Dec. 8, 2016
MORAGA, Calif. -- For the first time in program history, UTA men's basketball topped a top-25 opponent, claiming a 65-51 win at No. 12 Saint Mary's, on Thursday night at McKeon Pavilion.
UTA (8-3) stretched its winning streak to seven games with the historic upset at Saint Mary's. It marked the first win over a top-25 foe in program history, with the Mavs owning an 0-28 record vs. Associated Press top-25 foes entering the matchup with the streaking Gaels.
The Mavs has had an impressive run on the road in non-conference play over the last two seasons, posting wins at Memphis and Ohio State in 2015-16, before claiming the first UTA win over in-state power Texas on Nov. 29.
UTA finished the game shooting 49 percent (25-for-51) from the field, holding SMC to a 31 percent shooting percentage. The Gaels entered the the game shooting 53 percent from the field per game, ranking second in the NCAA. UTA also won the battle of the boards, 36-30, while collecting 10 steals and forcing 16 SMC turnovers.
Saint Mary's (6-1) suffered its first loss of the year after entering the contest with UTA owning its highest ranking in program history. The Gaels, who shared the West Coast Conference regular-season title in 2015-16 with a 29-6 record, owned a 20-1 record at home a season ago.
Preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Kevin Hervey led the Mavs with 15 points, grabbing seven rebounds. Guard Erick Neal had 13 points and eight assists, with guard Kaelon Wilson charting 10 points off the bench. Guard Nathan Hawkins grabbed six rebounds off the bench.
After Saint Mary's opened the game with a three pointer, UTA immediately answered with Hervey's first trey of the game. The teams traded baskets early with SMU owning a consistent lead, before Wilson came off the bench to complete an old fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 12-12. Neal gave UTA its first lead with a jumper in the paint and Faith Pope followed with a three in the corner for a 17-12 lead. Pope found Link Kabadyndi for a dunk and a double-digit lead to stretch the UTA run to 10-0.
Wilson forced his way into the paint and laid it off the glass for a 21-12 lead and Neal then stretched UTA's run to 16-3 with a layup in transition. Hervey sank a pair of free throws after he was fouled on a corner three to give SMU its largest deficit of the year, a 27-15 UTA lead. Nifty ball movement from the Mavs led to a Jalen Jones 3-pointer in the corner for a 12-point lead with just over four minutes left, forcing a SMC timeout. After Hervey connected on a bucket in the paint, Julian Harris nailed a pair of free throws for a 36-23 lead at halftime.
UT held a 36-23 lead, forcing 10 Saint Mary's turnovers at halftime. Hervey led all scorers with 11 points at the break, with Neal dishing out five assists.
UTA's stifling defense forced a pair of turnover to open the final stanza with Neal drilling a 3-pointer in transition for a 39-23 lead to start the scoring in the second. After a SMC timeout, Hervey drilled a pair of free throws for a 45-27 lead with just over 14 minutes remaining in regulation. At the under 12-minute timeout, UTA had stretched its lead to 49-20 after a DJ Bryant bucket at the rim.
After the timeout, Wilson forced a blocking call on a drive to the hoop, sinking a free throw to give UTA a 50-30 lead. Saint Mary's went on a 7-0 run to cut it to 50-37, with Hervey thwarting the run with a bucket for a 15-point advantage. With the Gaels on a furious run, Drew Charles sank a jumper to give UTA a 54-41 lead with just over eight minutes left. Charles then connected on a triple to give the Mavs a 57-41 lead.
The Mavs will return to action on on Friday, Dec. 16 with a 7 p.m. CT matchup at Bradley in Peoria, Ill. The game will be broadcast live on KEXB 620-AM, with the Voice of the Mavs, Josh Sours, calling the action. Fans can also find the game through TuneIn and the contest will be streamed live through ESPN3.com.
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