Men's Basketball

UTA looks to avoid NIT letdown in first round at BYU

UTA coach Scott Cross: NIT is "a second chance."

UT Arlington is traveling Tuesday to Provo, Utah, for its opening-round NIT game at BYU. Tipoff is Wednesday, 8 p.m., at BYU's Marriott Center. Video by Matthew Martinez.
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UT Arlington is traveling Tuesday to Provo, Utah, for its opening-round NIT game at BYU. Tipoff is Wednesday, 8 p.m., at BYU's Marriott Center. Video by Matthew Martinez.

Regarding UT Arlington’s third NIT bid in program history, star forward Kevin Hervey said it best.

“For the program, I think it’s a tremendous accomplishment, but for our team, we wanted to make the NCAA Tournament, so it was a bit of a letdown.”

So how do the Mavericks keep the disappointment from their 83-62 loss to Texas State in the Sun Belt semifinals from leading to another early exit from “that other” postseason tournament?

For coach Scott Cross, it’s all in the remembering.

He said the players need to remember that feeling when they face BYU at 10 p.m. Wednesday in Provo, Utah.

“Hopefully it will inspire them to play great defense, because that’s where we came up short in the Sun Belt tournament, and that’s disappointing,” he said.

The Mavs practiced Monday with a focus on defending the post. Cross called 6-10, 230-pound sophomore power forward Eric Mika “one of the best post players in the country.”

UT Arlington men's basketball players Kaelon Wilson and Kevin Hervey (of Arlington Bowie) helped lead the Mavericks to an upset over No. 12 Saint Mary's Thursday. It's the first win over a top 25 team in UTA history (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star

The Mavericks (25-8) will be dealing with some injuries as they regroup for one last run in what is already the winningest season in program history.

Cross said senior guard Jalen Jones would probably not be able to play after injuring his his right hand Friday in the quarterfinal win over Coastal Carolina.

Junior Kaelon Wilson, a Lancaster graduate who got his fifth start of the year the next day against Texas State, is likely to get the bulk of Jones’ minutes.

“I’ve said since Day One that he’s a starter that we bring off the bench,” Cross said. “He’ll be more in rhythm and in the flow this game. I think we’ll see a better Kaelon Wilson than we saw in the Sun Belt tournament.”

Wilson is averaging 8.2 points in 18.8 minutes minutes per game and is shooting better than 50 percent from the field.

Forward Jorge Bilbao was limited against Texas State and was unable to take part in the more strenuous parts of Monday’s practice because he had a stomach ailment.

Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817

UTA men at BYU

10 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2

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