It was supposed to be a basketball game between the Roadrunners and the Lamar Cardinals’ at UTSA’s Convocation Center. Instead it turned into a heavyweight boxing match as each team countered the other’s punch.
Entering the game, Lamar sat at 9-12 overall and 3-4 in the Southland Conference. The Roadrunners entered the game at 11-9 overall and 4-3 in the conference. The Roadrunners were locked in a three way tie atop the West division standings with Texas State and UT Arlington, two teams the Roadrunners had beaten previously.
The Roadrunners found themselves in a close game early on but thanks to Melvin Johnson III’s career high 24, They were able to hold off the Cardinals. The Cardinals’ Donley Minor, who finished with 13, could also make shots and the game quickly became a back and forth battle.
Then, as they have before, the Roadrunners went on a run that saw the lead balloon to nine at the 10:24 mark.
The Roadrunners would then watch as a jumper by the Cardinal’s Coy Custer dropped the lead to seven before the Roadrunners built it back up to nine.
The Cardinals weren’t going away easily, as they used two Anthony Miles free throws and a Minor three point field goal to cut the Roadrunners lead to four, 26-22, with 6:20 left in the first half.
The Roadrunners then spent the next six minutes trying to build the lead and Lamar spent that time trying to cut the lead out.
In the end the Roadrunners withstood the Cardinals and staggered into the locker room up 30-27 at the intermission.
The second half began as the first had with a Johnson basket building the Roadrunners lead to five.
“Some of his shots you wonder,” head coach Brooks Thompson said when asked about Johnson’s shot technique. “But he is a shot maker.”
The Cardinals would cut it to one following back to buckets from Stan Brown. The Roadrunners found a response in Stephen Franklin who hit a three that built the lead back up to four.
Johnson put in a jump shot that built the lead back to six for the Roadrunners at 37-31. The Cardinals then went on a small run and eventually tied the game at 38.
What transpired next was a back and forth romp as both teams punched and counterpunched their way through the next 10 minutes.
In that ten-minute span, the biggest lead for any team would be six, held by the Roadrunners after Johnson got a high tip-in to put the Roadrunners up 46-40.
The Cardinals then proceeded to slow the Roadrunners enough to tie the game at 49. A Franklin jumper and the Roadrunners were back in the lead. In the next few minutes Lamar would charge back to retake the lead and build it to three before Devin Gibson converted on a conventional three-point play to tie the game at 58 with 4:37 remaining.
The Roadrunners would recapture the lead following two Johnson free throws and stab the dagger in the heart of the Cardinals with a Sei Paye three point field goal that put the Roadrunners up 63-58.
“He made a big one,” Thompson said. “That three in the corner was the dagger that we needed.”
From there the Roadrunners would ride the free throw line to the 70-64 victory.
The game developed, like so many of the Roadrunners’ previous conference games, with the Roadrunners building a lead and then holding off an opponent’s charge.
“We don’t plan on doing it,” Paye said on the way the games are going. “We’ve got to get better at that.”
Leading the charge for the Roadrunners was Johnson with 24 points, Devin Gibson with 16 points and Paye with 11 points. Jeromie Hill had an off night shooting with only seven points but more importantly he came down with 11 rebounds to pace the Roadrunners on the boards.
With the win, the Roadrunners moved into a tie with Texas State for first in the Western division. Based on tie-breakers, the Roadrunners are leading the SLC west division.