MONROE, La.-- An impressive performance by junior Rebekah VanDijk helped clinch the program its first 20-win season since 2008-09 and clinched a first-round bye in next week's Sun Belt Championship tournament.
The Lady Mavericks routed ULM 83-47 on Thursday night at Fant-Ewing Coliseum to push the team's winning streak to three games and help maintain second in the league standings. UTA improved to 20-7 overall and 13-4 in the Sun Belt, while ULM fell to 5-23 and 2-15. The win was UTA's fourth consecutive over ULM.
With Texas State's loss to Louisiana, UTA is guaranteed at least a top-3 seed in next week's Sun Belt Championship tournament in New Orleans. The Lady Mavs' first game will come in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9. Tickets are available at UTATickets.com.
VanDijk connected on her first eight attempts of the game to quickly move up the UTA all-time charts. The Nazareth, Texas native surpassed Shalyn Martin for 11th in Lady Maverick scoring history. VanDijk finished with 24 points on 11-14 shooting and 10 rebounds. The double-double was the 11th of the season for the junior and her 36th of her career. VanDijk, heading into Saturday with 1,181 career points, is just 14 points away from entering the all-time top-10 list for UTA.
Crystal Allen and Christina Devers joined VanDijk in double figures. Allen, appearing to be unable to miss in the opening half, finished with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Devers produced 14 points, making six of her 11 attempts.
The night went similarly to the previous meeting at College Park Center in January with the UTA defense causing havoc for the Warhawks. UTA forced 23 turnovers and turned it into 34 in points off turnovers. The Lady Mavs entered sixth in the nation in turnovers forced per game at 21.9.
The Lady Mavs left no doubt of their intentions with the best defensive performance since quarters were introduced for women's basketball last year.
UTA held the Warhawks without a field goal in the opening period, a first for the defensive side in program history in a quarter, and the offense was just as equally impressive. Behind VanDijk's perfect start to the game through her first eight shots, UTA burst out to a 21-2 lead heading into the second.
ULM briefly mounted a run to start the frame, but the 6-2 effort was matched by UTA's spurt of its own as it turned ULM over on three consecutive possessions.
The Lady Mavs shot 50.0 perfect from the field in the opening 20 minutes, holding ULM to just 26.1 percent and forcing 15 turnovers.
The Warhawks were about to put together a run of offense during the third to match the UTA effort. ULM had its closest quarter of the contest despite UTA still leading the period 21-18.
Just four minutes into the game the Lady Mavs had a double-digit advantage. VanDijk was able to put in three easy lay ins, while Devers knocked down her opening 3-pointer from the corner for a quick 9-0 lead. After a pair of free throws from the Warhawks, UTA was right back at it and went up to its double-digit lead to force ULM to an early timeout.
With the 26-point advantage after the break, the Lady Mavericks didn't let its foot off the pedal in the third quarter, building the lead up above 30 points during a stretch. ULM was able to mount a run of its own with UTA going two minutes without a point midway through the third. However, UTA still managed to outscore ULM by three.
UTA turned the ball over just 12 times to ULM's 23. UTA picked up 12 off of steals. ... Ericka Mattingly had her third consecutive game with at least six assists as she dished the mark on Thursday. ... UTA shot 41.2 percent from 3-point land, two coming from Devers, Breck Clark and Lauren Billie.
UTA concludes the 2016-17 regular season with a trip to Louisiana on Saturday featured on ESPN3. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. UTA, having already clinched a bye, is battling for positioning in next week's tournament pending Thursday's results.
The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships are scheduled for a week of March Madness in the Big Easy. New Orleans will once again be home to the two championships that will take place at Lakefront Arena from March 7-12 and ticket books can now be purchased from your school's ticket office. For more information, visit the Sun Belt Conference's championship central websites - Men's Championship - Women's Championship - and be sure to follow the #FunBelt on social media - @SunBelt.
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