Monday night's exhibition against Arkansas Tech turned out to be anything but another D1 vs D2 mismatch. The Wonder Boys bombarded UTSA with 15 three pointers, jacking up 39 of them, outscoring the 'Birds from the bench, to the tune of a 42-11 disadvantage. Yet somehow, with 13.5 seconds left to play in the game, UTSA had the ball and a chance for the win.
Out of a timeout, looking for some pick and pop action, Head Coach Steve Henson put the ball in the hands of his true freshman point guard, Giovanni De Nicolao, who did not disappoint. He received a pass back on the right wing from Nick Allen, took three strong dribbles to the hole and banked in the layup with 1.8 seconds to give UTSA the lead and the eventual win, 91-89.
"We wanted the ball in his hands we were gonna try and get a little pick and pop action for Nick (Allen), you know hoping we get him a chance to drive it, and maybe draw another foul. We were attacking pretty good in the second half. We didn't want too much action, too much movement, we wanted something pretty simple, with the chance to attack. Nick didn't get an advantage, we didn't create an advantage for him. He got it back to Giovanni and he did the right thing by attacking," said Head Coach Steve Henson.
De Nicolao had the game winning shot, but the 'Runners were paced by 6'6" power forward, Jeff Beverly who had a monster performance in his first ever UTSA game, posting a double-double, with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Arkansas Tech had no answer for his size and girth down low. When he wasn't carving out space and showing nice touch on his baseline shot, Beverly was knocking down free throws, finishing 10 for 16.
Sophomore forward Nick Allen, finished with his best performance as a roadrunner, tallying 16 points and 11 boards, also recording a double-double. Allen showed good range from outside, nailing two trey's, one that came at a very clutch time late in the game, bringing the 'Runners even closer. It was clear that Allen showed more aggressiveness and assertion on the offensive end. Putting the ball on the floor, using his length and size to finish at the hole.
A total of four Roadrunners finished in double figures, J.R. Harris added 15 points, hitting on three three pointers, and freshman Giovanni De Nicolao closed out a solid debut with 12 points and 6 boards.
Overall, it wasn't a fluid outing for the 'Runners, but with a new team, and new staff, Head Coach Steve Henson was proud of the overall effort, and that the team found a way to win.
"Was proud of our guys, they hung in there. We had trouble stopping the other guys, especially in the first half we couldn't get stops. And the second half started kind of the same way, they were driving it at us and shooting it, they had good individual players. We hung in there, and that's what I was proud of. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance at the end," said Henson.
The first half saw Arkansas Tech race out to a 48-40 halftime lead, nearly hanging half a hundred on the 'birds. To their credit, Tech, hit eight three pointers in the first half and finished the game 15 of 39. Their bench was tremendous , outscoring UTSA's reserves, 42-11. Despite those gaudy numbers, the 'Runners did show grit and resolve in mounting the comeback and pulling out the exhibition win in front of a raucous 1,215 fans at the Convo.
Nick Allen and Jeff Beverly were the first pair of Roadrunners to finish with double-doubles since March of 2015, when Jeromie Hill and Ryan Bowie did it against Rice.
UTSA now travels to Fresno State, to face the defending Mountain West Champions and open up their 2016-2017 season in earnest, under new Head Coach Steve Henson. Tip is set for 9 p.m. (CST), InsideRunnerSports will have a crew in Fresno and bring you the latest updates on the 'Runners season opener.
Video of Giovanni De Nicolao Game-Winning Shot
Video UTSA Head Coach Steve Henson Post Game Press Conference