UT Arlington senior Jalen Jones’ season — and likely his basketball career — was over. Until it wasn’t for nine seconds Monday against Akron.
With 1:58 left to play in the Mavericks’ 85-69 victory, coach Scott Cross put the injured guard into the game.
It wasn’t Jones’ Willis Reed moment. There were no surprise tactics. It was just a coach and a group of teammates wanting Jones to get what might have been one last dose of love from the home crowd.
Jones, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.4 points per game, sustained a season-ending hand injury during UTA’s Sun Belt quarterfinal victory over Coastal Carolina.
“Once we got that big lead, we saw we had the opportunity to do it,” Cross said. “Jalen needs to be acknowledged. He needs to be loved. That guy has given his heart and soul to this basketball program. We wouldn’t be here today without him.
“I wanted him to experience that crowd noise one more time, before we were out of here.”
The move cost the Mavericks a technical foul because Jones wasn’t listed on the official game roster.
One more home game
UTA, seeded sixth in its quadrant, is getting another home game because No. 8 Cal State Bakersfield beat No. 4 Colorado State, 81-63. The winner advances to the semifinals in New York.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. Wednesday matchup went on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. A season-high 5,390 fans nearly filled College Park Center on Monday.
Bakersfield shot 11 for 19 from 3-point range in its win at Colorado State and was led by a tandem of seniors, Jaylin Airington and Dedrick Basile, who combined for 36 points. Bakersfield followed the blueprint UTA used in its wins against BYU and Akron: one explosive half and one good enough to keep the opposition at arm’s length.
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817