Conference USA is crazy and fickle this year.
Western Kentucky and Marshall were going to battle it out and be in the at-large conversation until that didn’t happen. Old Dominion was rolling, hit a speed bump in spectacular fashion and then responded by knocking down a North Texas team that had surged into contention.
Lurking behind all that noise has been UTSA, which came into Saturday’s game against Marshall sitting at 6-3 in league play with shiny wins over ODU and UNT. True to C-USA’s 2018-19 form the game went haywire, so much so that it earned its very own post on this here Web site.
The brass tacks is eye-popping on its own: UTSA picked off Marshall 116-106 to move into a three-way tie for first. The barrage of points was less than surprising, since both teams favor some of the fastest tempos in the country. Similarly unsurprising, there was plenty of fun stuff behind that ridiculous score line.
The Roadrunners trailed by eight at half, but held a four point lead with under ten seconds left. After a missed free throw, Jon Elmore did the only thing that could keep Marshall alive: drill a three, get fouled and tie the game at the line to force overtime.
In the end, the Elmore sequence buries the lede. UTSA took control in overtime after three’s from sophomore guards Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson, which was fitting since both players had tremendous nights.
Wallace poured in a career-high 45 points (15-24 FG, 7 rebounds), while Jackson followed up a 46-point night on Thursday with 30 more points of his own (10-13 FG, 9 rebounds). It’s been a historic two-game stretch for Steve Henson’s perimeter duo.
This is so crazy considering where UTSA was as a basketball program five years ago. pic.twitter.com/e4a8Atw4vp— Javi Cardenas (@RivalsJavi) February 3, 2019
The body of the tweet above also makes a good point. UTSA is just seven seasons removed from playing in the Southland, and finished last (3-15) in their first year in C-USA in 2015-16. Henson has put the program on a steady path forward in his three seasons, and has UTSA in as good a position as any to pick up a regular season title.
But since C-USA refuses to conform to expectations this season, there’s likely still plenty of drama left.