With two games to play in the regular season, one win will earn UT Arlington’s spot in the 2015 Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball tournament, which starts March 11 in New Orleans.
Thursday’s game at last-place Georgia Southern (4-23, 1-17 Sun Belt) offers the Mavericks their first opportunity to sew up their first appearance in the SBC tourney.
The Mavs (15-12, 9-9) missed out on the conference tournament last year in the team’s first season in the Sun Belt, finishing 10th in the regular-season standings in what was also coach Krista Gerlich’s first year at the helm.
UTA could get in this year even with losses in the final two games, assuming games between other schools do not get canceled, but Gerlich teaches tunnel vision regarding the win-and-in scenario.
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“All year, we’ve really tried hard to focus only on that next game,” Gerlich said. “[Advancing to the Sun Belt tournament] is obviously something we want to do, but we still have to get better, and end results will take care of themselves.”
The Mavs need to clean up their turnovers after committing 44 in the last two games in losses to the top two teams in the Sun Belt. Still, UTA has won six of its last nine, and two more wins would build momentum heading into the tournament.
“We’re turning the ball over entirely too much,” Gerlich said. “We need to get back to valuing the ball and executing on offense a little more, particularly when the game is on the line.”
The Mavs beat Georgia Southern 64-52 at College Park Center on Dec. 30 in the teams’ first meeting behind a strong performance from the bench, including a career-high 19 points from guard Chaun Williams. UTA’s final regular-season game is Saturday at Appalachian State.
“Both of these games are going to be tough. We’re traveling more than we have all year,” Gerlich said. “Our team needs to be mature and focused enough in preparation for postseason play not to look past anyone on the regular-season schedule.”
UT Arlington at Georgia Southern
4 p.m. Thursday, Hanner Fieldhouse, Statesboro, Ga.
Records: UTA 15-12, 9-9 Sun Belt; Georgia So. 4-23, 1-17