College Sports

January 1, 2014

UT Arlington men look to pick up where they left off

The Mavericks open Sun Belt Conference play Thursday against Arkansas State.

It’s much easier to stomach an 11-day holiday layoff coming off a win, and that’s exactly what guides the UT Arlington basketball team into its Sun Belt Conference opener against Arkansas State at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the College Park Center.

Making its inaugural run through the Sun Belt, UTA can only hope to impact the conference in the same way it did in the Western Athletic Conference a year ago when it ran through to the conference championship game.

This season, the Mavericks are not the defensive stalwart they were last year, but they can score some points. The Mavericks are averaging 81.9 points a game — better than any other Sun Belt team so far — and making 9.2 3-pointers a game.

UTA’s defensive ability isn’t up to coach Scott Cross’ standards, but the Mavericks did show improvement as the nonconference season progressed.

Arkansas State brings a familiar face to Arlington. Melvin Johnson III, a UT San Antonio transfer, played UTA a number of times as a Roadrunner. Now a Red Wolves starting guard, Johnson is scoring 16.1 points a game this season.

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