Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
Bouncing back from consecutive road losses, the UTSA Roadrunners (11-12, 6-5 C-USA) rebounded with decisive wins over conference rivals Florida International University Panthers (3-18, 0-10 C-USA) and Florida Atlantic University Owls (11-10, 5-5 C-USA).
On Thursday February 5, the Roadrunners surged past the FIU Panthers in a second half comeback to win 74-56. Florida International—desperate to snap an eight game losing streak—established an early lead with a 9-0 run in which FIU leading scorer Kiandre’A Pound sunk two three pointers and a three point play. However, the Roadrunners stayed in the game thanks to an aggressive defense maintained by junior guard Mathilde Hergott and sophomore guard Alana Heard, who combined for seven steals.
UTSA Head Coach Lubomyr Lichonczak explained the Roadrunners slow start saying, “I thought the first half was the residual effects from being on the road, but I’m glad we woke up in the second half.”
FIU, winless on the road, attempted to gain the game’s momentum as Destini Feagin hit a three pointer, but the second half belonged to the Roadrunners. A 10-0 run sparked by a layup from senior guard Kamra King was just the beginning of a dominating offensive performance from the Roadrunners, as later in the second period, a torrent of field goals from Hergott contributed to UTSA’s 44 point second half performance.
“We started getting stops and kept running with fastbreaks,” said Hergott, who notched a season best 15 points. “We needed to win this one. Winning tonight was great after coming from (a loss in) Alabama. That was hard.”
On Sunday morning, February 8, the Roadrunners returned to the Convocation Center to soundly defeat the Florida Atlantic University Owls in a 68-45 win.
The Roadrunners were led by junior forward Mannasha Bell, who not only set a career high with 17 points and 7 field goals, but tied her career high for assists and notched her fourth double-double of the season with a total of 11 boards. After the game, Bell credited her spectacular performance to the Roadrunners’ desire for a powerful start to the game. Bell said, “before the game they [the coaching staff] talked about the need to come out with a lot of energy to help the team, so that’s what I focused on”.
The Roadrunners made good on their goal to hit the court strong, staking a 16-2 lead before Florida Atlantic narrowed the UTSA lead to seven points. Senior guard Ashley Spaletta then hit crucial back-to-back three pointers to regain momentum for the Roadrunners with 8:21 left in the first half. Bell and sophomore guard Tesha Smith, who finished the game with 14 points, rebuilt a commanding 12-point lead for the Roadrunners by the end of the first half.
The Roadrunners also opened with an assertive, head-on physicality, scoring 24 of their 34 first-half points in the lane. Lichonczak was proud of his team’s aggressive play, stating that “we like to attack the paint, whether it’s a perimeter player driving in or feeding the ball to our posts, the paint is a point of focus for us in every game”.
The Roadrunners maintained their imposing lead through the second half with a combination of aggressive offensive rebounding, with 21 offensive boards, and an uncompromising defense maintained by Bell, senior guard Kamra King, and junior forward Akunna Elonu, who combined for over half of the Roadrunners’ total of 27 defensive rebounds and nine steals.
The UTSA Roadrunners will next face the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs in a conference game on Thursday, February 12th in Norfolk, Virginia.