Dec. 29, 2012
Michael Eldridge | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – UT Arlington opened up its first and only Western Athletic Conference season with a convincing 68-47 win Saturday night over New Mexico State at College Park Center.
The Mavericks improved to 6-3 overall and 1-0 in conference, while the Aggies dropped to 6-7 and 0-1. New Mexico State leads the all-time series 10-2, but UT Arlington has won the last two meetings. The teams meet again on March 9, 2013 in Las Cruces, N.M.
“It was the best all-around performance for our guys this year,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “We did a great job defensively and I was glad we did a good job taking care of the basketball. We were kicking on all cylinders for the first time all year.”
The Mavericks ended with just nine turnovers in the game, which was the Mavericks first time to be under double-digits in the turnover column all season.
“We decided to value the basketball and take care of the ball,” Cross said. “We have tried to take that other word - (turnovers) - out of our vocabulary. We have been working fundamentals over the last month.”
Senior forward Kevin Butler ignited several runs in the first half, as the Mavericks opened up a 13-point lead (37-24) at the break. Butler scored a team-high 18, grabbed six rebounds and made two steals. Freshman guard Drew Charles scored a career-high 12.
NMSU guard Daniel Mullings scored a game-high 21, with center Sim Bhullar adding 14.
UT Arlington shot 44.3-percent for the game, including 55.2 percent in the first half. The Aggies managed to shoot 33.3 percent against the nation's fourth-best defensive team.
Butler helped lead UTA to multiple runs in the first half that kept New Mexico State from scoring consecutive field goals until 2:30 left before the break. The Mavs scored seven consecutive points to break away early behind a field goal from Butler, a layup from Charles and a 3-pointer from Jamel Outler forcing the Aggies into a timeout. Butler would continue his hot shooting by hitting his sixth field goal of the half with just eight shots on the way to a 13 points.
The Aggies' lone run in the half came with 2:30 to go, scoring eight consecutive points. But Charles would answer the run with a 3-pointer with four seconds to go in the half to send the Mavericks into the locker room up 37-24.
UTA continued to control the temple to start the second half. The Mavericks answered an early three points from the Aggies and scored seven of the next eight points to extend the lead to 15 points. Jordan Reves (8 points and 8 rebounds) would hit his first two jump shots of the game and Brandon Edwards followed with four points.
Defense also stayed strong for UTA in the second. The Mavericks again held the Aggies from making multiple buckets in a row. This time though for the 10 minutes of the half.
The tempo slowed down for the final five minutes of the game. UTA’s shooting went cold as it attempted to kill out the game by taking the shot clock deep. The Aggies brought the game back to within 13. Reves would end the drought for UTA and Butler would reach his season-high in scoring from the free throw line.
Charles also contributed a season-high in points with his first double digit effort of the season. Charles should shoot 4-7, including 2-5 on 3-pointers.
“I felt like he was going to have a great game,” Cross said. “He was unbelievable in practice the other day and had about 10 3-pointers in practice. He is getting more confidence and when he is making more shots in practice it makes me more confident in him. He really gave us a boost in the first half."
UT Arlington continues WAC play with the second of four consecutive home games Monday afternoon against Denver. The Aggies are at Louisiana Tech on Monday night.
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