The UTSA women’s basketball team (2-18, C-USA 0-14) took to the court for the first time in almost a month on Tuesday, March 9, in the preliminary round of the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Women’s Championship against the UAB Blazers (10-13, C-USA 3-11). As has been typical throughout the year and befitting of a team that had not seen game action in nearly a month, a poor start in the first quarter put UTSA in an unrecoverable hole, ending their season with a 66-80 loss.
UTSA started the game off extremely slow, and UAB capitalized on this, jumping out to a 15 point lead by late in the first quarter off the back of a 19-4 run. UTSA finally began to wake up in the last two minutes of the quarter. However, they finished the period staring up at an 18 point deficit. Overall, UTSA shot just 17.65% from the field in the first quarter and were 0-5 from three point range. The second quarter was a much more even affair, with UTSA using a 10-3 run midway through the quarter to drawback within 13 points following a Charlene Mass jumper. UTSA was not able to draw any closer as the teams traded baskets down the stretch and the Blazers took a 15 point lead at 27-42 into halftime.
The ‘Runners came out to start the second half and appeared to have the upper hand early, with a Karrington Donald jumper cutting the lead down to 11 at 36-47. From there, however, UAB reasserted their control of the game, and the lead swelled back up to 22 at 42-64 late in the quarter. A 9-2 run by the ‘Runners at the close at the third quarter cut the deficit back down to 15 and gave the ‘Runners hope of a comeback heading into the fourth quarter. What followed in the final period, however, was not conducive to a comeback as the two teams traded baskets throughout and the UTSA defense failed to get the stops needed to reduce the deficit. A Ceyenne Mass free throw cut the lead down to 12 with a little over two minutes left in the game, but that was as close as the ‘Runners got, and they bowed out of the conference tournament in the preliminary round with a 66-80 loss.
In the final game of her first season at UTSA, junior forward Yuliyana Valcheva played perhaps her best game as a ‘Runner, leading the team with 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Donald and Ch. Mass contributed 20 and 10 points respectively, but that is where the scoring ended for the ‘Runners as they were the only players to finish the game in double figures. The team really felt the absence of Mikayla Woods, a member of last season’s C-USA’s all-freshmen and the team’s leading scorer for players that appeared in more than 10 games, who entered the NCAA’s transfer portal prior to the beginning of the conference tournament and is no longer with the program. UTSA recovered from their poor shooting start to shoot a pedestrian 36.5% from the field, right around their season average of 36.3%.
The loss brings an end to a rough season for UTSA, and with Woods on the way out of the program, the transfer of UTSA leading scorer Adryana Quezada to Utah State and Karrington Donald graduating, UTSA faces uncertainty heading into the offseason. UTSA will have to replace their top three scorers from last season with these departures on a team that didn’t score very much, to begin with. The ‘Runners ended the season on a 16 game losing streak and appear to sit firmly in the basement of C-USA. With a young team, however, there is still possibility for improvement, but the climb ahead of UTSA is steep.