Aston, Jenkins break records in UTSA’s final six games of the season

Haley Aguayo, Contributor

After the Roadrunners started 2-8 in their first 10 conference games, the UTSA women’s basketball team closed its season in the semifinal round of the Conference USA tournament, closing a 6-game winning streak, including two post-season victories.

The final games included some record-setting occurrences. Coach Karen Aston made her 300th career win as a head coach over North Texas on Feb. 20. Forward Jordyn Jenkins also broke the single-season scoring record with 33 points in the win against FIU on Feb. 28. 

The 6-foot junior has made high-scoring games more of the norm in UTSA’s home stretch of the season. Jenkins scored 40 points in the Roadrunners’ victory over North Texas in the same game Aston claimed her 300th victory.

“That was pretty cool,” Jenkins said. “The game before that we played UAB, we just didn’t play up to our potential. We knew that would have been her 300th win, so playing North Texas, coming in and winning was great for her and the 40 plus points was the cherry on top.”

There was a point in UTSA’s season when playing three games was not expected, let alone a single victory. 

The players, of course, were aware of where they stood in the league standings, though they knew what they could be capable of.

“We’ve definitely been in the bottom two or three, I think, for a lot of the season,” Jenkins said. “Just climbing up, it was cool to see. It was cool to hear coach tell us all the different placements that we’re in and hear about defensive rebounding and offensive rebounding.”

After years of experience as head coach, Aston knew that it would take time for a team to find its rhythm. 

Jenkins shared a piece of advice her coach offered the team at the start of the season. 

“Coach would say to us at the beginning of the year, ‘Good teams peak at the right times.’ This whole season, we would be thinking, ‘When are we going to peak?’ You know, I think we finally did. We’ve beaten some pretty good teams in our conference and I think we’re confident and our confidence rose with every win.”

The team headed into the C-USA tournament with high hopes and expectations for themselves. 

The ‘Runners played three games in the C-USA tournament. They beat No. 11 seed FAU, then doubled their efforts by upsetting No. 3 Rice the following day. UTSA lost by 15 points to No. 2 Western Kentucky in what would be the final game of Aston and her team’s season. 

Despite not achieving another four wins, Aston still had very high hopes for the team’s future.

“I really do believe that word of mouth is getting out, and people are starting to believe in our program and believe in the vision of what we have,” Aston said. “As for how well we’re playing, this isn’t a fluke.”

Aston also credits her star player for believing in the program and hopes she will be a blueprint for future commits.

“When you have a player like [Jenkins], in particular, that chose to come here and take a chance on us and our vision, you see so much growth in her really as a person,” Aston said. “Not so much as a basketball player, but just how she’s grown leadership-wise.”

As much respect Aston has for metaphorically dubbed “scoring queen” Jenkins, she pointed out that how the women played as a team this season made them worthwhile. 

Jenkins seemed to agree with her coach on the notion that a united team works better together. 

“It’s cohesiveness, and it’s team growth,” Aston said. “It’s a player’s game; I think players just started to take ownership of the leadership on the team.”

According to Aston, the team added eight new players at the start of the season and it took time for the girls to get to know each other personally, which is a big reason many teams take time to get past a learning curve. 

Jenkins started to see a shift earlier this semester with team unity.

“We’ve built our chemistry a lot, especially around January when we had a really good game against Rice,” Jenkins said. “Even though we lost, there was a spark of potential to be great. I think that just with time and hanging out with each other, spending long practices together, you just build chemistry and friendships.”

Despite spending a majority of their season in the lower bottom half of the conference, Jenkins believed that the team has always had the potential to play the way they finished their season. They just needed time to build team rapport. 

“I think it really started our first week of practice, and literally, I kid you not, every week we’ve gotten better,” Jenkins said. “It wasn’t necessarily these past three or four weeks; it’s really been the whole year.”

The season may be over for the ‘Runners, but there is no question that preparation has begun for the next season. The women’s basketball coaches and recruiting coordinator have already recruited four women to join the team in the fall.

“They are pieces of a puzzle,” Aston said. “It’s no question that the two guards we have coming in can score the ball and will add a depth of scoring perspective from the perimeter. Nissa Sam-Grant, who sat out all year long, is going to help us out tremendously as well. I’m looking forward to the future, but I’m excited about where we are at the moment.”

Jenkins will return to the court in the fall as a senior starter and is confident their next season will be their best yet.

“We know what we’re capable of, and it’s been a long season, but we now know what it takes,” Jenkins said. “We’ve always known, but now we know what to do.”