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NEW ORLEANS - Since the first team practice last summer, the focus has been on this week. Long summer practices, a foreign tour to Costa Rica, preseason conditioning and grinding in the regular season, it has all been about this week. Third-seeded UT Arlington opens its stay in the Sun Belt Championship tournament against No. 6 Louisiana on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN3.
UTA has had the team motto of "DecideToDance" for one reason, punching its ticket to the Big Dance and enter as one of the hottest teams in the league after winning 10 of the last 12 games down the final stretch. Louisiana survived a three-overtime thriller against No. 11 Georgia Southern on Tuesday night to advance into the quarterfinal matchup. The winner will meet either No. 2 Texas State or No. 7 Coastal Carolina in the semifinals.
A win on Thursday night would mark back-to-back quarterfinal wins for UTA and a second consecutive appearance in the league's semifinals. The Lady Mavs fell to eventual champion Troy in the semis last year.
HOW TO WATCH/FOLLOW
Thursday's matchup is featured on WatchESPN.com and on the WatchESPN App on both the Google Play and Apple Stores. Fans can also follow along to live stats via SunBeltSports.org or on the team Twitter by following the account @LadyMavHoops.
In the last meeting vs. Louisiana, it was the lowest point total in a win for UTA in its history, winning 38-34. Rebekah VanDijk was the lone UTA player in double figures with 11. UTA and UL met in the 2016 quarterfinals, a matchup UL took 59-53, outscoring UTA in the fourth 24-13. UTA was without VanDijk in the matchup.
UTA is looking to avenge a 2016 loss to the Ragin' Cajuns in the quarterfinals after UL used a big fourth quarter to end the Lady Maverick season.
This year's matchups have been down to the wire with UTA sweeping the season series by a combined 6 points.
In the CPC matchup, UTA used a late rally to complete a comeback, trailing two going into the final 10 minutes. VanDijk had 10 points, while Crystal Allen led with 14. Daiane Machado nearly had a double-double with 9 points and 11 boards
In Lafayette, scoring was at a premium as UTA topped UL 38-34. UTA outscored the Cajun's 12-6 in the fourth in the team's lowest point total in a win in program history.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
UTA is 18-30 all-time in conference tournament play and 1-3 since joining the Sun Belt. UTA's first tourney win in the league came last year over South Alabama (65-53). UTA has its 7-game winning streak end in the regular-season finale at Texas State. UTA has won 10 of its last 12 dating back to Jan. 18 after being 2-4 to open SBC play.
UTA featured two in the league's All-Conference list released on Monday. Rebekah VanDijk became a four-time selection on the first team, while Crystal Allen was named to the league's third team.
VanDijk has scored in double figures in 7 consecutive games and 15 of the last 16. Her 58.9 field-goal percentage is on pace to be UTA's all-time single-season high, beating out Tracy Blurr's 57.8 in 86-87.
VanDijk needs: 1 block to be 2nd player in UTA history / 9th in SBC history to have 200 in a career... 5 free throws to pass Rola Ogunoye (01-05) for 2nd in UTA history (has 352)... 1 rebounds to pass Orphie Moore (USA) for 6th in Sun Belt history (has 1,107 in career - UTA all-time record)... 4 blocks to pass Lilli Mason (WKU) in Sun Belt history. She needs 6 blocks to pass No. 5 Tanya Strong (97-97) for single-season blocks (has 55)
HEAD COACH Krista Gerlich
Krista Gerlich enters with with a 244-126 career record, while posting a 76-84 record in her fifth season at UTA. A 1993 graduate of Texas Tech, Gerlich has led a resurgance of the Lady Mavs, bringing the team from just a four-win season in her first year, to reaching the WNIT in 2017. As a player, Gerlich won the 1993 NCAA National Championship with Texas Tech. Prior to UTA, she was a standout coach at West Texas A&M, claiming three conference titles.
LAST TIME OUT
Things didn't go well from the tip as Texas State stole away the toss and scored just five seconds into the game. The Bobcats would lead wire-to-wire on their Senior Day to top the Lady Mavs, securing the No. 2 seed, while UTA went to No. 3 in the league.
Crystal Allen posted a career-high 25 points, hitting 8-for-13 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep to lead the Lady Mavs. Rebekah VanDijk earned her 77th-career double-digit scoring effort with 11 (4-of-7). TXST's Taeler deer, the nation's leading 3-point shooter, hit on 5-of-7 attempts for a game-high 28 points.
UTA shot 40.4 percent in the game, but gave up 42.6 to the Bobcats, as well as 43.5 from long range as Texas State knocked down 10 3-pointers. Texas State pulled away from what was a close game at halftime with a 17-9 third quarter. Texas State outscored UTA 25-0 in points off turnovers, forcing 20 turnovers.
FOLLOW THE MAVS SOCIALLY
For up-to-date news, photos, videos and updates you can follow UTA sports program online at UTAMavs.com or via any of several social media accounts on twitter @UTAMavs, Instagram @UTAMavs, Snapchat @UTAMavs and Facebook at UTArlingtonAthletics. Follow the UTA basketball programs on Twitter at @UTA_MBB and @LadyMavHoops.
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