Igor Nujic

The Roadrunner men’s basketball team got the chance to play against two Southland foes whom the Roadrunners will no longer face after their move to the Western Athletic Conference in July. In their two games in the past week, the Runners were separated by eight points both in victory and defeat.

UTSA, 59; SE Louisiana, 51

It had been a while since the Runners last experienced a conference victory on the basketball court. 10 days had passed since the Roadrunners had won a conference game, with a victory over Sam Houston on Jan. 28. During that time the Roadrunners dropped road games at UT Arlington and Lamar and fell to sixth in the conference.

Enter the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, who came into the Convocation Center Wednesday, Feb. 8 near the bottom half of the conference. The Lions and Runners fought a tough game before the Runners pulled out a 59-51 victory that allowed them to remain within striking distance of the league leaders while also entrenching themselves in the hunt for one of the eight spots in next month’s Southland Tournament.

The game saw an ebb-and-flow between both teams before the Runners were able to get the upperhand late in the game.

“We were lucky to get a win tonight,” Head Coach Brooks Thompson told reporters after the game.

The Runners’ Jeromie Hill scored 16 points to help in the defeat of the Lions, who fell to 2-8 in conference play. The Runners improved to 7-3 in conference.

SFA, 59; UTSA, 51

On Saturday, Feb. 11 the Runners hosted the Stephen F. Austin (SFA) Lumberjacks in the Convocation Center. The Lumberjacks and the Runners came into the game tied for second place in the Southland Conference West Division, with the same 7-3 record behind the division leading UT-Arlington Mavericks.

The Lumberjacks defeated the Runners with their incredible shooting for a final score of 59-51. The loss also snapped the Roadrunners four-game home winning streak and dropped UTSA to 7-4 in conference play and 15-10 for the season.

The Lumberjacks stormed out of the gates, jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first eight minutes of the first half and shot 83 percent from the field. Turnovers plagued the Roadrunners throughout the first half. The Lumberjacks scored 15 points off 14 Roadrunner first half turnovers. Junior guard Kannon Burrage was the only strong sign of offense for UTSA as he scored nine points in the first half.

Forward Jeromie Hill and junior guard Melvin Johnson III are usually the offensive leaders for the Runners, but they struggled in the first half. Hill scored only four points in the first half and committed four turnovers. The high scoring Johnson was held scoreless in the first half. He went 0-7 from the field in a very uncharacteristic performance.

Junior guard Antonio Bostic carried SFA with his 13 points and three assists to a commanding 34-19 lead at the half.

“Spotting them 15 points is like spotting another team 25. You have to credit Stephen F. Austin for doing that, but our guys haven’t been ready to play early,” head basketball coach Brooks Thompson said.

The Lumberjacks shot 48.1 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from the three-point line.

The Runners came out with a new sense of determination in the second half.

Senior center Alex Vouyoukas had a big defensive block and converted with a lay-up of his own at the other end. Hill converted a contested lay-up as well, a welcomed sign of life from the Runners’ forward. Junior guard Michael Hale III hit a three-pointer from almost three feet behind the arc, capping off a 7-0 run for the Runners. UTSA seemed to find their second wind in the later half. The Runners kept on fighting, slowly cutting down the SFA lead from 15 down to four.

Burrage kept up his aggressive offense mindset and he was soon joined by Jeromie Hill to try and bring the Runners back.

Senior forward Stephen Franklin had a very strong second half, scoring 10 points after going scoreless in the first half. Franklin also hustled defense with three steals.

The Lumberjacks never cooled down with their shooting touch, and that kept the Runners from completing a comeback at the Convocation Center. SFA’s shooting percentage did drop to 36.4 percent in the second half, but the turnovers continued to plague UTSA in the second half. The Lumberjacks also led the game in rebounding, stifling the second chance points for the Roadrunners. SFA commanded the paint and out-rebounded UTSA 32 to 25.

The dismal first half performance couldn’t be reversed by the Runners, and ultimately the Lumberjacks willed their way to a victory.

“We need to change our whole mentality as a team. I think it starts with each player individually. They have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they really want it. We just have to come out and play harder, and that’s the bottom line,” Burrage said.

The Roadrunners have lost three out of their last four games. It is a tough slump for this team to go through so late in the basketball season. The coaches and players still have confidence in each other to reverse their recent bad fortune and go back to their full potential.

“I didn’t see it coming, but we are the same basketball team we were two weeks ago,” Thompson said. “You can never question the character of our group. We just got to figure out why we aren’t playing real well right now and get back to going. We have character and our guys want to win, we just have to figure out ways to win.”

The Roadrunners begin a three-game road trip starting at Lake Charles, Louisiana to face off against the Southland East Division leader McNeese State Cowboys. The Cowboys are playing well and are currently on a five game winning streak, and they play even tougher on their home court. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Burton Coliseum and will be aired as the Toyota game of the week on Southland TV Network (KCWX in San Antonio / ESPN3).

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