Having clinched a first-round bye in the Sun Belt tournament, UT Arlington plays host to Troy at 7:15 p.m. Saturday with a chance to clinch the No. 3 seed over Louisiana Lafayette.
The Mavericks (21-9, 12-7 Sun Belt) are benefiting from a favorable conference schedule that wrapped up with the final three games at College Park Center. Since Louisiana Lafayette lost Thursday night, the only way the Ragin’ Cajuns can take back the No. 3 seed is with a win and a UTA loss.
Troy is last in the Sun Belt standings, but nothing is guaranteed for the Mavericks. That was evidenced by 8-22 Appalachian State’s win over 27-4 Arkansas Little Rock on Thursday.
Midseason, it was like a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. I had a chance to up my play and it just made me play better.
Kaelon Wilson, who replaced injured Kevin Hervey in the starting lineup.
That’s why the Mavericks aren’t taking the Trojans (9-21, 4-15) lightly. The benefit of a three seed over a four seed is keeping UALR on the other side of the bracket.
Troy does feature Wesley Person, the son of former NBA player Chuck Person, who is scoring 17.1 points per game.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, have started rounding into form heading into the postseason. Kaelon Wilson has emerged as the new focal point of the offense with his off-the-charts athleticism. He runs the fast break well and has the ability to drive to the basket in any situation. Wilson is coming off a career-high 21 points Thursday.
He spent the first half of the season as a sixth man off the bench. But when Kevin Hervey was injured and lost for the season, Wilson was given the opportunity to step up.
“Just taking advantage of the situation I’m in,” he said. “Midseason, it was like a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. I had a chance to up my play, and it just made me play better.”
Wilson is scoring 13.5 points a game since joining the starting lineup, and he’s helped the Mavericks have a 10-point margin in scoring differential this season (79.8-69.8), a school record.
UT Arlington men vs. Troy
7:15 p.m. Saturday