Entering its final game of the season, UT Arlington’s men’s basketball team is guaranteed to finish with a winning record and the fifth seed in next week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
That makes Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. road matchup with Appalachian State (11-17, 8-11 SBC) little more than a tune-up before making the trip to New Orleans to play either Texas State or Arkansas-Little Rock. Coach Scott Cross views it another way.
“We want to go into the tournament on a positive note and have a winning conference record,” Cross said. “I told our guys 19 wins would be the fifth-most in school history. That’s still possible.”
To do that, the Mavericks (16-13, 10-9 SBC) will need to find consistency on defense. With their two best defenders sidelined by injuries, it’s been a rocky finish, losing four of their last six games.
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That included Thursday’s tough road loss where an early 17-point lead over Georgia Southern was squandered. UTA made 25 turnovers and let the Eagles grab 19 offensive rebounds.
“We’re asking these guys to do a lot,” Cross said. “But you’ve got to value the basketball.”
The Mavericks beat Appalachian State 81-68 on Feb. 19. The Mountaineers are ineligible for postseason play but they’ve won two straight and appear hungry to finish their season on a high note.
The Mavericks are led in scoring by Lonnie McClanahan (11.7 points per game) and Greg Gainey (10.0).
UT Arlington at Appalachian State
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jones Center, Boone, N.C.
Radio: KKGM/1630 AM
Records: UTA 16-13, 10-9 Sun Belt; Appalachian St. 11-17, 8-11