Just two weeks ago, UT Arlington was a team struggling to close out games. On Monday night, the Mavericks took another step forward with a 66-55 victory over Texas State at College Park Center.
Locked in a dogfight at 52-52 with more than three minutes to play, Greg Gainey hit a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Mavericks (10-7, 4-3 Sun Belt Conference) some breathing room. That’s when UTA’s defense locked down and held the Bobcats to just two points the rest of the way en route to the 11-point win.
“They showed a lot of toughness and grit to win that game,” coach Scott Cross said. “That’s what you expect from your team.”
But it wasn’t easy. Even though the Bobcats (10-7, 4-4) only led for a total of 3 minutes, 28 seconds, the Mavericks never seemed in full control until the game wound down.
Before the final minutes, UTA’s biggest lead was only seven in a game that featured 11 lead changes, with eight of them coming in the final stretch.
Emani Gant led the Bobcats with 13 points and was one of few bright spots for Texas State, which only mustered 29.6 percent shooting from the floor.
As they’ve done in every Sun Belt home game this season, the Mavericks got off to a blazing start when Erick Neal hit a pair of 3-pointers for a 12-6 lead. The Bobcats roared back and kept things tight the rest of the way.
UTA outrebounded the top rebounding team in the Sun Belt 40-36 and efficiently made shots. After leading by just two at the break, the Mavericks shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half.
Gainey was big down the stretch, finishing with 12 points to lead the Mavericks over their in-state rival. They haven’t lost to Texas State since 2011.
The Mavericks hit the road Thursday to face the first-place team in the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Monroe, and on Saturday visit last-place Arkansas-Little Rock.