On most nights holding the Sam Houston State Bearkats to 41 percent shooting would be enough to pull out a victory, but for UTSA, Saturday was not one of those nights. The Roadrunners fell short in their conference opener 62-59 and dropped to 6-7 on the year and 0-1 in Southland play.
It was a loss that could very easily have been a win but for a few missed opportunities. In the final few seconds, UTSA had an opportunity to tie, but a three point attempt by Melvin Johnson III bounced off the rim and into the hands of a Sam Houston Bearkat. It was a painful end to a game that could have ended in joy.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a 10-3 lead at the 15:52 mark and spent the remainder of the first half in a back-and-forth fight with Sam Houston that saw the Roadrunners go down by as much as four.
In spite of the lead the Roadrunners still found themselves in trouble as Larry Wilkins, Stephen Franklin, and Devin Gibson each recorded two personal fouls in the first half.
“We had foul trouble early and so that put us a step behind,” freshman forward Jeromie Hill said. “The bench played amazing tonight.”
The Roadrunners responded by closing out the half rebuilding the lead to six, but then as time expired, Sam Houston’s Lance Pevehouse hit a three to cut the Roadrunners lead in half to 34-31.
The momentum of the game turned on that three pointer as the second half would see a knock-down drag-out fight with the game being tied five times and the lead changing hands five times. In the end, the Bearkats’ experience was too much for the young Runners to overcome.
The Roadrunners were led by Hill who pitched in 17 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 35 minutes on the court. Junior guard Sei Paye came down with a team high seven rebounds while playing for 36 minutes.
Coach Brooks Thompson was relatively upbeat following the loss but he understood what led to the Roadrunners downfall.
“Its a tough loss, no doubt. Sam Houston deserves a lot of credit; they made the plays that they had to make, and we didn’t make the plays we had to make,” Thompson said. “In the last minute I felt our guys executed what they needed to do to win and the ball didn’t roll our way.”
Hill was optimistic as he sat on the side of the court after.
“From here we have to bounce back and fix a few things; we are not that far off from where we want to be,” Hill said. “We are a young team but that’s no excuse. We have talented young players and UTSA should be excited because we are nearly there, and we believe in Coach Thompson and what he has going for us.”
The loss to the Bearkats is the fifth consecutive loss since the Runners began the season with school best 6-2 start. It also means the Roadrunners are 0-1 in Southland conference tilts, a fact not lost on the team.
“We don’t look at it as five straight,” Hill said. “We look at it as we have one loss on the season and that’s in conference.”
One of the big reasons why the Roadrunners are 0-1 in conference was the play of Bearkat senior forward Gilberto Clavell, who dropped in 26 points and nine rebounds to lead the Bearkats to the road victory.
“He is a good player who does what he needs to win. We did our job on the rest of them and we knew he was going to get his,” Thompson said. “I thought we did a good job on him, but you can see why he is going to be up there for Player of the Year and deservedly so.”
The Runners must put the loss behind them and move forward to the next conference bout Wednesday when they face the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in Corpus Christi.
“We have to make sure it’s not six [losses]. We are all fine in that locker room. We understand why we are not winning the way we want to win. It is a long conference season,” Thompson said. “You don’t want to say blame youth but when you’re inexperienced, you’re inexperienced. We are getting experience everyday.”
For the Runners there is the chance to do what has been done to them and steal a road win. That would get the team back to a .500 wining average in conference and on the season.