Hilltoppers look to stay atop Conference USA against UTSA


After Thursday’s victory over UTEP (which, I’m still not entirely sure how they pulled that off), the Hilltoppers are the sole kings of Conference USA. And, hopefully, by the time the sun sets tonight, that will still be the case.

The Tops’ take their conference-best 6-0 C-USA record back to John Oldham Court as they welcome in the UTSA Roadrunners, who are looking for their fourth consecutive road win and are coming off a 82-68 victory over Marshall. (Poor, poor Marshall.)

Looking at the Roadrunners schedule, its kind of what you’d expect of a midmajor basketball team. They’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to, they’ve lost to the teams they’re supposed to, they haven’t really done anything to impress. In terms of conference play, the ‘Runners pulled even with their victory over the Thundering Herd, also having wins over Southern Miss and North Texas (which, again, teams they should be beating) while falling to Rice, Louisiana Tech and the Miners.

The one similarity UTSA and the Tops have is an abundance of scoring in their starting lineups. UTSA rolls into today with four of their starting five averaging double figures while WKU brings three with them doing the same thing. Leading the way for the ‘Runners is Jeromie Hill, putting up 16.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while both Keon Lewis and Ryan Bowie are averaging 13 points per game. Kaj-Bjorn Sheman round out the scoring-four for UTSA, with 10.7 points per.

Against UTEP, the Tops had a couple of things that they hadn’t had in quite some time. First off, there was production from everywhere, not just T.J. Price or George FantFive Toppers finished in double figures, which was huge, and showed that this team can play in any time of game – one that’s dominated by someone for 40 minutes or the scrappy type of which we saw last time out. Fant also recorded his seventh straight double double over the Miners.

The second thing we saw was big-men production. All three – Fant, Ben Lawson and Alex Rostov  were key for the Tops, and in Ray Harper’s post-game comments, he even said that Lawson was the difference maker, and if he didn’t have that type of game, the Hilltoppers wouldn’t have won. And, while it isn’t unrealistic to expect 10/5/2 from Lawson every time out this year, why not cut all those numbers in half for both him and Rostov? If together they can make one really good game, then it will have been a good game.

This has all the makings of your classic “trap,” game – the Tops’ next opponent is Louisiana Tech, UTSA doesn’t seem to be anything special – but, with the way Harper spoke of his team’s confidence and focus, they aren’t overlooking anybody, and are going to be ready for the blue and orange of San Antonio come tipoff. Which, by the way, is an odd time today at two.