The UT Arlington women’s basketball team started the season with four tough games, but Saturday afternoon the Mavericks got a bit of a break and dominated NAIA opponent Missouri Valley 96-30 at College Park Center.
“We’ve built momentum ever since the fourth quarter Tuesday,” associate head coach Kristin Cole said. “I know it was a loss, but you put that fourth quarter together with [Saturday’s] performance, and we’re starting to get confidence as a team going into a real important stretch of the season.”
Head coach Krista Gerlich was away from the bench Saturday serving the second part of a two-game suspension levied by UTA for violating an unspecified university policy.
The Mavericks (2-3) had already played two defending conference champions in their nonconference schedule, including Baylor from the Big 12 and Seton Hall from the Big East. They will meet another successful program Tuesday with defending Southland champion Stephen F. Austin.
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But the blowout win against Missouri Valley (3-2) gave the Mavs a chance to play key reserves and build some confidence.
UTA shot a season-high 50 percent from the floor Saturday, and the 96 points were the most by the Mavericks since 2008 against Sam Houston State.
Sophomore guard and Hurst L.D. Bell grad Cierra Johnson led the Mavericks with 18 points and four steals. Johnson was third in the Sun Belt last year in steals per game. Junior transfer Kamy Cole hit 3 of 5 from 3-point range on her way to a season-high 15 points.
Point guard LaShanda Green also nabbed a career-high five steals against the Vikings. The Mavericks forced 27 turnovers and outscored MVC 40-9 in the paint.
But for the upcoming road trip — which begins Tuesday in Nacogdoches and continues at Kansas State — the Mavericks will need to bottle up some of that confidence.
“I think we can take the enthusiasm and energy we played with anywhere we go,” center Rebekah Van Dijk said.