MBB: Mavs playing for WAC title
March 16, 2013
UT Arlington (19-12) vs. New Mexico State (23-10)
LAS VEGAS – UT Arlington is playing for the Western Athletic Conference championship after Friday night's 69-53 victory over longtime rival UTSA at Orleans Arena.
The fourth-seeded Mavericks (19-12) face No. 3 New Mexico State (23-10) in Saturday's title game at 10 p.m. CT with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line. The game is being televised nationally on ESPNU.
The Mavs and Aggies split two regular-season meetings, each winning on their home court.
UT Arlington is playing for a conference title for the second time under coach Scott Cross. The Mavericks won the Southland Conference Tournament championship in 2008, earning the program's only NCAA berth.
"I've been fortunate enough to go to the NCAA Tournament one time," Cross said. "It's probably one of the greatest moments ever."
UT Arlington beat former SLC foe UTSA for the third time in three tries this season by controlling both ends of the court. The Mavericks shot 51 percent, including 43 percent from beyond the arc, while limiting the Roadrunners to 35 percent from the floor.
"It was a really complete basketball game by our guys," Cross said. "They were about as locked in as we've been all year long. We've put two back-to-back performances together."
UT Arlington dominated inside, enjoying a 34-14 edge in points in the paint. The Mavericks bench outscored their counterparts 27-6, with Jamel Outler providing the biggest spark with 13 points from UTA's reserves.
Outler scored all but two of his points in the first half, knocking down three 3-pointers as the Mavericks opened up as much as a 15-point lead, but the sophomore guard was hardly the only one feeling it. Karol Gruszecki opened up the scoring for UT Arlington with a 3-pointer and didn't slow down on his way to a game-high 19 points.
"I don't think I was hot, to be honest," said Gruszecki, who made 5 of 10 3-pointers. "I just trusted my form and we needed some shots. I was able to make some shots."
The Mavericks were moving the ball and finding the open shooter throughout the game, racking up 17 assists on 27 made baskets. Shaquille White-Miller dished out seven assists and Cameron Catlett added five.