With marquee Sun Belt matchups on tap at the College Park Center on Thursday and Saturday, UT Arlington wasn’t supposed to enter this week coming off a loss.
The Mavericks (13-3, 4-1 SBC) were on an eight-game win streak and had established themselves as a possible at-large team in the NCAA tournament, but an overtime loss to South Alabama threw a wrench into those plans.
Fortunately, as Arkansas State (9-8, 5-1 SBC) and Little Rock (15-2, 5-1) come to town as the top two teams in the Sun Belt, the Mavericks have a chance to take control of the conference.
We ended up not doing the things we were supposed to do to win the game. Give South Alabama credit, they weren’t going to give us the game. But they’ve put that game behind them.
UTA coach Scott Cross
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The South Alabama loss shouldn’t be as surprising considering the warning signs that cropped up during the road trip. UTA trailed bottom-feeding teams Appalachian State and Troy by double digits early on and had to claw their way back in each game.
So when the Jaguars led by 12 in the first half, the Mavericks made their customary comeback. But they couldn’t hold a nine-point lead and the Jaguars handed them their first Sun Belt loss of the season.
“We ended up not doing the things we were supposed to do to win the game. Give South Alabama credit, they weren’t going to give us the game,” coach Scott Cross said. “But they’ve put that game behind them.”
A return to the College Park Center could be a welcome sight. The Mavericks are undefeated at home this year and they get two big games on their home court.
But following this week, the Mavericks hit the road for five games over three weeks that make up the most brutal stretch of their schedule.
Arkansas State enters Thursday’s game as only the second team to have beaten Little Rock after knocking it off 76-73 on Saturday. It is deadly inside and out with Anthony Livingston scoring 15.3 points per game and Donte Thomas dishing out 6.2 assists per game, the best mark in the Sun Belt.
But the Mavericks lead the conference in assists with 17.8 per game, 3.5 more than the Red Wolves.
UTA men vs. Arkansas St.
7:15 p.m. Thursday