Men's Basketball

UTA earns Sun Belt bye in rout of S. Alabama

UTA guard Kaelon Wilson, left, here in an earlier game against North Texas, scored a career-high 21 points against South Alabama on Thursday.
UTA guard Kaelon Wilson, left, here in an earlier game against North Texas, scored a career-high 21 points against South Alabama on Thursday. Star-Telegram

Thursday night couldn’t have gone much better for UT Arlington men’s basketball team.

The Mavericks set records for 3-pointers and rebounds in a season and avenged an earlier loss to South Alabama with a 92-79 win over the Jaguars at College Park Center.

UTA also clinched a first-round bye in next week’s Sun Belt tournament, and the only thing left to be decided is whether the Mavericks will enter as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. With Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette losses on Thursday, the Mavericks can simply win on Saturday for the No. 3 seed.

And they did it all in a fast-paced, high-scoring game that saw both teams drain a combined 24 3-pointers — 18 of which came in the first half. UTA drained 12 of them to set a school record with 267 on the year, breaking the 1990-91 team’s record.

2673-pointers made by UTA this season, breaking the 1990-91 team’s record.

The Mavericks (21-9, 12-7 Sun Belt) showed on Thursday they can still tap into the formula that had the team earning at-large buzz early in the season.

They were sharp from outside, they outscored the Jaguars 36-10 in the paint and grabbed 43 rebounds — 16 of them on the offensive end.

They now have 1,306 rebounds on the season, another school record.

“We’re a very undersized basketball team, but the guys have big hearts,” coach Scott Cross said. “You can’t really measure heart, but these guys have it.”

The offense ran through Kaelon Wilson for the second straight game, and he delivered with a career-high 21 points. His athleticism is tough to defend, and he drives into the paint as well as anybody in the conference.

You can’t really measure heart, but these guys have it.

UTA coach Scott Cross

“He was really the spark that got us going,” Cross said. “He rebounded, he finished, he ran the floor.”

Erick Neal showed off more highlight-reel assists en route to a 12-assist, two-turnover night. He also scored 12 points in the win.

Even though South Alabama (13-17, 8-11 SBC) entered the game making just 32.1 percent of its 3-point attempts, the Jaguars kept pace with the Mavericks from downtown early in the game. But the Mavericks went on a 15-3 run midway through the half to push their lead into double digits. South Alabama never recovered.

The rest of the Sun Belt broke UTA’s way Thursday night as well. In a major upset, 8-22 Appalachian State beat 27-4 Little Rock 69-63. While it doesn’t directly affect UTA, it shows the Trojans can be beaten on any given night.


SOUTH ALABAMA (13-17, 8-11 SUN BELT) — Williams 5-11 7-8 22, Stevens III 1-5 4-4 7, Boyanov 1-2 4-4 7, Whittingham 1-1 1-2 3, Stover 5-8 4-5 16, Calhoun 5-11 3-5 16, MuepoKelly 0-4 0-0 0, Marijan 1-1 2-2 4, Epps 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 1-5 2-4 4. Totals 20-50 27-34 79.

UT ARLINGTON (21-9, 12-7) — Neal 3-6 3-4 12, Charles 4-11 1-2 13, Wilson 9-14 2-3 21, Jones 6-11 2-2 16, Bilbao 4-7 2-3 10, Eubanks 0-1 4-4 4, Hawkins 1-5 0-0 3, Austin 0-0 1-2 1, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Pallas 0-3 3-6 3, Pope 4-4 0-0 9. Totals 31-62 18-26 92.

Halftime—UT Arlington 57, S. Alabama 41. 3-Point Goals—South Alabama 12-24 (Williams 5-8, Calhoun 3-7, Stover 2-3, Boyanov 1-2, Stevens III 1-3, Davis 0-1), UT Arlington 12-28 (Charles 4-9, Neal 3-6, Jones 2-3, Pope 1-1, Hawkins 1-4, Wilson 1-4, Eubanks 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—South Alabama 26 (Boyanov 5), UT Arlington 43 (Bilbao 12). Assists—South Alabama 12 (Williams 7), UT Arlington 23 (Neal 12). Total Fouls—South Alabama 21, UT Arlington 24. A—2,408.