By Art Garcia | @ArtGarcia92
SAVANNAH, Georgia – UT Arlington claimed the first postseason victory in program history in dominating fashion by racing past Savannah State 75-59 Wednesday night in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Mavericks (24-10) also tied a school record for most victories in a single season after winning for the sixth time in the last seven games. UTA receives a bye through the second round and advances to the CIT quarterfinals (March 22-24).
The Mavs learn their next opponent after the CIT's second round is played from Thursday to Sunday. As one of the three highest RPI teams in the tournament, UTA was awarded a pass to the second round.
The road to the first postseason tournament win in five tries didn't have many speedbumps, despite UTA being without starting guard Kaelon Wilson and key reserve guard Nathan Hawkins. Instead of shortening the rotation, UTA coach Scott Cross used all 10 available bodies.
Jalen Jones paced UTA with 19 points and 10 rebounds – his third double-double. Drew Charles knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 19. Kennedy Eubanks, starting with Wilson out, scored 13 and grabbed nine boards. Erick Neal dished out nine assists before fouling out.
The Mavs appeared to be the fresher team early, jumping out to a quick 13-2 lead at Tiger Arena before a string of SSU 3-pointers closed the gap to 18-17. UT Arlington would settle down and went into the locker room with a healthy 40-23 edge.
Jones had 12 points at the break, with Charles scoring 10. The Mavericks shot 62.5 percent (15-24) in the first half.
UTA's lead hovered between 20 and 28 points for most of the second half. UTA never trailed and the game was never tied.
Dexter McClanahan topped the Tigers (16-16) with 15 points in the first-ever meeting with UT Arlington.
After the Tigers cut the gap to 18-17, UTA responded with a 12-0 run to make it 30-17. The run would eventually expand to 19-2 as the Mavs effectively put the game away before halftime.
UTA outrebounded the Tigers 38-23. ... UTA outscored SSU 34-10 in the paint, including 16-0 in the first half. ... UTA enjoyed a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points. ... The Mavs shot 52.8-percent for the game to the Tigers' 31.3 percent.
Wilson (ankle) and Hawkins (foot) missed their first games of the season. ... Neal sits alone in second for most assists in a season with 206. ... UTA is now 1-4 in postseason play, including 1-1 in the CIT. ... UTA went 24-9 in 2011-12 to set the program record for wins. ... Mairega Clarke saw his first game action since March 1. ... UTA has 16 double-digit wins this season.
UT Arlington awaits the results of the CIT second round before returning to action in the quarterfinals from March 22-24.
UT Arlington coach Scott Cross' opening statement:
"Savannah State is a very good team, especially at home. They were 12-2 and we knew they weren't going to give it to us. Our guys did a great job defending and rebounding in that first half. We set ourselves up. It got very sloppy there at the end. Other than that our guys played extremely hard. I'm very thankful for this win No. 24, which ties the all-time most so I'm happy that our guys worked so hard to accomplish that."
Jalen Jones on the win:
"We competed. We knew how big this win was because it tied the most wins in a single season for UTA and was the first postseason win."
Jones on playing without key players:
"We know the next guy has to step up. This is a whole team, it's not just one person. When one person goes down, we know we have to come together as a team."
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