UTSA clinches Southland Conference Tournament berth with 86-82 overtime victory
CORPUS CHRISTI — Junior Kannon Burrage led three Roadrunners with 20-plus points and UTSA rallied from a seven-point deficit for an 86-82 overtime victory at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday night at the American Bank Center.
The Roadrunners (16-12) secured a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament for the fifth consecutive year by running their record to 8-5 in the league, while the Islanders fell to 5-22 overall (3-10 SLC).
Burrage poured in 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 night at the free-throw line to register his second straight and fourth 20-point game of the season. Junior Melvin Johnson III added 20 points behind an 8-for-12 night from the floor, including 4-of-7 from behind the 3-point line, while sophomore Igor Nujic was 7-for-9 overall and 3-of-5 from downtown en route to a career-high 20 points. It was the first time since Feb. 13, 1999, that the Roadrunners saw three players score at least 20 points.
Terence Jones drained seven 3-pointers en route to a game-high 26 points to lead five Islanders in double figures, including Nate Maxey’s double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
UTSA grabbed a five-point lead early in the second half, only to see A&M-Corpus Christi fight back and eventually claim a seven-point advantage in the final minutes.
With the shot clock winding down and the Islanders clinging to a three-point lead, Jones drained a three from the corner for 75-69 lead with 1:44 left to play.
Sophomore Jeromie Hill, who posted nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds, was fouled at the other end and made a pair of free throws to pull UTSA to within four. Hill then came up with a steal at midcourt, which led to a foul on Burrage, who calmly made both to cut the deficit to 75-73 with 1:08 on clock.
UTSA then came up with another theft, this time by Nujic on the Islanders’ end of the floor, and that led to a fast-break jumper by Burrage that knotted the score at 75 with 46.6 ticks remaining.
The Islanders answered with a Jason Smith driving layup with 15.5 seconds left to take a 77-75 lead.
Following a UTSA timeout, senior Sei Paye found Burrage on the baseline for a layup to tie things up at 77 with 1.6 seconds showing on the clock.
The Islanders had one last look, as the inbounds pass went nearly the full length of the floor to Myron Dempsey, who got off a shot that was just off the front of the rim as time expired, whch sent UTSA to its fourth overtime game of the season.
Burrage made two freebies and a layup in the extra period that helped stake the Roadrunners to an 81-79 lead.
Paye then made 1-of-2 at the line and Hill had an offensive rebound and putback with 38 ticks on the clock to make it 84-79.
Jones drilled a long trey from the right wing 10 seconds later to pull the Islanders to within two, and after UTSA missed two shots at the charity stripe, AMCC had a chance to tie or take the lead with the shot clock turned off.
However, Jones stepped out of bounds right in front of the Islanders’ bench with 9.9 seconds left to give the ball back to UTSA.
Paye promptly found Nujic all alone for a layup to polish off the come-from-behind win.
“Our guys made the plays they needed to make on both ends of the floor and that’s how we won this game tonight,” head coach Brooks Thompson said. “We had guys step up and knock down shots and we had guys gets stops on the other end. It was a great team win and a confidence builder.”
UTSA shot 52.8 percent and made 10-of-24 (41.7 percent) from long distance and 20-of-27 (74.1 percent) at the line.
Meanwhile, the Islanders shot 49.2 percent and were 9-of-22 from beyond the arc and 11-of-12 at the charity stripe.
Chris Hawkins-Mast (12), Jordan (12) and Dempsey (10) joined Jones and Maxey in double figures, while Jordan also dished out a game-high 10 assists.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi used a 7-0 run in building an early 17-10 advantage midway through the first half, but UTSA reeled off eight unanswered points to reclaim the lead, 18-17.
The Islanders responded with a 6-0 stretch, but the Roadrunners quickly tied things up after a pair of free throws from junior Michael Hale III and a Nujic trey.
UTSA made its last four shots of the half, including a three from the left wing by Burrage with three ticks left in the half, that gave it a 31-30 edge at intermission.
Both teams were hot from the floor to start the second.
The Roadrunners drained four of their first five attempts, including 3-pointers by Nujic and senior Stephen Franklin to build a 44-39 lead.
The Islanders then made their next three, including a pair of long distance connections by Jones, as part of an 8-0 run to grab the lead back, 47-44. Their edge grew to seven after jumpers on back-to-back possessions by Myron Dempsey and Johnathan Jordan capped a 12-0 run.
Johnson III then heated up by scoring 10 consecutive points to help key a 12-4 spurt and give UTSA a 56-55 lead.
The Roadrunners return home to host Texas State (12-15, 4-9 SLC) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.