Saturday’s regular-season finale for UT Arlington comes with little rest, but carries a great deal of weight, especially to the class of exiting seniors, some of the first to be recruited to the program by third-year coach Krista Gerlich.
“Everything I do in my pregame routine, you stop and think, this is going to be my last pregame at home,” guard Amara Wainwright said of the matchup against Troy at College Park Center. “My last shoot-around, my last film sessions. I don’t want to regret anything, and that’s been really motivational for me this week.”
The senior won’t regret her last performance, a 22-point, seven-rebound performance in Thursday’s 53-49 win over South Alabama.
They hung 88 on us. That’s the most we’ve given up this year, and we’ve played Baylor.
UTA women’s coach Krista Gerlich on the Mavericks’ 88-71 loss to Troy earlier this season
If the Mavericks (15-14, 10-9 Sun Belt Conference) want to put the cherry at the top of the regular season with one last win against Troy, though, the heavy lifting will fall on UTA’s defense, which comes into the game giving up just over 55 points per game, second in the conference.
But at Troy (16-12, 11-8) on Jan. 14, the Mavericks gave up a season-high 88 points in a blowout loss that started a four-game skid early in conference play.
“They hung 88 on us. That’s the most we’ve given up this year, and we’ve played Baylor,” Gerlich said. “They really shredded us at Troy. Our transition defense is going to have to be outstanding.”
That all hinges on what UTA is able to do to slow the Sun Belt’s leading scorer, Ashley Beverly Kelley, who at 20.4 points a game is the only player in the conference averaging over 20. But guard ArJae’ Saunders and forward Caitlyn Ramirez, who each chip in over 12 a game, are no slouches, either.
UTA will be without starting forward Toma Zaleckaite and guard Cierra Johnson because of injuries.
Troy will be an even tougher out for the Mavs because of who UTA will be without.
Starting forward Toma Zaleckaite will be held out for a second straight game with a knee issue, and guard Cierra Johnson had always targeted next week’s Sun Belt Championship tournament for a return. She suffered a stress reaction in her foot and missing the team’s last six games.
Troy at UTA women
5 p.m. Saturday