After blowing an 11-point lead late in the second half against Cal State Bakersfield, it seemed like the same old story for the UT Arlington men’s basketball team — get a sizable lead, sputter down the stretch, fail to close.
But even as the Roadrunners hit seven second-half 3-pointers, Brandon Edwards and the Mavericks held tough, took it to overtime and gave themselves an early holiday gift with a 79-75 win Saturday at the College Park Center.
Edwards turned in one of his most impressive performances of the year. He scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but it was his late-game dominance that won the game for UTA.
As the game wore down to the final minutes of regulation, it became clear the Mavericks’ top scorer, Reger Dowell, wasn’t on his game. The senior had missed six consecutive field goals and struggled from the free-throw line.
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In stepped Edwards, who kept UTA (5-7) apace with Bakersfield’s 3-point barrage with arena-rumbling dunks that drew late-game fouls.
He scored eight of UTA’s 14 overtime points to put the Roadrunners (6-7) away and finally close out a big win before an 11-day layoff.
“We just weren’t going to give up,” he said. “If you watch our games, you know that we play hard to the finish. We never give up.”
That’s encouraging to see for coach Scott Cross, who has overseen a complete transformation of the way his team plays the game.
With offensive ability up and down the starting lineup, this year’s team has run into trouble getting late-game stops. While that’s a work in progress, Saturday’s win signified a big step forward.
“One thing we haven’t done well is finish games,” he said. “To have a win before Christmas helps boosts everybody’s morale.”