With one second left and UT Arlington trailing by one, Mavericks guard Jamel Outler, an 80 percent free throw shooter, was given three chances at the line to secure his team’s first Sun Belt Conference win of the year.
He only hit one of the three, but did send the game to overtime.
However, thanks to the help of spot starter Lonnie McClanahan, Outler got another chance and sank one final free throw in overtime to ensure an 83-79 UTA victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday.
Outler finished with a season-high 20 points, including a 3-pointer in the extra period, but he said he let himself get too loose in that final second of regulation.
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“I hit that one [free throw] that tied it up and that was a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I should have been a little more tense.”
Outler can tip his cap to the career-high 25-point effort from McClanahan, who started Thursday’s matinée performance in place of injured scoring leader Reger Dowell.
McClanahan had started several games earlier this season and knew he would have to step up to make up the 22 points per game Dowell has provided the Mavericks, now 6-9 overall and 1-2 in Sun Belt play.
A 6-foot-1 junior guard from Tennessee, McClanahan used his speed to dart through ULM defenders and finish acrobatic shots in the paint.
“He’s awesome,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “He’s so lightning quick and he can cause so many mismatches with his speed.”
When McClanahan wasn’t finishing drives to the rim with layups, teammates were finding Fort Worth native Brandon Edwards behind the arc.
Edwards finished the game making 6 of 12 shots overall but 5 of 8 from 3-point range for 17 points.
It was a game plan Cross installed to account for a packed-in-the-paint defense by ULM (4-6, 1-1).
“That’s how we were going to have to attack them, mainly come off the pick-and-roll and throw it back to Brandon and let him shoot,” Cross said. “If not, he goes right back into another pick-and-roll. They have so many shot blockers in there.”
It was UTA’s first conference win of the season, and a relief for Cross and his players.
“I feel like I can breathe for about 12 hours,” Cross said. “Then, whenever I wake up in the morning, it will be stress all over again.”
“[The win] is a breath of fresh air and I think it should give all of us a little bit of confidence that we can find a way to win close basketball games.”