UTA Weekend Wrap-Up: Home Court Defended Well

The UT Arlington Mavs are now 15-5 overall and 5-2 in conference. This weekend’s action showed how good UTA can be on defense, and how unstoppable the offense usually is. If you can win your home games and split the road contests, good things usually happen. The Mavs have won all their home conference games so far, and won 1 of 3 on the road.

Defense that held LA-Monroe to only 55 points

Saturday: UTA 71, UL-Monroe 55
Saturday’s opponent was a UL-Monroe team that is having a bit of a down year, with only six wins going into saturday’s contest. The Warhawks committed a few turnovers and missed some shots to start the game, but the threes weren’t falling for the Mavs and the first 20:00 was a pretty even contest, the Mavs going into halftime halftime only up by two at 33-31.

After basically trading baskets for the first half of the second period, UTA took the lead for good at 49-48 with about 11:00 left. UTA’s defense then took over, and at one point holding ULM without a field goal for six minutes late in the game while UTA went on a 17-2 run to get the win. DJ Bryant started at point guard and ran the offense pretty efficiently, and Kevin Hervey is still recovering from his knee injury and came off the bench. The Mavs fed the ball early and often to 6’9″ senior center Jorge Bilbao and he was basically unstoppable. He plays hard every game, and with his size and strength not many defenders are going to win the battles for rebounds or second-chance scoring opportunities. He finished the night his second double-double in as many games (and third of the year), with a nice 17-point, 13-rebound outing. Jalen Jones has rediscovered his shooting touch, going off for 23. Overall UTA held ULM to just 33% shooting, while UTA shot 43%. This game showed if the outside shot isn’t there, the Mavs can get the ball inside to Bilbao or drive to the hoop and pick up points that way. And Hervey is going to get his 20 points pretty much no matter what. Makes it look effortless.

Wilson layup against LA-Monroe

Monday: UTA 108, UL-Lafayette 71
Monday night brought the well-coached (how many good games have we played against Bob Marlin’s SHSU Bearkats over the years?) and always scary Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (now 13-7, 3-4) to town, and I consider this one of the best games on the schedule every season. These contests tend to be high-scoring and a lot of fun to watch. The highest-scoring team in the Sun Belt (with four players averaging double-figures in scoring), ULL is without superstar Shawn Long, who is playing professionally in the NBA D-League. This year’s star for them is Bryce Washington, a 6’6″ 245lb. junior who was averaging 12 rebounds per game and was shooting 56% going into last night’s game. The Cajuns are team with quickness and some size and some excellent shooters, and do a good job of getting to the free-throw line. So, interior defense was going to key for the Mavs.

The Mavs have been winning games with defense, but needed a breakout game for the offense, and did that ever happen! How about 108 points? The Mavs got off to a quick 17-6 lead, thanks to a game-opening pair of threes from Jalen Jones. But ULL can score in a hurry, and next thing you know, seven unanswered points and a few Mav turnovers later had the Mavs up only one at 26-25. But the Mavs stayed composed and never relinquished the lead, with Kevin Hervey serving up a long-range dagger at with the clock winding down at the end of the first half to give UTA a sort-of-comfortable 9-point intermission lead at 40-31 on 46% shooting and 5-14 from outside, holding ULL to just 29% shooting. The second half saw UTA come out on fire, shooting 65% and outscoring ULL 68-40 in the final 20 minutes on a barrage of 3-pointers (8-17 in the second half) and a using a stingy defense that held ULL to just 36% shooting. A quick 22-7 UTA run made the score 62-38 and the game was out of reach at that point.

ULL’s Washington finished the night with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but overall ULL shot only 29% from outside and was destroyed on the boards by UTA, 52-36. The Mavs did a tremendous job keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns out of the paint in the second half, swarming on penetration attempts and allowing ULL only 22 points in the paint and just 6 second chance points. UTA scored 52 in the paint with numerous driving layups from Nathan Hawkins, Kaelon Wilson, Jalen Jones. Hervey finished with 21 points and 8 boards, Erick Neal dished out 13 assists and Bilbao finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

The final score 108-71, and it was one of those nights that ULL didn’t play all that bad, but UTA was just that much better. The Ragin’ Cajuns just had no answers for the UTA offense–the Mavs were scoring from outside, driving to the hoop, winning the battles of the boards and playing as fast as any game in recent memory. The Mavs are best when they play with a quick tempo, and the second half was something to behold. Wow.

The crowds were into it both games, the student section was full both nights and made a lot of noise, and UTA has now won 11 games in a row (I think, or is it 10?) at College Park Center dating back to last season. A great atmosphere for a team that’s a lot of fun to watch.

Tough road trip next week, with games against an Appalachian State team that has only won one conference game but defends its court well, and a game at 4-3 Coastal Carolina.

Sun Belt Standings as of Tuesday Jan. 24
School Conference Overall NCAA RPI Streak
Georgia Southern 7-0 14-6 86 Won 8
UTA 5-2 15-5 54 Won 3
Ark. St. 5-2 14-6 79 Won 3
Georgia St. 5-2 12-7 120 Won 4
Texas St. 4-3 11-8 272 Won 1
Coastal Carolina 4-3 9-11 188 Lost 2
Louisiana 3-4 13-7 123 Lost 1
Little Rock 3-4 12-8 230 Lost 1
Troy 3-4 11-10 197 Won 1
South Ala. 2-5 9-11 221 Lost 3
App. State 1-6 6-12 262 Lost 3
LA-Monroe 0-7 6-14 297 Lost 7

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