Men’s basketball sees conference tournament run end in second round

Keaton+Wallace+draws+contact+rising+to+the+rim+during+a+game+against+Florida+Atlantic+earlier+this+season.+Wallace+put+up+30+points%2C+three+assists+and+six+rebounds+in+the+team%27s+quarterfinal+loss+to+Western+Kentucky.

Julia Maenius

Keaton Wallace draws contact rising to the rim during a game against Florida Atlantic earlier this season. Wallace put up 30 points, three assists and six rebounds in the team’s quarterfinal loss to Western Kentucky.

Eddie Sanchez, Staff Writer

The Roadrunners (15-11, C-USA 9-7) started the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco on Wednesday by defeating the Charlotte 49ers (9-16, C-USA 5-11) 72-62, taking care of business to move on to the next opponent. The ‘Runners ran into a tough challenge, for which they were ill prepared. The ‘Runners’ season concluded after falling short to the No. 1 seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (20-7, C-USA 11-3) 80-67. 

Wednesday night showed some promising potential for the ‘Runners going forward in the tournament. As expected, they took down the 49ers with some ease. After a gritty start to the game, UTSA managed to extend the lead to 15 going into the half. Although the score tightened over the course of the second half, UTSA pulled away down the stretch and ended the night with a 10-point victory 72-62.

Much of the team’s success came from the senior all-star duo Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. The two combined for 38 points, which was more than half of the team’s 72 total. Jackson was 7-19 from the field with 18 points and nine rebounds, but endured a rough three point performance on the night, as he only knocked down two of his nine shots behind the arc. Jackson did struggle in the second half though, going scoreless. Wallace led the night in points with 20, shooting 9-19 from the field along with six rebounds and with a rough 3-point night as well, shooting 2-7 from long distance. Another huge part of the victory was an impressive night from sophomore Jacob Germany. Germany was aggressive all game long, attacking the rim. Having a sound shooting night, Germany recorded a nice double-double, shooting 7-13 from the field, scoring 16 points along with 10 rebounds and three assists. Crucially, he picked up the offensive slack to keep UTSA afloat early in the second half when Jackson and Wallace were trying to find their shots. All of this would be more than enough to bounce the 49ers out of the tournament. 

Unfortunately, the ‘Runners stay in the tournament ended early as the Hilltoppers were too much for them. To start off, no player other than Wallace scored in double-figures. If this is the last we see of Wallace, he left it all out on the court in his final game. The senior scored 30 points on 12-24 shooting. Along with his high-scoring night, Wallace had six rebounds with three assists. Unexpectedly, his senior teammate struggled and had a quiet night. No one saw this coming, but in the biggest game of his career, Jackson had a poor night and could not find a groove, being smothered by the Hilltoppers’ defense all night. With five total points on 2-12 from the field and 1-7 from 3, Jackson never found a rhythm on offense. 

Although the supporting cast put up a valiant effort in their last game of the season, it would not be enough. The Hilltoppers controlled most of the game, leading by more than 20 points at moments and 10 points the entire second half. 

With the challenges presented by Covid-19, this was a season to applaud. Some historic moments from Wallace and Jackson along with a hot finish leading to the tournament is hard to turn away from. Jackson and Wallace have been the team’s identity for a long time, and while there is no confirmation yet, they seem to be leaning towards not returning and taking advantage of their extra year of eligibility. Head coach Steve Henson had some words for the two in a postgame interview stating, “I’m proud of them and love them.” 

With Jackson and Wallace departing, there will certainly be some big shoes to fill next season. However, coach Henson is determined they have the individuals who will thrive in the opportunity. Look for Germany, Jordan Ivy-Curry, Cedrick Alley Jr. and Eric Parrish to take on a new role next season, one that will demand higher production after two of UTSAs greatest hang it up.