For a few fleeting minutes Saturday, it appeared that UT Arlington was going to pull its first Sun Belt Conference win out of a hat.
Never holding a lead, the Mavericks overcame a late nine-point deficit behind a 14-point outburst from Lonnie McClanahan to tie Arkansas-Little Rock with 30 seconds to play.
But with two Mavericks hands in his face, UALR’s Josh Hagins drained a stepback jumper to give the Trojans a 72-70 victory over UTA, which fell to 0-2 in its new conference.
“It was devastating,” McClanahan said. “Especially since we had two hands in his face.”
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The Mavericks (5-9, 0-2 Sun Belt) played Hagins tight and forced a tough shot, but they could have avoided the situation altogether had they played a cleaner game for the first 38 minutes. UTA turned the ball over 18 times and failed to establish any offensive rhythm.
The Mavericks made an 11-1 run at the end of the first half to go into halftime tied, but the Trojans (7-7, 2-0) regained the lead and held it for the majority of the second half.
UTA coach Scott Cross said the heartbreak was real within the locker room after the game, but he loved what he saw from his team after it was run out of the arena by Arkansas State on Thursday.
“We never gave up; that’s the type of determination we need from them,” he said. “If our guys play as hard as they did today, sooner or later the breaks are going to start falling our way.”
Brandon Edwards, who had 14 points and nine rebounds, said the team’s focus is solely on the next game.
“We know we can still win a conference championship with two losses, so we’re just moving on to the next game,” he said.