The Roadrunners faced off against the Sam Houston State Bearkats in the Convocation Center Saturday Jan 28. The Runners won their fifth game in a row, 78-66 behind a dominating defense. UTSA improved to a 14-7 overall record and 6-1 within the Southland Conference. Head coach Brooks Thompson credits the maturity of the returning players to their success in the beginning of the season.
“They are really focused in and I think they are really growing as a unit,” Thompson said. “We got a lot more experience. We got other guys that have played in big games.”
Sam Houston State never looked comfortable against the complicated San Antonio defense. The Runners forced 22 turnovers from the visiting Bearkats. At the end of the game, Sam Houston State shot 45.1 percent from the field and only 25 percent from three point range.
“The guys are working hard and they are getting better at (the defense) every day,” Thompson said. “I think now the guys are really getting comfortable with it.”
UTSA’s offense has been powered by sharp shooting Melvin Johnson III (18 points, two steals) and sophomore forward Jeromie Hill (11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal). Hill was awarded Southland Player of the Week last Monday.
Against Sam Houston, Hill had a very slow game after averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds in the victories against Northwestern State and Texas State. But Senior center Alex Vouyoukas had a stellar performance in the Roadrunners’ home victory.
“I know that I’m not the first offensive threat on the team,” Vouyoukas said. “Tonight I had some open looks, and I was able to take full advantage of them. I’m not a guy that looks for the spotlight, but if things work out then I’m happy.”
In the first half, the big man scored 10 points, that included one three pointer. Vouyoukas’ performance help set a very high tone for the home team, and he finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Vouyoukas’ efforts were appreciated by a standing ovation from the home fans and also by his parents in Greece watching the Roadrunners online.
UTSA’s intense defense fueled their offense. Eight players scored in the game, five of those players in double figures. Junior transfer guard Michael Hale III had (12 points, three assists, one steal) and has been a perfect fit so far for Coach Thompson’s team.
“The transition has been great. Coach Thompson is a great coach, one of the best in my eyes. The team is really close together. We know each other in and out and we starting to come together,” Hale said.
In his first season playing at the Division I level, Hale is very optimistic about the future of the team.
“In my eyes, the only people that can stop us is us. We just have to stay together, stay composed and play together and we’ll be fine.”
Coach Thompson has also been very proud of his new weapons this season.
“It just shows their character. We obviously knew they were gifted athletes because we recruited them to play here, but their character shows that they knew they had to come in and play major roles. It usually takes a little bit longer to be honest with you, from junior college or high school to the division one level. That has a lot to do with our experience, and the other guys helping those guys along the way.”
Going into the second half the Roadrunners had a commanding 43-29 lead. The Roadrunners defense forced another eight turnovers for Sam Houston State, but the Runners also gave up eight turnovers of their own. The visitors were able to score 10 points off these turnovers and at one point cut the lead down to 9. The Runners kept their composure and never panicked, sticking to their defensive scheme which eventually led to the fifth consecutive win. Those last few seconds showed a maturity of this basketball team that will become vital down the road.
The Roadrunners’ next game will be on the road against the Southland Conference’s number one team, the UT Arlington Mavericks on Feb. 1st. The Mavericks are perfect in conference play and with their recent 82-79 win against Texas State, are currently in the middle of an 11-game winning streak. First place in the Southland Conference will be on the line in Arlington Wednesday.