‘Runners unable to overcome first half deficit in road loss to Minnesota


Charlene mass drives to the hoop during the ‘Runners’ game against UIW last week. Mass has started all five games for UTSA this season. Julia Maenius/ThePaisano

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

The UTSA Roadrunners (1-4) were on the road this past Sunday to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-3) in the first ever matchup between the two programs. Despite getting off to a good early start, the ‘Runners were unable to hold on to that momentum and dug themselves into a big hole by the end of the first half. Although things were much closer in the second half, the deficit was simply too much for UTSA to overcome. 

UTSA got things off to a good start in the first quarter, beginning the game with a 7-0 run and leading by that same margin midway through the first quarter. From there Minnesota began to claw their way back into the game with the Golden Gophers’ Gadiva Hubbard hitting a three-pointer with a little over three minutes left in the quarter to give Minnesota their first lead of the game, a lead they would not relinquish again. The Golden Gophers used a 13-2 run to close out the quarter and take an 11-20 lead into the second quarter. UTSA struggled from the field in the quarter shooting just 15%.

Not content to let off the gas whatsoever, Minnesota continued to pour it on, gradually extending the lead as the ‘Runners struggled to generate anything offensively. Minnesota stretched the lead out to as much as 25 in the quarter. UTSA’s Yuliyana Valcheva scored UTSA’s last three points of the quarter to help UTSA bring the deficit back down to 23 before halftime. UTSA improved marginally on their field goal percentage in the second quarter, shooting 25%, but failed to get to the free throw line like they did in the first quarter which contributed to the increased deficit on the scoreboard. 

The third quarter was a fairly even affair with UTSA not letting Minnesota extend the lead early in the quarter. A layup in the paint by UTSA’s Queen Ulabo cut the deficit down to 20 with a little over half of the third quarter remaining, but the ‘Runners could not cut it any further. Slowly but surely Minnesota rebuilt the lead and a pair of free throws at the end of the quarter sent them to the fourth up 35-61. The ‘Runners did manage to find their stroke in the third quarter, connecting on 45.45% of their shots, but they did not make the necessary stops to get back into the game. 

In the fourth, Minnesota came out firing, connecting on their first three shots in the quarter and a couple of free throws to push the lead out to 33. UTSA did not let the game get out of hand and went on a 13-3 run to cut the lead back down to 23. Minnesota answered that run with one of their own, going on an 8-0 run to restore their dominant advantage. One final layup by LaPraisjah Johnson in the dying seconds of the game brought it to its final score of 52-81. 

The ‘Runners could not find the bottom of the net from the field on Sunday, shooting just 28.8% from the field. Another major factor that hurt them was their lack of impact from beyond the arc. The team attempted just three three-pointers during the game and failed to connect on all of them. Comparatively, Minnesota shot 34.6% from three-point range on 26 attempts. While it is clear that the three-point shot is not a part of this UTSA team’s DNA, the near complete lack of any three-point shooting hurt the team on Sunday and is likely to continue hurting them against teams that do utilize the three-point game. 

Johnson led all ‘Runners in scoring with 15 points and nine rebounds as she continues to establish herself as the go-to option on this UTSA squad. Elyssa Coleman and Jadyn Pimentel each chipped in eight points in the loss for UTSA. Another troubling sign early in the season for UTSA has been their lack of scoring off the bench. The ‘Runners scored just 11 points while utilizing their bench players and this is only slightly below their season average of 12.8 points off the bench. As UTSA continues to progress through their non-conference schedule, look for head coach Karen Aston to fix this issue. 

UTSA will stay on the road next week as they travel to Tempe, AZ, to take part in the ASU Classic. The ‘Runners will tip-off the weekend on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. when they take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-4).