On Dec. 21, the Roadrunners gave UTSA fans an early Christmas present, a 30 point victory over Texas A & M Corpus Christi (75 – 45). The victory snapped a five game losing streak for the ‘Runners. On Dec. 29, the Roadrunners enter WAC play against Utah State for the first and only time in school history.
Utah State currently ranks number one in the WAC with a 9 – 1 non-conference record. As the Roadrunners were trying to snap a five-game losing streak, the Aggies reeled off eight straight victories.
The Aggies have a well balanced front and back court. Junior guard Preston Medlin–preseason WAC Player of the Year–leads the team in scoring and assists (13. 6 ppg/3.6 apg). Reigning WAC Player of the Week, senior forward Kyisean Reed, chips in with 12.5 ppg and 6. 8 rpg while junior center Jarred Shaw averages 13.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg.
UTSA will have to play a solid defense against Utah State because the Aggies lead the WAC in field goal percentage (.501), defensive rebounds (26.1 rpg), rebounding margin (+11.5), assists (17 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3). The Aggies are long and athletic. They are an inside-out team that rebounds well on the defensive end and shoots well along the perimeter. They also run a lot of set plays for their three best players.
The Roadrunners look to snap another losing streak; the ‘Runners are 0 – 2 against schools from Utah. On Nov. 21, UTSA lost to BYU, 81 – 62, and on Dec. 29, 2009, the ‘Runners lost to Utah, 69 – 47.
Fortunately for UTSA, senior point guard Michael Hale III and senior guard Kannon Burrage rank in the WAC’s top 5 in scoring-the only school in the league to have two players rank in the top 5 in scoring. Hale ranks fourth (16.9 ppg) and Burrage ranks second (18.6 ppg). Hale also ranks in the WAC top 10 in eight statistical categories, which include first in 3-point field goal percentage (.537/2nd NCAA) and 3-pointers per game (2.8).
For UTSA to win this game, the Roadrunners’ front court must take control of the glass and limit the Aggies’ second chance opportunities. While the ‘Runners need to rebound well, the premier matchup will be between Hale and Medlin. Both guards shoot extremely well and are so important to their respective teams. If the Aggies shift to a 1-2-2 zone like they’re known to do, Burrage and Hill will need to knock down some shots on the wing. If the Aggies stay in man, it will allow UTSA to run some set plays for the 2nd best 3-point shooter in the NCAA.
Let’s see if the Roadrunners can enter the New Year with a victory over a solid Utah State team. Win or lose, UTSA won’t get much of a rest as they play San Jose State on Dec. 31 in the Convocation Center. Tip-off is 7 p.m.