When a Rebekah VanDijk layup put UT Arlington’s women ahead 2-0, few thought that would be their night’s highlight.
But Troy scored the next 14 points and wasn’t threatened the rest of the game, winning 88-59 Saturday night in a Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball semifinal at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The second-seeded Mavericks (22-8), making their first SBC semifinal appearance, struggled through a miserable first quarter in which they shot 17.6 percent (3 of 17) from the field, including 1 of 7 from long distance, and trailed 22-13.
VanDijk was limited to that opening layup and four rebounds in the first half as UTA trailed 40-28. VanDijk would finish with 11 points and four rebounds before fouling out.
Junior guard Cierra Johnson, a former Hurst L.D. Bell standout, led UTA with 14 points and had seven steals, moving to 17th in Sun Belt history with 245 in her career. The mark also moved her into third in career steals at UTA.
Troy held a whopping 63-30 advantage in rebounding and had a 26-4 margin over UTA in second-chance point.
“Congratulations to Troy,” UTA coach Krista Gerlich said. “Obviously they were the better team tonight, no doubt. ... They very much were senior-led and on a mission tonight. They are an incredible basketball team, particularly on the boards.”
UTA never got within single digits in the second half, but did cut the margin to 10 early before a scoring drought turned the game into a rout. Troy went up by 20 points, 57-37, with three minutes left in the third quarter and could not be caught.
The Mavericks shot only 18 of 62 (29 percent) from the field for the game and only 3 of 24 (12 percent) on 3-point attempts.
Troy was 28 of 71 shooting from the field for 39.4 percent. The Trojans
Troy (21-10) advances to Sunday’s championship game against Lafayette (20-10), a 79-71 upset winner over top-seeded Little Rock.
UTA will await a possible bid to the WNIT or another postseason tournament. According to the UTA website, UTA has participated in the WNIT on two previous occasions (1998 and 2008).