Men's Basketball

UTA men enter final weekend seeking opening-round bye in Sun Belt

The UT Arlington men’s basketball team enters the final weekend of the regular season with the possibility of securing an opening-round bye in the Sun Belt Tournament.

The Mavericks (16-12, 10-8 SBC) need to win their final two games to catch Louisiana Lafayette, which sits one game ahead of UTA. Then, if Georgia State (20-9, 13-5) doesn’t win the Sun Belt regular season title, UTA earns a bye.

UTA begins its quest at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Georgia Southern (20-7, 13-5 SBC), one of the three teams vying for the Sun Belt regular season crown. The Eagles, Georgia State and Louisiana Monroe are atop the conference at 13-5.

Since the Mavericks beat Georgia Southern on Dec. 30, a win tonight would give them an edge over Lafayette for the fourth seed if Louisiana Monroe or Georgia Southern ends up winning the Sun Belt. But no matter what happens this weekend, the Mavericks are guaranteed at least the No. 5 seed in next week’s conference tournament.

The Mavericks are fresh off a win over Arkansas-Little Rock behind senior Lonnie McClanahan’s 18-point, 12-assist night. McClanahan’s defensive work with freshman Erick Neal will be key for UTA the rest of the way.

“When those two are defending, they can give opposing guards fits with their quickness,” coach Scott Cross said.

They’ll have to slow down Jelani Hewitt, one of the Sun Belt’s top scorers. Hewitt is scoring 18.2 points per game and leads the Sun Belt with 2.6 steals per game.

UT Arlington at Georgia Southern

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Hanner Fieldhouse, Statesboro, Ga.

Radio: KKGM/1630 AM

Records: UTA 16-12, 10-8 Sun Belt; Georgia So. 20-7, 13-5 SBC