The No. 2-seeded UT Arlington women claimed their first Sun Belt Championship win and advanced to the conference semifinals after defeating South Alabama 65-53 on Thursday night at Lakefront Arena.
The Mavericks (22-7) beat South Alabama (11-20) for the third time in three game season. UTA won its first tournament game since 2010 in the Southland Conference.
UTA will take on the winner of Arkansas State and Troy, who played later Thursday night.
Former Hurst L.D. Bell standout Cierra Johnson, a junior guard, finished with a game-high 20 points to lead UTA. Junior center Rebekah VanDijk scored 19 points.
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The Mavericks, who led by 10 at halftime, finished 24 of 27 from the free-throw line, knocking down their first 15 foul shots.
After leading by as much as 13 points in the second half, UTA saw the Jaguars trim the deficit to one point midway through the fourth quarter.
UTA forced four turnovers over the last two minutes and held the Jags to just 2-of-9 shooting down the stretch.
Mavericks coach Krista Gerlich said the victory was “ really big for our program. ... I thought that these two kids (Johnson and VanDijk) did a great job of putting our team on their back.”
Sun Belt women’s tournament
at New Orleans
Appalachian St. vs. Ark.Little Rock, 11:30 a.m.
Louisiana vs. Texas St., 2 p.m.
South Alabama vs. UT Arlington, 5 p.m.
Arkansas State vs. Troy, 7:30 p.m.
Semifinals, 5 and 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.