All the pieces came together for UT Arlington on Saturday in a 70-67 upset win over Troy at College Park Center.
The Mavericks (11-9, 5-6 Sun Belt Conference) shot a season-high 52.1 percent from the field (55.6 percent in the second half) to preserve what was a 25-21 halftime lead against the Trojans’ trapping full-court press.
Freshman center Rebekah Van Dijk scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half after being saddled with two fouls early and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Even fighting through adversity was a good look for the Mavs. Troy’s press forced 31 UTA turnovers, but when the Mavericks were able to advance the ball, guards LaShanda Green and Chaun Williams orchestrated an efficient offense that assisted on 22 of the Mavs’ 25 field goals. Green, who has battled through a foot injury the last two games, had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks in the win.
On the other side of the floor, UTA’s half-court defense was as salty as it’s been all year, allowing just six Troy field goals in the first half. The Trojans (12-8, 7-4) managed just 27.6 percent shooting in the loss.
“We just kept going at them,” UTA coach Krista Gerlich said. “I like that we went and attacked [Troy] and played to win instead of being back on our heels and playing not to lose.”
But with Van Dijk on the bench for large swaths of the first half, Toma Zaleckaite was the catalyst that the Mavericks needed inside. The 6-foot-3 Lithuanian registered eight of her season-high 12 points in the first half and nabbed five rebounds.
“In the first half, Toma was incredible,” Gerlich said. “She was focused. You could just tell she was giving us great energy, and we want her to believe she can do those things on a daily basis.”
The Mavs built double-digit leads three times and weathered Troy runs throughout. Trojans point guard Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and brought Troy back to within four, 64-60, with a three-point play with 2:42 left.
But Van Dijk scored six points in the final three minutes, and Green knocked down two critical free throws with 7.9 seconds left to put the Mavs ahead 70-67. Freshman guard Cierra Johnson blocked Beverly-Kelley’s 3-point attempt on the game’s final possession.
The Mavericks overcame 19 turnovers to lead 25-21 at halftime by holding the most efficient offense in the Sun Belt to 6-of-31 shooting before the break.