By Antonio Castillo
Unofficially, the mantra for UTSA basketball this 2016-2017 season has been play tough defense, out rebound the opponent, don't turn the ball over, and get just enough points to win. That was the formula that Steven Henson's team used on Thursday evening as they held off a pesky Southern Miss team, 57-51.
Junior walk-on Jeff Beverly led the 'Runners with 17 points on the night. Coming up with six of the team's last eight points, Beverly gave UTSA just enough to survive and notch their 11th win of the season.
The Golden Eagles led 41-40 just under the 14 minute mark, but UTSA would respond with a 10-1 run, capped off by a smooth stutter step drive by Gino Littles that would end with him soaring in for a right handed scooping layup. UTSA wouldn't look back, not relinquishing the lead.
Head Coach Steven Henson talked afterwards about his team embracing this tough defense and low scoring mind set that has led the them back to the edge of .500 ball.
"I don't think that anybody was surprised that it wasn't pretty," said Henson. "Doc (Sadler) does such a good job with their guys, they're always so well prepared. We knew this would be a grind. Kind of anticipated them playing some zone, their zone killed us last time we played them, but they didn't do that. They still did a good job against us."
Sophomore forward Nick Allen would come off the bench in the first half and hit 2 of 3 three pointers to give the offense a lift. He finished with nine points and three boards in the first stanza, and posted a near double-double for the game, ending with 14 and 8. Off the bench, Allen was very aggressive searching for his shot, hitting 2 of 3 three pointers early on, and making three of them on the night, a personal career high for him.
Within the last two weeks, Allen has shifted roles in coming off the bench, and has made the transition rather smoothly, helping spur on the 'Runners Thursday night. He talked about his new role.
"He (Coach Henson) came to me and we talked about it, and everything is understood. I'm really embracing it. Whatever they can give me, I'm humble to take that and I'll take it to the fullest. You know it's just about my team, give my team everything I can give them. It's not about glitz and glamour, and who's starting, who's running out their on the court and all that. When I come to play, I come to play, that's it," said Allen.
The 'Runners would hold their largest lead of the contest, nine points, with 3:44 to play when Beverly would sink a jumper, and it was enough padding to send Southern Miss to their seventeenth loss on the season.
Freshman Byron Frohnen was the third 'Runner in double figures, netting 12 points and another impressive game on the glass, grabbing 9 rebounds. Six of them coming on the defensive side.
In the first half, UTSA would lead by as many as 8, when Freshman guard George Willborn III would attack the hole from the right wing, get into the paint and hit a runner. The Golden Eagles would respond and closeout the half on an 8-0 run to tie the game at the half, 28 all.
Staring the contest, Southern Miss would go on an 11-0 run to jump out to an 11-2 lead before the UTSA offense got itself in gear. The teams would compete, exchanging four lead changes and two ties in the first half. Finishing with 8 lead changes and 4 ties.
The 'Runners now prepare to face Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon. La. Tech edged UTEP Thursday evening, to move to 17-8 and 9-3 in conference. Tip is set for 3pm from the Convo, as UTSA looks to improve on their 10-1 home record. Overall the 'Runners are now 11-13 overall, with a 6-5 record in Conference USA play.