Maybe it was the weather outside; maybe it was the four possessions in a row where UTSA lost control of the game; whatever the case may be the result was another home conference loss at the hands of the Stephen F. Austin (SFA) Lumberjacks, 68-59.
The loss drops the Roadrunners to 7-8 overall on the season and 1-2 in Southland Conference battles.
Like their most recent home loss to Sam Houston, UTSA had the hot hand early as it used the shooting of sophomore guard Melvin Johnson III. Johnson connected on his first three shots of the game to put the Roadrunners up 9-0 at the 17:49 mark of the first half.
After a quick timeout, SFA turned on their shooting and used an 18-9 run to even it at 18 with 7:26 to go in the first half. UTSA seemed to weather that storm as it rebuilt the lead to 27-20 with 2:56 left on the clock. The Lumberjacks closed out the half on a 5-2 run that cut the Roadrunners lead to four at 29-25.
The lead for the Roadrunners grew to six again to open the second half as Johnson found the bottom of the net at the 19:20 mark.
That six point lead the Roadrunners enjoyed didn’t last as SFA’s senior forward Jordan Glynn hit a jump shot that cut the lead to four. On the Roadrunners next possession Glynn would steal the ball from UTSA’s freshman forward Jeromie Hill. It was the first of four turnovers in a row for UTSA as the momentum shifted and SFA began to heat up.
The Roadrunners kept it close for a few minutes but once again the turnover bug hit UTSA hard. The Lumberjacks made the Roadrunners pay for those mistakes as they went on a five minute, 11-2.
The final few minutes turned into a free throw contest. It was a contest that SFA was well prepared for as the Lumberjacks aggressive offense brought them to the line a total of seventeen times in the second half hitting 12. UTSA countered with an 11-15 second half from the charity stripe but the turnovers proved deadly and a win that had been in reach was turned instead into a draining loss.
The Roadrunners were led in scoring by senior guard Devin Gibson who pitched in 18 points. Also in double digits for the Roadrunners were Hill and Johnson with 11 points a piece. The rebound leader for the runners was junior forward Larry Wilkins with seven boards on the night. The Lumberjacks were led on the stat sheet by Glynn who recorded a double-double with 17 points and a game high 11 rebounds.
Following the game, Gibson tried to make sense of what had happened.
“It was the defensive breakdowns,” Gibson said. “We have to clean it up. It was the same thing that happened during the five game losing streak. We just have to clean it up.”
For the Roadrunners the loss makes three straight at home, two of those coming in Southland Conference play. The Roadrunners are now 4-3 in the convocation center this season.
“We have played pretty good at home,” said Associate Head Coach Dan O’Dowd filling in on the postgame interview for an ill Brooks Thompson. “I don’t know if we get a false sense of security or what.”
O’Dowd pointed to the fact that SFA is a team that requires offenses to cherish each possession.
“We have had letups on defense and lulls on offense come back to haunt us,” O’Dowd said. “The way they [SFA] play, you have to value every possession and we started out that way and lost it at some point.”
For the Roadrunners the week ahead brings a trip to the always hostile home of the Northwestern State Demons, followed by the renewal of the I-35 series against Texas State.
“We have to go and make up for it on the road,” O’Dowd said. “But at some point you just can’t keep making up for it, you have to protect the home court.”
The Roadrunners are not alone in their home woes. The combined home record for all 12 conference teams is 9-9 through 18 conference games. For the Roadrunners that is no excuse.
“In this league you can’t take for granted that you are at home,” O’Dowd said. “You have to be prepared to play every night, home or away.”
The 1-2 conference mark is not the end of the world for UTSA, there is still 13 conference games remaining before the conference tournament in Katy in March.
“We still control our destiny,” Gibson said. “You don’t want to be one of those teams at the end that has to rely on other teams to lose to get in.”
As Gibson looked over the stats during his post game interview, he sounded like the senior leader as he spoke with the local media.
“This next game is a must win for us,” Gibson said. “Not just because of our [conference] record but just to keep the guys up.”
Gibson continued talking about the youth of the team but stopped short of placing blame on anyone.
“Nobody wants to lose. A few times a few guys messed up on a play. To have such a young team this was actually the first game where guys have actually gone blank like that. This was a bad time to do it.”
The ten turnovers in the second half weighed heavily on Gibson.
“In conference, from beginning to the end, every possession is key,” Gibson said. “In this conference one bad possession can be the difference between getting a ring and watching someone else get a ring.”
The losses are piling up but Gibson understands from three years experience that eventually things turn around.
Jose Vasquez contributed to this story.