SAN ANTONIO — Senior Kannon Burrage poured in 19 points to help UTSA rally from a 14-point first-half deficit and the Roadrunners won their home opener, 67-59, against USC Upstate on Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
UTSA, now off to its second 3-1 start in the last three years, was staring at a 26-12 Spartans advantage with five minutes left to play in the first half, but the deficit was trimmed to four by halftime and the Roadrunners eventually outscored USC Upstate, 55-33, over the final 25 minutes of the contest. The Birds improved to 27-5 all-time in home openers, including 6-1 under seventh-year head coach Brooks Thompson.
“This was a very good and hard-fought win for our program,” Thompson said. “Upstate is talented and well-coached and they execute very well. They are very hard to guard. I was a little disappointed in our start. I thought we were sluggish, but we had several guys step up and make plays late in the first half to get us back into the game. We carried that over into the second half and I was pleased with that.”
Burrage had 12 of his points after intermission and tallied his team high on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor and a 9-for-11 performance at the free-throw line. The East, Moline, Ill., native added seven rebounds, one shy of junior teammate Jeromie Hill’s team-high eight, to help UTSA register a 37-26 edge on the glass.
Hill joined Burrage in double figures with 13 points, while junior Hyjii Thomas pitched in with nine for the Birds, who shot 54.5 percent in the second half en route to winning for the 23rd time in their last 27 non-conference home games.
Torrey Craig scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-22 shooting to lead the Spartans (1-2). Ricardo Glenn added 14 and a game-best nine boards.
USC Upstate jumped out to a 15-4 advantage through the first seven-and-a-half minutes. That lead ballooned to 14 after Craig drilled a 3-pointer at the 5:20 mark, which made it 26-14.
The Roadrunners got back into the game by closing the half on an 11-3 run that was keyed by 3-pointers from junior Jordan Sims and Burrage before Thomas drained one of his own from the right wing just before the break to provide the 29-25 halftime margin.
Hill made a pair of free throws to pull UTSA to within 31-30 early in the second. He then came up with a steal and took it coast to coast for a short jumper to give the Birds a 32-31 advantage, their first lead since the 16:57 mark of the first half.
Sims found the bottom of the net from the corner and Burrage made it back-to-back 3-pointers with a fade-away jumper from the right wing to hand the home team a 46-44 lead with 7:24 remaining.
After a pair of Craig free throws tied things up, the Birds scored six unanswered, the last four on two layups by senior Michael Hale III, to notch a 52-46 lead with 5:16 to play.
Adrian Rodgers answered with a jumper for the Spartans, but junior Tyler Wood drilled a three from the left wing at the other end and UTSA led by as many as 12 down the stretch in scoring the victory in the first-ever meeting between the two schools, who will play again on Dec. 8 in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Roadrunners will travel to Provo, Utah, to face BYU (2-1) on Wednesday, Nov. 21. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised by BYUtv (check local listings).