Utah State holds off UTSA in league opener, 71-67
SAN ANTONIO — Jordan Sims drained six 3-pointers en route to a team-high 20 points, but Preston Medlin poured in 24 to help Utah State hold off UTSA, 71-67, in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) opener for both teams on Saturday night at the Convocation Center.
Sims made six of his eight attempts from behind the 3-point line in posting season highs for points and treys to lead the Roadrunners (4-7, 0-1 WAC). Kannon Burrage scored 14 and grabbed six rebounds, five on the offensive glass, while Jeromie Hill added 12 points to become the 15th player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points (1,001). The Australian nearly posted his third double-double of the year with a team-high nine boards to become the eighth Roadrunner to top the 500-rebound barrier (508). Four of those came on the offensive end to help UTSA post a 32-31 edge on the boards with 16 leading to 13 second-chance points.
Medlin was 9-for-15 from the floor to help the Aggies (10-1, 1-0 WAC) shoot 62.2 percent (28-of-45) from the field and 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) from beyond the arc. Spencer Butterfield pitched in with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Jarred Shaw posted 11 and nine boards.
UTSA trailed by as many as nine points midway through the second half, but it used an 11-4 run over a three-and-a-half-minute period to pull to within 58-56 with 6:35 left to play. Larry Wilkins, who finished with a season-high nine points, had a pair of baskets during the stretch.
The Aggies pushed their lead back out to four at 60-56, but Edrico McGregon and Burrage connected on short-range shots to help pull the Birds to within one (61-60) with 4:51 remaining.
However, UTSA came up empty on its next three possessions and saw Utah State extend its advantage to 67-60 with two minutes to go.
Sims connected from the corner with a minute left to make it 67-63, but Butterfield answered with a trey of his own at the other end. After a missed layup by the home team, Marcel Davis was fouled and made 1-of-2 at the charity stripe to put the Aggies up, 71-63, with a half minute remaining.
Hill connected from long distance with 11.7 seconds left, but Utah State held on for the four-point win in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The Roadrunners shot 39.1 percent (25-of-64), including 11 3-pointers, but they only got to the line nine times, making six. UTSA came up with seven steals, but Utah State forced 14 Roadrunners turnovers that led to 13 points to help overcome a 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) effort at the free-throw line.
The Aggies made seven of their first eight shots, but UTSA still managed to take a 24-23 lead after Sims drained his third 3-pointer of the half at the 7:24 mark. The visitors reclaimed the lead on a Butterfield basket, but Hyjii Thomas reeled off five straight points in a 31-second span to hand the Roadrunners a 29-25 advantage.
Utah State responded, ending the frame on a 14-2 run over the final 5:14 to take a 39-31 edge into the locker room.
The Roadrunners will host San Jose State (6-5, 1-0) at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31.