Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Rapid reaction: UTSA 70, Alabama State 61
By Brian Bennett
DAYTON, Ohio -- In the first half of Wednesday night's First Four game, Texas-San Antonio looked more like a No. 1 seed than a No. 16 seed battling it out in the opening round. The second half was a much different story, but the Roadrunners still held on for a 70-61 win over Alabama State, earning the first NCAA tournament victory in school history.
Next, UTSA will have to play a real No. 1 seed. But first, here's a quick recap of Wednesday's first game at University of Dayton Arena:
Turning point: The first half was a dream come true for Texas-San Antonio and an utter nightmare for Alabama State. The Roadrunners raced out to a 17-4 lead and led 48-21 at halftime. The lead grew to 28 before Alabama State made a frantic comeback, closing to within 64-55 with just less than three minutes left. But the gap proved simply too large to overcome.
Key stat: Alabama State, which was one of the worst shooting teams in the country most of the season, hit only 35.5 percent and went 7-for-26 on 3-pointers. Six of those 3s came in the second half when the Hornets made their run, but they couldn't get any to fall when they had a chance to make the game really interesting late.
Star player:Melvin Johnson III reached his career high with 25 points -- at halftime. He outscored Alabama State all by himself in the first half. Johnson did it a variety of ways, getting to the rim and the free throw line and feeling unconscious with his jumper. At one point in the first half, he took a heat-check 3-pointer at the top of his key with a hand right in his face. UTSA coach Brooks Thompson merely laughed at that air ball, knowing his shooting guard was in an unreal zone.
But Thompson wasn't smiling in the second half and sat Johnson for large stretches, unhappy with his defensive effort. Still, Johnson finished with 29 points -- the most so far in this young tournament -- and the Roadrunners needed his first-half outburst.
What's next: The Roadrunners advanced to play No. 1 overall seed Ohio State on Friday. Unlike the other First Four winners, they don't face an imposing travel turnaround. They just have to take a bus a few hours up the road to Cleveland. They'll have plenty of other concerns against the Buckeyes, however.
Alabama State (17-18) finished the season with a losing record.