UTA Gets Much-Needed Sweep at LA.-Monroe

OVERALL

The Mavs got two huge wins on the road. The first was never in doubt, the second wasn’t decided until the final seconds. Great stuff!

Game 1 – Friday – uta 77, UL-Monroe 64

An impressive–and much needed–win for the Mavericks against UL Monroe, who came into the game with a 2-0 record. Despite being without several key players due to injury (David Azore, Nicolas Elame and Lazaro Rojas), this might have been one of UTA’s best games of the season.

UTA’s defense (ranked in the top 10 nationally in steals) constantly challenged passes and shots all night, and did a good job of protecting the paint. UTA held UL-Monroe to just 44.8% shooting and allowed the Warharks to make only 5 of their 23 three-point attempts.

The UTA offense also had as good of a flow as I’ve seen this year, and really seemed to get into a good rhythm in the first 15 minutes of the game to build a quick 14-point lead (21-7) just 7 minutes into the game. The Mavs lead by as many as 16 in the first half (42-26 at halftime), and would extend that lead to 20 just 2 minutes into the second half (50-30). Shahada Wells had another huge scoring night, leading all scorers with 25 points (10-16 fg, 1-2 3pt, 4-4 ft) and Sam Griffin scored 18 on 7-18 shooting (4-10 from outside). Patrick Mwamba scored 12 points, making several nice mid- range jumpers and going 2-3 from three point range. The Mavs shot the three very well, going 10-21 (47.6%). The Mavs outrebounded the Warhawks 37-26.

Great to see the team play so well after a tough weekend in Little Rock last week. The defense looked good in game 2 last Saturday at Little Rock, and was equally as good against UL-Monroe in the first game of the two-game series on Friday.

Record12Final
UT Arlington5-6, 1-2 Sun Belt423577
UL-Monroe4-6, 2-1 Sun Belt263864
FG3 PTFTLeading Scorers
UT Arlington49.1%10-21 47.6%11-17 64.7%Wells 25 pts.
Griffin 18 pts.
Mwamba 12 pts.
UL-Monroe44.8%5-23 21.7%23-27 77.8%Nicholas 23 pts.
Ozier 16 pts.

Game 2 – Saturday – uta 75, UL-Monroe 74

This was one of the most entertaining games I’ve watched in a long time. There were 13 lead changes, the score was tied 7 times, and neither team lead by more than 6 points the entire game.

And again despite being without several key players due to injury (David Azore, Nicolas Elame and Lazaro Rojas), UTA continued their hot shooting from Friday. However, ULM was just as hot and were basically able to match the Mavericks basket-for-basket in the first half, with UTA taking a 1-point lead into halftime thanks to an effortless-looking half-court three by Sam Griffin (you could just tell it was going in from the moment he released it). Griffin was unstoppable again, scoring 18 points on 7-11 shooting (4-8 from outside).

UTA did a great job moving the ball around on offense to find open shots, and were relentless in attacking the basket to get to the free throw line, especially in the second half (making 11 of 12 in the final 20:00, 18 of 20 for the game). Free throw shooting has been a strength of UTA’s lately–the Mavs made 19-20 free throws in a recent game. ULM’s offfense did a great job finding open shooters in an around the paint for layups or short jumpers, while also making a lot of threes, especially in the second half (7-12 from outside in the final 20:00).

The lead would go back-and-forth in the second half, with neither team able to make any major scoring runs, which set the stage for a wild final ten seconds. Any time it seemed like a team was starting to gain momentum, the other team would make a three or a big defensive stop. It seemed almost like a playoff/conference tournament game. Good stuff!

Which gets us to the final series of plays to end of the game.

21 seconds left, UTA down by 4 after a pair of made free throws by ULM.

The Mavs’ Jordan Phillips made a nice three from the top of the arc to make the game 73-74 ULM with 12 seconds left. At that point, UTA is in good shape–likely foul ULM, and even if they make two free throws, it’s still a one-possession game with maybe 7-9 seconds left for a shot to tie or win.

What ensues for the next ten seconds is one of the wildest finishes I’ve even seen: ULM inbounds the ball, Davis Steelman (who, along with Patrick Mwamba’s defensive efforts were HUGE this weekend) knocks the ball away in the ULM backcourt, with the ball bouncing out to Shahada Wells, who then executes a perfect bounce pass to Fredelin De La Cruz under the basket for a layup to take the lead by 1 with 3 seconds left. The final inbound play sees ULM get the ball about about 2/3 of the way down the court. Jordan Phillips tips the ball away, and as players scramble to recover the ball, it bounces back toward mid-court as time runs out. Mavs win.

Wow.

Here’s the dramatic ending, with Josh Sours’ play-by-play:

Notice the defensive effort on the final couple of plays. Passes challenged, players covered well, no easy passes or open looks. Check out Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu stopping a fast-break with an impressive block:

This is a great example of how locked in the defense was all weekend against a ULM team that has some great shooters that knocked down a lot of tough shots this weekend, and the UTA offense has shown it can put up a ton of points in the first four conference games. Overall, a great weekend against a good Sun Belt team, and I’d think this game could be a huge momentum builder for the Mavs going into next weekend’s series against a very good Louisiana team in Arlington next weekend.

Record12Final
UT Arlington6-6, 2-2 Sun Belt393675
UL-Monroe4-7, 2-2 Sun Belt383674
FG3 PTFTLeading Scorers
UT Arlington45.3%9-25 36%18-20 90%Griffin 18
Phillips 16
De La Cruz 12
UL-Monroe48.310-20 50%6-11 54.5%Nicholas 19
Harrison 15
Ozier

Sun Belt Standings after Week 1 of Conference Play

West

TeamConference
Little Rock3-1
Texas State1-1
Louisiana1-1
UTA2-2
ULM2-2
Arkansas State0-2

EASt

TeamConference
Coastal Carolina3-1
Appalachian State3-1
Georgia State1-1
Troy1-1
Appalachian State3-1
Georgia Southern1-3
South Alabama1-3

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