MBB: Mavs fight to finsh, drop season finale at UTSA 97-88
When the final buzzer sounded the Mavericks had lost 97-88 to UTSA but it was the final minutes that showed why UT Arlington is the Southland Conference champion and the No. 1 seed heading into next week's tournament.
The loss dropped the Mavericks to 15-1 in conference play and dashed their hopes of a perfect conference season, which would have been the first in the Southland in 40 years.
The game appeared to be over with 5:34 to play with UTSA up by 18 but the Mavericks put up a fight to finish as they cut that lead to as little as four inside the last two minutes to show they are the team to beat next week in Katy.
"I thought we had a chance at the end," UT Arlington head coach Scott Cross said. "But it was just a little too much to overcome. I think it will be a little wake up call for us but I know we will be ready for next week."
The Mavericks had cut that 18-point deficit to 10 with 1:58 to play when things started to get interesting.
At that point, LaMarcus Reed was fouled on a three-point shot and UTSA's bench was assessed a technical foul. Reed went to the line to shoot five free throws and made four of them, cutting the lead to six.
Michael Hale then made a layup before Reed answered with two free throws to get it back to four. Kannon Burrage made two free throws to answer that and then the Mavs missed a pair of three-pointers, which essentially ended the hopes of the big comeback.
Reed was the catalyst for the Mavericks as he has been all season. The senior finished with a career-high 31 points, which included a 14-of-15 effort from the free throw line.
Reves was equally as important to the Mavs cause as he finished with another double-double with career-highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds. Reves' effort was even more impressive due to the face that he had been suffering from a case of strep throat for the past few days.
Kevin Butler played a key role in the comeback and he finished with 17 points and four rebounds.
The Mavericks held an early lead in the game before UTSA went on an 11-2 run midway through the first half to take the lead. The Roadrunners made 16 three-pointers in the game, including nine in the first half and held a 49-37 lead at halftime.
UTSA finished the game making more 3-pointers than 2-point field goals - 16 to 13 - and shot 54.7% for the game. They also made 23-of-27 from the foul line, including 19-of-22 in the second half.
"We were not at our best defensively at the start of the game," Cross said. "We got better as the game went on, and in the second half, but we have played better than that on the defensive end this year."
The Mavericks also turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, which led to 17 UTSA points. UT Arlington did a much better job of taking the care of the ball in the final 20 minutes as they turned it over just four times, which helped them get back into the game.
UTA held a decided 38-27 in points in the paint and scored 13 second chance points as it outrebounded UTSA by a 36-26 margin.
Hale led UTSA with 21 points while Igor Nujic and Burrage each added 17 for the Roadrunners.
With other results of the day, the Mavericks will face Nicholls, the No. 8 seed, in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament on Wednesday, March 7. Tipoff for the game in Katy, Texas will be at 6 p.m.