March 4, 2017
LAFAYETTE, La.- Surviving a comeback bid by Louisiana, it was junior Shelby Richards that proved to be the hero in the regular-season finale.
The Ragin' Cajuns tied the game with less than 10 seconds remaining after being down by as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter. Christina Devers picked up the mid-court pass, dished it to Richards in the corner and the South Jordan, Utah native drained the game winner to give UTA the 79-76 victory on Saturday at the Cajundome.
With the win, UTA solidified itself as the No. 2 seed in next week's Sun Belt Championship tournament and improved to 21-7 overall and 14-4 in league play. The second-place finish is the best for the program since the 2008 season when it was second in the Southland Conference West Division. The 14 wins tie for the second best in a conference season.
Advancing into the quarterfinals with a bye, the Lady Mavs take on the winner of the No. 7 and No. 10 game on Thursday, March 9 at 5 p.m. at the Lake Front Arena. Tickets are available at UTATickets.com.
Including the game winner, UTA knocked down 11 treys on the evening, coming just two short of the program's all-time record.
Devers connected on five attempts from long range on the way to a game-high 19 points. Rebekah VanDijk picked up her 12th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds. VanDijk achieved two major milestones against UL. The junior center moved up to fourth in UTA's all-time rebounding charts and into 10th in all-time scoring.
Cierra Johnson and Richards joined the pair in double figures as Johnson had 14 points and Richards finished with 12.
An inconsistent first half by the Lady Mavericks kept the Ragin' Cajuns in the contest. Louisiana used several runs during the first 20 minutes to overcome UTA leads. After a 6-0 run by UL was countered by a spurt of its own by UTA, Louisiana charged into the lead by scoring 13 consecutive, using four UTA fouls to earn points at the charity stripe.
However, UTA's offense was still able to provide itself and advantage at the break. Christina Devers was hot from 3-point land, knocking down 3-of-4 in the first half, including splashing a trey from the corner with less than 10 seconds left in the second quarter. UTA was just 11-of-26 from the field in the half, but knocked down five 3-pointers to match UL from deep.
The battle from beyond the arc continued into a high scoring third quarter. Devers continuing to be hot from long range as she connected on two of UTA's five 3-pointers in the period, joining Crystal Allen, Miranda LeJune and Johnson who all drained one from deep.
The Lady Mavs used the period to outscore Louisiana 29-20 in the period as UTA shot more than 51 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from deep.
UTA built the lead up to 17 points as it scored the eight of the fourth's first nine points but Louisiana did not go away. Unable to control the ball, UTA turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions and help spark a 9-0 run for the Ragin' Cajuns.
The final seconds of each quarter proved pivotal for the Lady Mavericks to have momentum at the break. Shelby Richards knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first, while Christina Devers added another with less than 10 seconds left in the second to send UTA into the break with a one-point edge.
In a key stretch of the final minute, UTA knocked down five free throws to maintain a brief advantage. However, it was the final two that contreversially came off the board. Richards knocked a shot down, but the point was taken off due to a player fouling out for UL and a substitution needing to be made. She would miss the next two consecutively, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
UTA heads to New Orleans for the 2017 Sun Belt Championship tournament as it will enter as the No. 2 seed. UTA will play at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 9.
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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