March 10, 2018
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- UT Arlington senior Kaelon Wilson grabbed two huge offensive rebounds and classmate Kevin Hervey made a pair of clutch free throws with :11 seconds remaining to push the Maverick men's basketball team into its first ever Sun Belt Conference championship game Saturday with a 71-68 victory over top-seeded Louisiana.
The Mavericks will face the winner of the tournament's other semifinal between Georgia State and Georgia Southern in Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game in Lakefront Arena. The title game will be televised live on ESPN2.
UTA improved to 21-12 on the season in a thrilling tournament game that featured nine lead changes and six ties. The Mavericks led by as many as 8 points in the first half, while the Ragin' Cajuns (27-6) were ahead by an early 7 points to open the game.
Senior point guard Erick Neal continues to shine on both ends of the floor, lead the Mavericks with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Wilson added 17 oints and eight rebounds, while Hervey went for a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. Johnny Hamilton added 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
Frank Bartley led the regular season champion Ragin' Cajuns with 19 points, while Bryce Washington added and 11-point, 10-rebound effort.
Louisiana claimed a late 68-67 lead with a pair of Bartley free throws with just 1:54 left in the game. After Wilson claimed the first of two late-game offensive boards with 1:19 left, he was fouled and made both ensuing free throws regain the lead for UTA.
Ahead by one point with less than a minute remaining, Hervey rebounded a missed shot by Malik Marquetti. With :20 seconds remaining, Neal missed a 3-point attempt that was rebounded by Wilson. The Ragin' Cajuns put Hervey on the line with :11 seconds left and his charity shots, along with a pair of missed 3-pointers at the other end, clinched the victory for UTA.
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