Southern Mississippi University and fell short 78-71. Wallace and Jackson combined for 52 points. Wallace scored his 14th 20-point game in his sophomore career. The Golden Eagles began with a rocky start missing 18 of their first 23 shots. UTSA gained a quick 13-point lead but found themselves trailing by 17 points before the first half ended. The ‘Runners maintained an 81.8 free throw percentage, roughly eight percent higher than Southern Miss.

In the NCAA, Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson are the third-highest scoring duo this season with 44 points per game. A win in Bonus Play would improve the ‘Runners record to 16-12 and 10-5 in C-USA play.

 

Junior point guard De Nicolao has been named first-team Academic All-District for his 3.76 cumulative GPA as a dual major in exercise science and kinesiology. With this, the Italian native De Nicolao is eligible for Academic All-America honors. He has made 96 starts and is one of five in program history with a minimum of 700 points, 300 rebounds, 300 assists and 140 steals. De Nicolao needs nine more steals in order to equate to David President (2001-2005) for ninth in UTSA history. De Nicolao is a strong asset to the Roadrunners along with Jackson and Wallace.

Running into the new week, the Roadrunners will open up Bonus Play by hosting Old Dominion on Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. UTSA will remain at home to host the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on March 3, at 3 p.m. The ‘Runners will travel to Bowling Green to face Western Kentucky on March 6, at 4:30 p.m., and finally, the Roadrunners will conclude Bonus Play with Southern Miss on March 9, at 5 p.m.

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