Roadrunners play games in the Land Down Under

Jeromie Hil

During its excursion to the Land Down Under, UTSA played five games against the Gold Coast Blaze (L, 90-68/Saturday. Aug. 13), Brisbane Spartans (W, 93-52/Sunday, Aug. 14), Cairns Taipans (L, 84-58/Wednesday, Aug. 17), Maitland Mustangs (W, 94-75/Friday, Aug. 19) and Hornsby Spiders (W, 94-52/Saturday, Aug. 20), finishing the trip with a 3-2 record.

The journey began what seemed like days ago when the group boarded a bus in front of the Convocation Center at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, for a short bus ride to San Antonio International Airport. The team took a one-hour flight from SAT to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where a three-hour layover awaited.

The traveling party of 22 arrived via Qantas Flight 8 at Brisbane International Airport 10 minutes before 5 a.m. Eastern Australian Time on Friday, Aug. 12.

When UTSA received an offer earlier this year to take this exhibition tour of Australia, there was little doubt the trip would have a profound impact on the program.

For starters, the Roadrunners were allowed 10 practices in late July and early August to help prepare for the five games they would play Down Under. This extra time helped the team, which is coming off a Southland Conference Championship and first-round NCAA Tournament win, gel with two of three newcomers — junior Kannon Burrage and freshman A.J. Price — on board. This and the five scheduled games Down Under no doubt will benefit the squad when it officially opens practice on Oct. 14.

Saturday’s (Aug 13) game was against the Gold Coast Blaze of the National Basketball League (NBL), Australia’s top professional level.

The Roadrunners got off to a slow start and found themselves down, 22-9, after the first quarter. A little bit of the rust of having not played since March showed, as UTSA struggled from the floor. Helped by a spark off the bench in the form of Burrage, the Birds scored the first 10 points of the second period to pull back to within three. Junior Melvin Johnson III connected from downtown at the 5:20 mark to give UTSA its first lead, 25-24. The teams traded points over the remainder of the first half and the Blaze took a 33-29 lead into the locker room.

The Blaze stretched their lead back to double digits at 45-35 through the first three minutes of the third quarter. The lead grew to 19 late in the period and the scoreboard showed, 61-43, in favor of Gold Coast after 30 minutes in the books. UTSA would get no closer in a 90-68 decision.

The Roadrunners looked much fresher against the Brisbane Spartans of the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL), the nation’s second-tier conference. Thompson put a new starting five on the floor — seniors Sei Paye and Alex Vouyoukas, junior Kalif Bakare and sophomores Jordan Sims and Tyler Wood — and the result was a much better start.

Two early 3-pointers by Sims and Paye helped stake UTSA to an early lead and more sharpshooting from Johnson and sophomore Jeromie Hill put UTSA up, 26-14, after the first 10 minutes.