Women's Basketball

Stretch run pivotal for UTA women, starting with South Alabama

UTA coach Krista Gerlich says her team is looking for momentum heading into the final two games before next week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
UTA coach Krista Gerlich says her team is looking for momentum heading into the final two games before next week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament. Star-Telegram

UT Arlington is in the middle of what coach Krista Gerlich called a player’s dream week after Tuesday’s 78-69 win over Texas State.

“They’re doing nothing but playing games and don’t have to practice that much,” Gerlich said.

The Mavericks (14-14, 9-9 Sun Belt Conference) are staring down South Alabama (14-13, 10-8) in the second of three games in five days at 5 p.m. Thursday at College Park Center with a chance to gain some ground in the Sun Belt Conference standings.

We told them at the beginning of the week that this could be a real special week.

UTA coach Krista Gerlich

With wins in its final two regular-season games, UTA could climb as high as the conference’s fourth seed entering the Sun Belt Championship tournament, which starts March 9 in New Orleans. The Mavs go into the South Alabama game as the No. 6 seed.

“We told them at the beginning of the week that this could be a real special week,” Gerlich said. “We just want some momentum and to feel good about how we’re playing going in.”

South Alabama won the first matchup between the two schools this season, 59-55 on Jan. 18, despite 20 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore center Rebekah VanDijk. That 20 points was a career-high for VanDijk in January, but she has bettered that mark twice since the visit to Mobile.

VanDijk scored 26 points Feb. 9 at Texas State before netting a career-high 33 points Tuesday against the same opponent.

The Mavericks will again be without sophomore guard Cierra Johnson against South Alabama but won’t rule out a possible comeback for the regular-season finale against Troy on Saturday. Her ailing foot, which has kept her out of UTA’s last five contests, will be re-evaluated Friday after she suffered a stress reaction before the team’s Feb. 18 game against Louisiana.

A return for the Sun Belt tournament is the most likely scenario for Johnson.

South Alabama at UTA women

5 p.m. Thursday

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