By Antonio Castillo
Stop us if you've heard this one before. It took clutch free throw shooting, some key baskets, and just enough defense for UTSA to prevail in it's Conference USA opener.
The 'Runners hit 12 free throws over the last 3 minutes in order to separate itself from the UTEP, 6 of them by Gino Littles and 4 of them by Billingsley, to secure the win, 67-55.
UTEP would get back the lead 38-37, just under the 15 minute mark on a Dominic Artis layup. That would be the last time the Miners would go up. UTSA responded with a 12-2 run to jump in front 49-40, and would not surrender the lead for the rest of the game.
During the spurt, Billingsley would hit one of his two trey's on the game, and junior point guard Gino Littles would connect from the left corner, also from deep.
The senior wing led UTSA on the night with 17 points. He struggled from the field, only shooting 3 of 10, but that didn't deter him from being aggressive and getting to the hole. He capped off a perfect night at the free throw line, going 9 for 9.
"My pops always tells me that if the three is not falling then you gotta do something else. So that's what I tried to do tonight. It just wasn't really falling for me, so I just had to switch it up," said Billingsley.
Afterwards, Head Coach Steve Henson talked about the win for UTSA, and how the 'Runners have now won 4 of their last 5 games, already surpassing last years win total, and are now seeking their first win on the road.
"The schedule was set up pretty well here with us getting a home game right before the break. We played well in that game, we didn't have to travel, we haven't had to travel here for a while now. Starting off conference at home was great, getting that win. Just always the simple boring message to our guys that we're going to try and win the next one."
Senior post Lucas O'Brien also added 13 points off of the bench, and point guard Gino Littles was the third Roadrunner in double figures, going for 11 points, on the strength of 8 of 9 from the line.
At the end of the first half, the 'Runners trailed 30-29, mostly because of the inability to solve UTEP's defensive set. Aided by Billingsley who entered the game at the 15 minute mark for UTSA, he burned up the nets for 10 quick points, giving UTSA a 19-9 lead. Tim Floyd and the Miners then changed up the defensive sets and went to a 2-1-2 and a Box and 1 defense that kept UTSA out of the paint for the rest of the half.
The Miners took advantage of UTSA's cold outside shooting, closing out the half on a 21-10 run, taking a one point edge, 30-29, into the halftime locker room.
UTSA is now 6-8 overall, and 1-0 in CUSA play. UTEP falls to 2-11 and 0-2 in conference play. The 'Runners now get ready to hit the road for two consecutive games. On Thursday they face Southern Miss, and then travel to Ruston for a Saturday match-up with Louisiana Tech.