A large homecoming crowd of 4,379 didn’t have a lot to cheer about in the first half. But a second half comeback gave the Mavs an 85-80 win in their season opener.
The Mavs, coming off a historic 27-win season and a convincing exhibition win over Oklahoma, found themselves trailing much of the night (LMU lead for 33:17). Opening games are often less than perfect from an offensive execution standpoint, and tonight was no exception. Give credit to Loyola-Marymount, they came in and played a solid game defensively and nearly pulled off a huge road upset win against UTA.
After 20:00, the Mavs’ defense looked a little sluggish at times and LMU’s zone defense proved to be very effective. Hence, the Mavs were down 41-36 after shooting a respectable 44% FG but shooting a mere 4-13 from outside and losing the battle of the boards. LMU outrebounded the Mavs 39-29 for the game.
LMU, losing four starters from last year’s team and picked tenth in the West Coast Conference, worked around the Mavs’ press with ease most of the night, settled into a smooth halfcourt offense early and found open areas in the defense for short jumpers or attacked the paint to shoot 53% for the half. Add in a ton of rebounds and the LMU lead at 8 with 3:35 left in the first half. After cutting the lead to 1 on a Kevin Hervey three, the Mavs gave up a couple of layups and were down by 5 at intermission.
We’re thankful for the victory, I thought Loyola Marymount played hard and they did because the rebound numbers show that. Thats an area of concern for us where we have to get better and address it in practice and the guys are gonna have to buy in. We’re gonna have to be tough as a basketball team. Beautiful thing about it is that we still got a win out of it. Definitely gonna have to thank the good lord for that. It’s a learning curve for this group and hopefully we get better. We have a week basically before we play again and we’ll be better next Saturday when we play BYU.
–Coach Scott Cross
LMU continued their hot shooting in the early stages of the second half. Holding the Mavs scoreless for 5:28 while making a three pointer and couple of layups increased the LMU lead to 13 (52-39) at 14:29. That would be the largest lead of the game for either team as the Mavs got some defensive stops, created some good ball movement leading to open shots, allowing the Mavs to tie the game at 55 with 9:15 left.
The teams traded leads over the final few minutes, with the game tied at 77 with 1:38 left. UTA outscored LMU 8-3 over the remaining minute or so, with Johnny Hamilton dunk and a couple of free throws from Kaelon Wilson and Hervey to secure the win.
With the Mavs losing starters Jorge Bilbao, Drew Charles and Jalen Jones from last year, the Mavs first 2017-2018 starting lineup consisted of F Hervey, C Hamilton and Neal, Nathan Hawkins, Kaelon Wilson at the guard positions
Overall impression after 40:00 of the season: the offense seemed to flow better the second half, shooting 53% FG (49% for the game). Rebounding was a weak spot tonight. Defense was OK but didn’t pose a huge obstacle to LMU’s ability to rebound and find open shots, especially around the paint as LMU drove for a lot of layups and made a lot of short jumpers. Hawkins, one of the Mavs’ best defenders, was in foul trouble early (had four fouls with 16:00+ left) and had to sit for most of the second half. UTA used an interesting guard lineup at times with DJ Bryant running the point and Neal, the Mavs’ starting point guard, playing the two position. Davion “Sticks” Turner, a 6’9 junior transfer forward, scored eight points on 3-4 shooting (2-3 from outside) and grabbed three boards in 18 minutes. He reminds me a lot of Faith Pope. I think he could have some huge scoring games and will probably be one of our better rebounders this year. Hamilton is a huge presence inside and very athletic. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. He also had four rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes. Hervey scored 28 on 10-18 shooting (3-9 from outside, 5-6 FT) and had 8 rebounds. Erick Neal had 14 points on 4-10 shooting (4-8 from outside) with 11 assists.
Tonight the Mavs were tested by a confident LMU team–one of those games where you don’t play well but still find a way to win. Their record is 1-0 on the season, and now it’s on to Brigham Young University next Saturday for a rematch against last year’s NIT opponent. BYU defeated Mississippi Valley State 91-61 Saturday night in front of a home crowd of 14,019. The Cougars made 12 threes and leading by as many as 41. BYU plays a road game against Princeton Wednesday.