UT Arlington had a 20-point lead at halftime Saturday night, but there was no letting up from coach Scott Cross — not after he watched his Mavericks give away halftime leads in back-to-back losses.
Instead, the Mavericks kept their foot on the pedal and blew away Arkansas State 77-50 at College Park Center.
“I told them at halftime that we needed to stay focused,” Cross said. “I’m really proud of the way our guys made stops.”
The Red Wolves (6-8, 1-4 Sun Belt) started the second half with a pair of 3-pointers that cut the lead to 13. But UTA (9-6, 3-2) stayed relentless and went on a 27-10 run that put the game out of reach.
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“One of the hardest things to do is stay focused when you have such a big lead,” guard Johnny Hill said. “We showed a lot of maturity finishing strong.”
The victory erases the second-half sense of doom that became a trend over the last week. And with a trip to Georgia State on Thursday, the Mavericks enter a pivotal game with much-needed momentum.
Cross used more zone defense Saturday than he had all year, and it resulted in the best defensive effort of the season. The Mavericks outrebounded the Red Wolves 41-32 and held them to just 50 points, a season-low allowed for UTA.
The Mavericks started fast, getting multiple 3-pointers from Greg Gainey and Kevin Hervey to take a 17-6 lead that soon ballooned to 30-9.
UTA held Arkansas State to 21 percent shooting in the first half and just 31 percent on the night.
Play was suspended for 10 minutes early in the first half when a Sun Belt referee collapsed on the baseline. He was conscious and coherent and was taken to a nearby hospital.