Women's Basketball

UTA women bring Sun Belt’s top defense into Troy against top offense

UT Arlington sophomore Cierra Johnson leads the Mavericks in scoring, both for the season (10.5) and in three Sun Belt games (15.3).
UT Arlington sophomore Cierra Johnson leads the Mavericks in scoring, both for the season (10.5) and in three Sun Belt games (15.3). Star-Telegram

The UT Arlington women’s basketball team will make the Alabama run through its Sun Belt Conference schedule starting Thursday when the Mavericks (7-6, 2-1 Sun Belt) square off against Troy.

The Trojans (8-5, 3-1) feature the highest-scoring offense in the conference, averaging over 84 points per game.

That stat on its own may be deceiving, as Troy gives up just over 82 points a game.

It’s almost like we’ve got to defend them when we have the ball, too.

UT Arlington coach Kristi Gerlich

UTA coach Krista Gerlich said keeping Troy from dictating the pace of the game would be one of the keys to getting a win against what is traditionally a top-flight conference foe.

Giving up just 53.7 points a game has the Mavs in the same spot as they were a year ago at this time, first in the conference in defense.

“It’s almost like we’ve got to defend them when we have the ball, too,” Gerlich said. “By valuing each and every possession, taking care of the ball and methodically finding a good shot every time down.”

Troy is led by senior guard Ashley Beverly-Kelley, who leads the Sun Belt in scoring at 19.9 points per game and who has improved on that mark (23.8 points) since conference play started. Last season, as a junior, Beverly-Kelley burned the Mavs for 46 combined points in two meetings, which the teams split.

On the other hand, six Mavs have had team-highs in scoring through 13 games. The offense, although still not exactly humming, has found a balance that Gerlich likes.

“From my point of view it’d be great to have a starting five averaging 10 points apiece, rather than having one who scores 30,” Gerlich said. “It makes you harder to scout.”

UTA women at Troy

5:15 p.m. Thursday

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