For UT Arlington, there is no such thing as a moral victory.
But this comes close.
The Mavericks came closer than they’ve ever come to knocking off Texas, leading by as many as 12 points, but fell victim to a game-ending 21-9 run by the Longhorns over the final 8:21 of the game in a 72-69 loss at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday night.
“It’s time for us to figure out how to win basketball games,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “[Texas] looked like they had been there and won close basketball games and we looked like we were a little bit nervous and unsure of ourselves. And that’s why we came up short.”
UTA (2-6) came out firing in the first half, hitting four of its first eight 3-pointers and used a 21-6 run to take a 35-23 lead late in the first half. The Mavericks scored the final six points of the first period and went into halftime leading the Longhorns 41-33.
Texas (6-1) had not been outrebounded all season, but the Mavericks had a 27-17 advantage in the rebounding department in the first half and, despite allowing an NCAA-worst 75 3-pointers entering the game, UTA held Texas to 1-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc during the first half.
“That was definitely our best defensive performance of the year,” Cross said. “We were a lot more active with our hands. We were effective at times in our zone. We had been getting picked apart defensively. That’s all we had done for the last week.”
UTA did not relinquish the early advantage easily. The Mavericks led the Longhorns for nearly 27 consecutive minutes as Texas went on a 10-2 second-half run to take a 63-61 lead with 5:47 remaining in the contest, its first lead since the 12:43 mark of the first half.
The Mavericks regained the lead on a Shaquille White-Miller 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 2:08 left to play.
But a steal and dunk by Texas sophomore Demarcus Holland gave the Longhorns the lead for good at 70-69.
UTA’s Stuart Lagerson blocked a shot by Connor Lammert, but Miller committed a turnover that led to two free throws by Lammert.
“Turnovers changed the game,” Cross said. “We had seven assists and 16 turnovers. We should have the opposite, 16 assists and seven turnovers. That’s a hard thing to coach. You can work on passing and dribbling until you’re blue in the face but if the guys don’t go out and execute it, it doesn’t really help.”
UTA had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds.
With the Mavericks trailing, 72-69, Lonnie McClanahan missed a floater with 14 seconds remaining.
After Kendal Yancy missed two free throws for Texas, Reger Dowell was unable to connect on a half-court heave as the buzzer sounded.
For the first time since 2002, the Mavericks have lost their first five road games of the season.
They had four players score in double figures — Dowell (17 points), Brandon Edwards (16), Jamel Outler (14) and McClanahan (13), but have lost five in a row and are 0-9 all-time against Texas.
“You have to do the little things in order to win games,” Cross said. “You have to put your hands up. You have to dive on the floor. Guards have to block out when their man gets back in transition. All those little things winning basketball teams do and losing basketball teams don’t do and we weren’t doing those things.”