CONWAY, Ark. — Senior Sei Paye led five players in double figures with a career-high 15 points and UTSA raced past Central Arkansas, 73-60, on Wednesday night at the Farris Center.
The Roadrunners improved to 17-13 overall and 9-6 in Southland Conference play and they now are locked into the No. 5 seed for next week’s league tournament after wins by Stephen F. Austin (11-4) and Lamar (10-5) prevented the Birds from moving any higher in the standings. The Bears fell to 8-20 (3-12 SLC).
The Roadrunners built a 13-point halftime lead and made that stand in what was their final Southland regular season road contest. It also marked the program’s first win in Conway in three tries and its 10th road victory of the season.
Paye was 4-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-8 at the free-throw line to eclipse his previous career high of 11 points posted in the Nicholls win on Jan. 4. The Houston native added eight rebounds, three assists and a trio of steals in 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, sophomore Jeromie Hill registered his second double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, which helped UTSA hold a 50-31 edge on the glass, including 17 offensive boards that led to 21 second-chance points. Juniors Kannon Burrage (13) and Michael Hale III (10) and sophomore Igor Nujic (13) also reached double digits in scoring.
“I thought we played well on both ends of the floor tonight,” head coach Brooks Thompson said. “We were sharing the ball and finding the open man on the offensive end and we created turnovers and got stops on the defensive end. We also did a great job on the boards. We played with a lot of energy and confidence tonight and that's what you have to do to win on the road in conference play.”
The Roadrunners shot 42.9 percent but only made 8-of-25 (32 percent) from beyond the arc and 17-of-26 (65.4 percent) at the free-throw line in recording their first double-digit victory since their 78-66 triumph against Sam Houston State on Jan. 28.
UTSA held the Bears to 35.9 percent from the floor, including 25 percent from behind the 3-point line, and UCA only made 7-of-14 at the line. The Roadrunners also forced 14 turnovers and turned those into 22 points.
UCA made three early 3-pointers, two by Jarvis Garner, as it stormed out to a 9-2 lead.
However, UTSA recovered by going on a 15-4 run in grabbing a 17-13 advantage midway through the first half.
The Bears reclaimed the lead with five unanswered points, only to see the Roadrunners use a 14-2 run keyed by back-to-back treys by Hill and Burrage to take a 31-20 edge with 3:51 remaining.
The lead grew to 38-22 after Paye slashed to the basket for a fast-break layup and he then drained a pair of free throws on the next possession, which capped a 21-4 stretch by the Birds.
Dewan Clayborn drained a three at the 1:29 mark, the last field goal by either team of the first, to provide the 38-25 margin at the intermission, UTSA’s largest halftime lead since a 43-29 advantage against the Bearkats.
The lead quickly grew to 17 after junior Melvin Johnson III found Hill for an alley-oop dunk that made it 46-29 with 17:33 to play.
The Roadrunners led by as many as 19 in running away with their second consecutive road win.
UTSA will close out the regular season on Saturday when it hosts undefeated league leader UT Arlington (23-6, 15-0 SLC) in the nightcap of a women's-men twinbill. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the women’s game.