UTA (4-1) 73, Grambling (1-4) 40
After two big wins over Ohio State and Memphis, it was easy to wonder how this game would play out…a 1-3 school coming in…how much was left in the tank emotionally and physically for a team playing their 3rd game in 6 days? Potential trap game perhaps?
And of course…would head coach Scott Cross be wearing the blue jacket?
By halftime, those questions were pretty much answered. The blue jacket was being worn tonight. And even with the Mavs shooting a cold 2-15 from outside in the first half and 35% FG overall, the Mavs still held a halftime lead 33-16 and the game never really seemed in doubt. Only 20 minutes in, UTA forced 17 Grambling turnovers andheld them to 7-21 FG shooting. Kevin Hervey had a great first half with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, converting both free throws. Make no mistake, this was not pretty basketball at times, but it was convincing. UTA, even when they don’t shoot well, is still a good basketball team.
The second half was more of the same, holding Grambling to 37% FG (1-9 threes) and outrebounding the Tigers 33-19, and outscoring Grambling 40-24 in the final 20:00 for the final score of 73-40. Hervey scored 17 points in 24 minutes.
Neither team really was able to find their outside shot, with Grambling shooting 1-13 and UTA 4-28 on the night.
So if they’re not shooting a good percentage, how do they keep winning? I think it’s two things–outstanding passing and rebounding.
UTA has really yet to have a stellar shooting night this season (43%, 32%, 37%, 33%, 36% FG so far; 36%, 27%, 26%, 17%, 14% from outside) but they’re doing a good job of creating open shots. Shots just not falling. But the main thing is this team passes the ball very well, and rarely are we seeing offensive players get trapped in the corner or forced out of bounds along the baseline or sideline. The ball is always moving. Someone’s always open for a pass or good shot. Inside, outside, all over the court. I’d think that would have to be a long night for a defense if they’re basically chasing the ball all night instead of being able to settle into a basic halfcourt defensive set. And most of the shots seem within the flow of the offense. At some point, the FG% will improve and I could easily see UTA scoring 80-90 points a couple of times this season.
The Mavs are also really crashing the boards this season. On nights where the Mavs don’t shoot well, creating second and third chances is a must. They’re doing a great job of that so far. The Mavs have outrebounded Fordam 43-34, Ohio State 46-37 and Grambling 53-35. The other games they were still close, being outrebounded by 4 (47-43 at LA Tech) and by 7 at Memphis (53-46). It seemed like tonight every time a shot went up and missed, there were several Mavs there to get it.
One other thing is our inside play. Nick Pallas, again looking really comfortable on the court in only his 5th college game, played 16 minutes and grabbed 9 rebounds. He also had a steal and 2 assists. Pretty impressive.
Jorge Bilbao had 4 points and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes. But a lot of what he does doesn’t necessarily show up in the box score. Hustling for rebounds, loose balls and on several occasions, making very good passes. How many times tonight did a Grambling shooter try to drive to the basket, get detoured by Jorge beating him to the area and wind up with either a Grambling turnover or the shooter having to stop and kick the ball back out and reset the offense.
Looking at next year…at the 4-5 positions, the lineup would be: Bilbao and Pallas each with another 25 games of experience; Brandon Williams coming off a redshirt year; Hervey playing his junior season. UTA could have one of the tallest and deepest frontcourts in the conference for the next year or two.
Anyway, a game we were probably supposed to win and we did. Fun times to be a Maverick fan.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Next up: at Rice Sunday, at Texas Tuesday and home for North Texas Thursday.