In the final minutes before UT Arlington tipped off in a showdown for first place in the Sun Belt, they learned they’d have to do it without star player Kevin Hervey.
Turns out that wasn’t a problem at all.
When Hervey tweaked his knee during warmups, Kennedy Eubanks was thrust into the lineup and he delivered a career performance in the Mavericks’ 91-64 victory over Arkansas State on Thursday at College Park Center.
Eubanks hadn’t made a start all season, but the senior turned in the 23-point, 11-rebound double-double the Mavericks needed to set up a showdown with Little Rock on Saturday.
“I had to fill big shoes, so I just felt like I had to come in and give a lift for the guys,” Eubanks said.
He didn’t have to do it alone, however. The Mavericks (14-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) made 15 3-pointers and outrebounded the Red Wolves 51-41 in the first of two against the top Sun Belt teams. Jorge Bilbao had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Kaelon Wilson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks.
“I’ve been saying all year long that we’ve got five guys on our bench who could be starters for us,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “[Eubanks] was awesome tonight. He was all over the place, he was great defensively, he hit big shots.”
Arkansas State (9-9, 5-2) had won five of its first six Sun Belt games, including a victory over Little Rock, and the Red Wolves jumped out to an 8-0 lead four minutes into Thursday’s game before the Mavs went on a 33-5 run.
But that’s become a staple of the Mavericks, who haven’t lost at home all season. Other than a five-point victory over Fordham in the season opener, no team has come within 14 points of UTA in the eight home games.
Saturday’s game against Little Rock is the Mavericks’ last at home before a five-game road trip.
UT Arlington vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
7:15 p.m. Saturday