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Courtesy: Southland Conference

Total team effort leads UTSA to Southland Conference Tournament Championship Game

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
Release: 03/13/2011
Courtesy UTSA Athletics Communications
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by Jordan Korphage

It’s easy to look at the box scores from UTSA’s first two Southland Conference Tournament games and be blown away by the play of senior guard Devin Gibson.

There’s no denying that without the Houston native, the Roadrunners would be watching Saturday’s tournament championship on ESPN2 rather than playing in it.

However, when you take a closer look at the statistics, you will see that it is more than just Gibson making plays for the Roadrunners, who are looking to become just the third No. 7 seed to win the league tournament in its 31-year history. After all, without his teammates making shots, Gibson would not be averaging eight assists in the team's two victories.

“Devin is like our quarterback,” junior Sei Paye said of his fellow Houston native. “He comes out with so much energy and we all feed off him. He’s done it all for us this season and words really can’t express what he means to this team.”

Paye has made eight of his nine attempts from the field this week, including a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range, and is averaging 11.5 points in the tournament, six more than his season average of 5.4.

“I’m just looking to bring energy and make sure our defense doesn’t let up,” Paye said. “Offensively, I’m just trying to make the open shots when I get a chance.”

Like Paye, junior Larry Wilkins has bested his season averages with two solid performances. He is scoring 7.5 points to go along with six rebounds.

“I’ve been really focusing on coming out with energy and rebounding the ball,” Wilkins said. “Rebounding, good defense and energy are important parts of my game.”

In a month where every point, rebound, assist, steal and block counts even more than usual, junior Alex Vouyoukas’ performance on Thursday against Sam Houston State cannot be overlooked. With UTSA battling foul trouble, the Athens, Greece, native came off the bench to record seven points, four rebounds and block, which easily was his best outing of the year and it came his team needed it most.

His night began with a great catch on a pass from Paye and he converted the feed into a layup while being fouled midway through the first half. Vouyoukas converted the three-point play at the foul line and was part of the unit that held Southland Player of the Year Gilberto Clavell to just six points and one field goal in the first half.

Wilkins has seen the improvement in himself and his teammates in the weeks leading up to the tournament, which the Roadrunners qualified for on the last day of the regular season.

“We’re all on the same page right now, probably more than at any point this year,” Wilkins said. “We had to fight just to get here and, now that we’re in the tournament, we want to win it and go to the Big Dance.”

With Gibson threatening to post a triple-double seemingly every night — he’s tied for the NCAA lead with two this season — it is no surprise to see opposing teams focus their defensive game plan around him. However, triple team Gibson at your own peril, as Northwestern State and Sam Houston State have found out the hard way.

Watch him find freshman Jeromie Hill for an easy dunk with the game on the line or sag off sophomore Melvin Johnson III and be witness to his silky-smooth jumper hitting nothing but net.

After registering upsets in their first two tournament games, UTSA needs one more to earn their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and first since 2004.

With a confident supporting cast, the Roadrunners are hoping to get fitted with a championship rings while slipping on a set of dancing shoes on Saturday afternoon.

While opponents may key on him, Gibson will take to the floor with trust in his teammates, knowing that the trust is mutual.

“He’s the best floor general out there,” Wilkins said. “He’s a leader and whatever he brings to the floor, we all feed off him. He makes us all better players.”

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