Feb. 27, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Three of UTA's four men's basketball seniors scored in double figures, leading the Mavs to a 82-67 win over Troy in the home finale on Senior Day, clinching at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title, on Monday night at College Park Center.
The win for UTA (23-6, 13-3 SBC) secured no worse than a tie for the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and the top seed in the league tournament. It marks UTA's first regular-season conference championship since claiming the 2011-12 title in the Southland Conference. UTA also shared a three-way split of the 2003-04 regular-season title in the Southland.
The Mavs have two road games remaining in the regular season, at ULM on March 2 and at Louisiana on March 4.
UTA has now won 11 of its last 12 games and are currently riding a seven-game winning streak. Owning a No. 35 RPI entering the game, UTA finished the season a perfect 13-0 at College Park Center and have won 16 consecutive games at home. The Mavs are one of just 10 programs to go undefeated at home in 2016-17.
UTA's result marked the 200th career win for Mavs head coach Scott Cross, who is 200-145 in his career, the most wins and best winning percentage in program annals. With 23 wins in 2016-17, the Mavs are just a win shy of equaling the 2011-12 and 2015-16 teams for the most wins in single-season history.
After each team traded buckets at the rim to open the game, Troy (16-14, 8-8 SBC) connected on a triple to take a 5-2 lead with 71 seconds off the game clock. After Troy built a 7-2 lead, UTA got a lay-in from Jones and a dunk from Pope, before Pope connected on a three pointer to give UTA its first lead of the game. The teams traded triples to send Troy to the first media timeout of the game with a 12-11 lead. Out of the break, Charles drilled his second triple of the night from the wing to give the Mavs a two-point lead. With the game knotted at 15-15, Erick Neal found Pope in transition, with Pope drawing a foul and sinking one from the charity stripe.
UTA took a lead out of the under 11-minute media timeout, getting a 6-0 run, spurred by two triples from Neal and a basket from Nathan Hawkins, taking a 26-21 after a timeout with 7:47 left in the period. Jorge Bilbao gave UTA its largest lead of the game after sinking a jumper to stretch the lead to 30-23 with 4:58 left. Neal and Hawkins then combined for a quick run, in the midst of the Mavs defense holding the Trojans without a field goal for six minutes of game action, giving UTA a 35-25 lead heading to the 3:33 mark. Jones finished off the half with a UTA basket to give the Mavs a 45-30 lead at halftime.
Troy came out strong in the second half as the teams traded blows over the first five minutes of game action. The Trojans went on a 16-12 run out of the break with the Mavs getting big buckets at the rim from Bilbao and Kaelon Wilson.
Kevin Hervey's jump shot gave UTA a 61-48 lead heading to the under 12-minute timeout. Jones swiped a steal on the defensive end and took it coast to coast under duress to give the Mavs a 13-point lead with just over 10 minutes left. With 9:25 left, Hervey sank a runner from the baseline and was fouled, completing a three-point play for a 66-52 lead. After a Pope basket, UTA took its largest lead behind a 7-0 run, 70-52 and forced a Troy timeout with eight minutes left. The Mavs began to cruise into the final 10 minutes, with Bilbao connecting on two free throws to bring the lead to 19 with 6:30 left. Bilbao's rebound and putback with six minutes left gave UTA a 21-point lead.
The Mavs were led in the win by their senior quartet, with Bilbao owning a game-high 16 points, adding eight rebounds and three assists. Charles splashed a pair of threes, Jones finished with 13 points and six rebounds and Pope had 14 pots and six boards. Hervey finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
The Mavs conclude their regular season with a swing through Louisiana, traveling to face ULM on March 2 at 7 p.m. CT, before wrapping up the slate on March 4 at Louisiana, with tipoff at 7:15 p.m.
The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships are scheduled for a week of March Madness in the Big Easy. New Orleans will once again be home to the two championships that will take place at Lakefront Arena from March 7-12 and ticket books can now be purchased from the UTA Box Office. For more information, visit the Sun Belt Conference's championship central websites and be sure to follow the Sun Belt on social media - @SunBelt.
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