UT Arlington (6-1) 69, Rice (2-5) 49
Since my last post a couple of games ago (although I had a lengthy and somewhat interesting analysis of the BYU win that my browser and/or blog software didn’t publish correctly), the Mavs went to Provo and beat a good-but-not-great BYU team by double-digits, lost by one point to a (in my opinion, anyway) sweet-sixteen Alabama team, defeated two teams in New York on the road and defeated Div. III UT-Dallas at home in a game without Kevin Hervey and Link Kabadyundi.
The Rice Owls entered tonight’s game with an RPI around 280 and a record of 2-4 with wins over Northwestern State and the University of St. Thomas, a NAIA school in Houston. The Owls jumped out to an 8-0 lead on a couple of quick threes but UTA went on a run and built a 15-8 lead and never looked back.
The three-point shot pretty much eluded the Mavs for the second straight night, but a strong UTA defensive effort held the Owls to a season-low 24% FG. Rice runs a motion offense, has some size but had trouble getting much going inside or in transition. For most of the night, the Mavs packed the paint and forced the Owls to pass around the perimeter, repeatedly denied penetrations and thus Rice had to settle for a lot of three point attempts which were successful about one of every four attempts. Actually, neither team shot the ball well outside tonight, with Rice 8-32 (25%) and UTA even worse 8-36 (22%).
I thought this was one of our better performances if you look at everything combined. We weren’t quite efficient offensively, but I thought we did a great job defensively. We did a solid job rebounding the basketball. I thought we played unselfishly. They run a match-up zone which is a little unique to attack. I was pretty pleased with the way our guys performed.
–UTA coach Scott Cross
The Mavs, who came into the game shooting 52% FG, weren’t spectacular offensively for the first 15:00 or so but made a few shots toward the end of the first half and during the second half to finish 25-63 (39%). But the Mavs absolutely dominated inside, with 32 points in the paint compared to Rice’s 10 and UTA outrebounded the Owls 43-38. Rice had trouble defending Johnny Hamilton, who scored 17 on 6-6 FG and 5-6 FT with 8 rebounds and two blocked shots. UTA’s size, length and speed is just too much for most opponents to overcome, and tonight was no different. Kevin Hervey had another great night with 29 points on 10-18 shooting, 11-12 FT and 11 rebounds.
A couple of things that the box score won’t necessarily show you: DJ Bryant doesn’t normally shoot the ball much most nights but showed a very nice touch on a couple of smooth jumpers, going 3-4 for seven points. The passing by both of UTA’s 7-foot centers is very, very good. When you can dump the ball into the paint, and allow your big men to pass over the offense it can open up a lot of scoring opportunities. Link and Hamilton are routinely making long cross-court passes, causing defenses have to shift and adjust their coverage on any given play. It’s just a minor thing I noticed, but impressive to watch. The final deficit was 20, but that was mostly due to about 7-10 Rice free throws at the end of the game. The game was never really in doubt after the first 12:00-15:00.
Overall, it was good to see the Mavs win a game with defense when the threes aren’t falling or the offense doesn’t score 80-90 points.
Up next: 4-3 North Texas saturday at College Park Center. The game at Arlington two years ago drew 6,000+ so hopefully a good crowd will show up this year as well. North Texas has an RPI ~280 and has defeated Eureka College in Denton by 58, lost at Nebraska by 19, defeated Bethune-Cookman in Denton by 12, lost to UTRGV in Denton by 12, defeated Rogers State in Denton by 12, lost at Georgia Tech by 14 and defeated Grambling State in Denton by five. They play Oklahoma on the road Thursday night. UTA defeated OU in an exhibition game a few weeks ago, so it’ll be interesting to see how North Texas plays in Norman. OU is 4-1 and has wins over Omaha, Ball State, Portland and Oregon. They lost to Arkansas 92-83.