SAN MARCOS, Texas -- With the score tied at 82-apiece, senior Kevin Hervey grinned slightly, as if he knew something the fans in Strahan Coliseum didn't.
As the clock approached the end of regulation, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year calmly dribbled past halfcourt and, with just :08 seconds on the clock, drained a 3-point field goal to send the UT Arlington men's basketball team to a dramatic 85-82 victory at in-state rival Texas State.
The win kept alive the Mavericks' hopes for a top 4 seed in next week's Sun Belt Championships in New Orleans. UTA improved to 19-12 on the season and 10-8 in league play and is guaranteed no worse than fourth place in the final league standings. Seedings for the tournament will be determined based on tomorrow's final games of the regular season.
Texas State fell to 14-17 on the season and 7-11 in league play. Nijal Pearson led the Bobcats with a career-high 31 points.
Senior point guard Erick Neal and Hervey each scored 22 points to lead UTA as the Mavericks swept the regular season series against Texas State. Neal registered a double-double with 10 assists, while Hervey grabbed 7 rebounds and had a game-high 5 steals.
Graduate transfer Johnny Hamilton added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. His program record-extending 73rd blocked shot of the season with just more than one minute remaining helped maintain a slim UTA advantage. His dunk with :46 seconds left put UTA ahead by 7 points, 80-73.
That's where the fun began.
Texas State's Tre Nottingham made a 3-pointer with :40 seconds on the clock and was fouled. He made the ensuing free throw to cut the Mavericks' lead to just 3 points. Hervey connected on a pair of free throws just seconds later to put UTA back up by five.
Pearson's 2-point basket with his toe on the line made Texas State's deficit back to just 3 points. Neal missed a pair of free throws to hand the Bobcats a lifeline, then Nottingham connected on another 3-pointer to tie the game at 82-82 with :17 seconds remaining.
UTA inbound the ball and Hervey calmly walked it up court and connected on the first game-winner of his career.
Then, we all knew what he was smiling about.
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