UT Arlington star Kevin Hervey is done for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Not that there’s ever a good time to lose your best player for the season, but the news comes just one day before a showdown Saturday with Arkansas Little Rock for first place in the Sun Belt.
During warm-ups before Thursday’s 91-64 win over Arkansas State, Hervey limped off the court after tweaking his knee, forcing Kennedy Eubanks into the lineup. Eubanks responded with a 23-point game and gave an indication that it won’t be impossible to sustain success without the Mavericks star.
“Kennedy was a big-time player coming out of junior college,” Cross said. “Unfortunately he hasn’t gotten the minutes he wants, or even the minutes that we want to give him. I feel that way about eight or nine of our guys. But that’s what makes this team special.”
It will be tough to replace Hervey’s production over the long haul. The sophomore from Arlington Bowie was averaging 18.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
It’s the second time in as many years that Cross has lost one of his leading scorers midway through the season. Last season guards Johnny Hill and Drew Charles went down with injuries that ultimately derailed what was a promising start to the UTA conference season.
But this season’s team isn’t built to rely on one player. Three Mavericks recorded double-doubles in Thursday’s win, the first time that’s happened since 1990. That speaks to the depth Cross has built as UTA (14-3, 5-1 SBC) tries to take control of the Sun Belt before a string of five consecutive road games.
UALR (16-2, 6-1 SBC) started 10-0 and earned a No. 3 ranking in the Mid-Major Top 25 with a stingy defense. The Trojans feature an athletic backcourt led by Josh Hagins and Kemy Osse, but Marcus Johnson Jr. leads them in scoring coming off the bench as a sixth man.
The Trojans were tested by Texas State on Thursday, but they won in overtime to keep pace with the Mavericks.
The Mavericks haven’t lost at home since Feb. 21 last year, and they’re beating teams by 27 points per game at the College Park Center.
UTA men vs. Arkansas at Little Rock
7:15 p.m. Saturday