Jalen Jones scored 23 points and led four players into double-figure scoring as UT Arlington held off Texas Southern 89-82 in the season opener Saturday night before a crowd of 4,532 at College Park Center in Arlington.
The Mavericks built their lead in the first half, taking a 45-38 lead into intermission.
The game was billed as a showcase for two of the top college forwards from the state of Texas: UTA’s Kevin Hervey and Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin. Hervey scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to get the better of the matchup. Griffin finished with seven points and three boards in 35 minutes.
“The mindset was just to come out and win the game,” Hervey said. “The pressure gets taken off of everything else when I put my faith in my teammates. We just come out and try to play the best UTA basketball we can.”
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Junior guard Kaelon Wilson tied a school record by making all eight of his field goal attempts and finishing with 19 points in 21 minutes of action for the Mavericks, the preseason favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference. All five starters from a year ago return for the Mavericks.
Erik Neal had 13 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Mavericks.
Zach Lofton, a transfer from the University of Minnesota, scored a game-high 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including five 3-pointers, to lead Texas Southern, the preseason favorites to win the Southwestern Conference. The Tigers cut the lead to 74-70 late, but couldn’t get closer.
After Texas Southern cut the lead to 74-70 on a long 3-pointer from Kevin Scott with just over two minutes left, UT Arlington finished off the game with a 15-12 run to seal the victory.
Faith Pope scored nine points and pulled down eight rebounds in his first career start for the Mavericks, who visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7 p.m. Monday.