UT Arlington beat Louisiana-Lafayette 56-42 on Saturday at College Park Center for its sixth win in seven games, and the Mavericks overtook the Ragin’ Cajuns for fifth place in the Sun Belt Conference standings with the victory.
The current streak has UTA’s arrow pointing upward with four games left in the regular season and comes after a dreary stretch that saw the Mavericks (15-10, 9-7) lose six of seven.
“The team is inexperienced, but we’ve jelled really well,” coach Krista Gerlich said. “The chemistry has been unbelievable on our team, and different people are stepping up each night.”
Center Rebekah Van Dijk, whose size and rebounding inside is becoming a thorn in the side of opposing Sun Belt coaching staffs, led the Mavs with 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. The 6-foot-5 freshman scored eight points early as part of a 13-2 UTA run that put the Mavericks up 13-4 midway through the first half.
Fellow freshman Cierra Johnson, a Hurst L.D. Bell grad, fed Van Dijk on three straight possessions during the run.
“Cierra set the tone really well early in the game, throwing it up to [Van Dijk] high,” Gerlich said. “It was nice to see that freshman connection.”
But a stretch of turnovers on nine consecutive possessions saw the Mavs give up the lead late in the first half. Lafayette guard Jaylyn Gordon’s 3-pointer with 2:55 left in the half put the Ragin‘ Cajuns (17-9, 9-8) up 18-17, but UTA closed the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 25-18 lead at the break.
After Jodi Quinn’s bucket inside with 14:25 to play narrowed UTA’s lead to 29-25, guard Chaun Williams and forward Toma Zaleckaite keyed a 10-1 run that gave the Mavs control of the game for good. Williams recorded 11 points and seven boards.
Saturday marked the sixth time in seven games that UTA held its opponent to 38 percent shooting or worse.
The Mavs have won their last two games despite going a combined 5 for 27 on 3-point attempts.
“That’s when you have to attack, get to the basket, get to the free-throw line,” Williams said. “We had some good inside-out looks; we just weren’t knocking them down. But I guarantee, next time we will.”
The Mavs’ next two games come against the Sun Belt’s top two teams: Thursday at Arkansas State and Saturday at home against Arkansas-Little Rock.