Men’s basketball lose sixth straight, remain winless in conference play


Dalton Hartmann

Darius McNeill puts up a layup during UTSA’s game against UTEP on Sunday afternoon. McNeill had his two best games of the season this past week, recording 19 and 20 point performances.

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

The UTSA Roadrunners (7-13, C-USA 0-7) played a home and home series last week against the UTEP Miners (11-8, C-USA 4-1) on Thursday, Jan. 20 and Sunday, Jan. 23. Despite only six scholarship players and eight total suiting up for the ‘Runners on Thursday night, the team put up a valiant effort before eventually falling to the Miners on the road in El Paso by a final score of 64-69. In the rematch back in San Antonio, the team continued to battle through personnel issues, but dropped another close one, 54-59. 

The series tipped off on Thursday night, and UTSA was already playing from behind. Due to a combination of COVID-19 health and safety protocols and injuries, only eight players suited up for the ‘Runners. Faced with long odds of picking up a win on the road, the ‘Runners came out insanely hot from the field, making their first six shots and getting out to an early 12-3 lead. UTEP slowly began to reel the ‘Runners back in and just past the halfway point in the half: electric UTEP guard Souley Boum connected on a jumper to cut the lead to just 21-20. The team traded baskets down the stretch in the first half, but UTSA found an extra gear and went on an 11-0 run to take a 13-point lead that was only stopped with a UTEP bucket right before the half expired. The ‘Runners shot a scorching 62.96% from the field in the first half and took a 38-27 into halftime. 

Unfortunately for the ‘Runners, their thin rotation caught up with them in the second half. The ‘Runners came out ice cold from the field, and a quick 9-1 UTEP run cut the lead down to just four early in the second half. The ‘Runners continued to fight, keeping their heads just above the water, but as they struggled from the field, the lead continued to shrink until just before the halfway point of the second half. Ultimately, UTEP took their first lead of the game at 48-49. UTSA fought back and a Jacob Germany jumper in the paint gave UTSA the lead right back at 52-51. UTSA then grew cold again as UTEP rode a 10-0 run to take a commanding nine-point lead. With time quickly winding down in the game, the ‘Runners slowly began to reel the Miners back in. Darius McNeill, enjoying the best game of his UTSA career thus far, nailed a jumper to cut the lead down to three, and then a Germany free throw drew UTSA back within two, with just a minute and a half left to play. UTEP executed down the stretch though, and just held on for a 64-69 victory. After such an impressive display of shooting in the first half, the ‘Runners couldn’t carry that momentum into the second and shot just 28.13% from the field, letting a golden opportunity at stunning the Miners on the road slip through their fingers. Germany and McNeill carried the load offensively for the ‘Runners, with Germany recording a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while McNeill put up 19 points, a season-high. 

The ‘Runners then returned to San Antonio for the rematch on Sunday afternoon and a slow start saw them fall behind early. After trading baskets to start the game, a 13-0 Miners run saw them seize command of the game. UTSA battled back to reduce the gap, but UTEP still ended the first half up 20-30. In the second half, UTSA refused to go away. UTEP extended their lead out to 15 – their largest of the game – a quarter of the way through the half, but UTSA battled back. An 11-0 UTSA run trimmed the lead down to two just over midway through the half, 40-42. UTEP averted disaster and managed to find their footing once again, pushing their lead back to 11 with just under four minutes left in the game. UTSA refused to die though, and seven straight points from McNeill brought UTSA back within four with less than a minute left. Solid free throw shooting from UTEP ensured the lead remained intact and UTEP picked up the win 54-59. McNeill continued his uptick in performance as of late with a new season-high of 20 points. 

UTSA will return to action this week at home against the FIU Panthers (12-7, C-USA 2-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. and the Florida Atlantic Owls (11-8, C-USA 4-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will be available to stream on ESPN+.