– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
FRISCO, Texas — There are a couple of philosophies that any team on a streak can adopt when entering conference tournament action. For those on a purple patch, the league tourney allows them to carry their good form into the tournament and, if they continue to stay hot, become a dangerous team if they keep up their level during the tournament sprint. Teams that are on a poor run of form use the conference tournament as a reset, a second chance to amend and atone the wrongs of the regular season and find new life — and new hope — in a chance at redemption.
Both of those scenarios were at play during the games that A Lot of Sports Talk covered during Day 2 of the 2021 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament at The Star in Frisco, as three of the four higher seeds (lower in number) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals. In one of the first evening session games, UTSA continued its hot play with a 72-62 decision over the Charlotte 49ers, winning its seventh game out of its last eight. Guard Keaton Wallace, who has scored at least 20 points in his last three games going into tonight, led the Roadrunners with 20 points, while backcourt mate Jhivvan Jackson chipped in with 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. Center Jacob Germany did put up a double-double for UTSA, with 16 points and 10 rebounds. UTSA advances to take on the top seed, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, on Thursday evening.
Another team that kept its hot streak going was Florida Atlantic University, who used 22 points from center Karlis Silins to down the UTEP Miners 76-70 to earn its fifth consecutive victory. The Owls hit eight of their 16 three-point attempts while holding the Miners to just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc..
In the not-so-hot-coming-into-conference-tournament side, the North Texas Mean Green, whose campos is just a few miles away from the Ford Center in Denton, snapped a three-game losing streak by easily dispatching the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 76-56 to advance to a matchup against second-seeded Old Dominion. The Blue Raiders held a 34-33 lead with just under four minutes to go in the first half after a Jordan Davis three-pointer, but then North Texas closed the half on a 12-2 run, capped off by consecutive threes by Thomas Bell and James Reese to seize control of the game right before intermission. Guard Javion Hamlet scored a team-high 21 points for the Mean Green as they shot over 54 percent from the field (30-for-55, 54.5 percent) while holding the Blue Raiders to just 16 field goals made over the course of the game and 34 percent shooting from the floor.
The fourth game on Wednesday saw Rice pull off a mild upset in defeating Marshall 72-68, with guard Quincy Olivari pacing the Owls with 23 points and nine rebounds.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday night’s action, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 34 pictures in total.