New challenges and opponents in their first year of Conference USA (C-USA) have the UTSA Roadrunners in the midst of another difficult five-game conference losing streak.
After leading by four at halftime, the Roadrunners (11-11, 2-7 C-USA) were blitzed by a 20-4 Tulane Green Wave (17-6, 8-2 C-USA) run en route to a 68-54 loss on Saturday, Feb. 8 in front of a Convocation Center season-high 910 in attendance.
UTSA junior guard Kamra King had a team-high 15 points but was held to six points on a meager 1-of-8 from the field in the second half and 2-of-7 from 3-point range for the game. Sophomore forward Mannasha Bell chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds for the Roadrunners.
“The second half you lose a little focus, you pick up the ball at the wrong spot against the press and you turn it over and they get a layup,” UTSA Head Coach Lubomyr Lichonczak said about the issues UTSA had in the second half. “We weren’t doing that the first half. Maybe we got lucky the first half…but again when you miss an assignment against Conference USA teams, they make you pay.”
Tulane junior guard Jamie Kaplan scored 14 points with seven assists, and freshman guard Leslie Vorphal, who played for Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio, made her hometown return by scoring 12 points, dishing out three assists and forcing three steals.
The Green Wave scored the first four points of the second half on back-to-back layups to tie the game at 30. King hit two free throws to give UTSA back the lead, but that was the last time the Roadrunners would have the advantage as they shot 0-for-9 in the first five minutes.
A 3-pointer by Kaplan helped Tulane regain the lead, and UTSA could only muster a layup and one free throw in the next seven minutes. Tulane would lead by 19 points before the Roadrunners tried to claw back into the game.
It was freshman guard Dwanisha Tate who ignited the Roadrunners. Tate hit a corner 3 for UTSA’s first field goal since the 14:31 minute mark of the second half. After another Green Wave layup, Tate managed another 3-pointer followed by a layup on her way to single-handedly outscoring the Green Wave 9-2, cutting the lead to 57-45. Tate would tie her career-high of nine points off the bench.
“She is very talented,” said Lichonczak about Tate’s progression. “But again, like a lot of young players, the focus seems to be there some days and other days it’s not. If the focus is there, then I think she can do very well.”
But Tulane continued to score inside, tallying 28 of their 38 points inside the paint during the second half and outrebounding UTSA 18-10 in that same stretch.
The Roadrunners shot 33 percent (19-56) for the game, continuing their conference worst shooting (.326) this season. Their 23 percent (4-17) performance from beyond the arc was the 16th time in 22 games they failed to shoot better than 30 percent.
UTSA faced a Tulane team who is currently in fourth place in C-USA but without senior guard Miki Turner for a second straight game after she suffered an ankle injury at practice. The Roadrunners were also missing sophomore forward Niaga Mitchell-Cole, who may be out for the season after injuring her foot in Wednesday’s loss to FIU.
“Any team in the league is tough to play without your top players,” said UTSA Head Coach Lubomyr Lichonczak. “That’s just the nature of the game. You have to be able to step up and make up for it. I thought we did for a half, but you have to do it for two halves.”
In order to end their losing streak, UTSA will have to win on the road, where they have a 3-5 record this season.
UTSA faces the UAB Blazers (12-9, 4-4 C-USA) on Wednesday Feb. 12, in Alabama, and follow that up with an intrastate game against the Rice Owls (10-11, 3-5 C-USA) in Houston.