SAN MARCOS, Texas – UT Arlington finished a long road stretch in style, rolling past Texas State 65-53 Tuesday night at Strahan Coliseum and before a national television audience on ESPN2.
The Mavericks improved to 16-7 overall and into a tie for fourth in the Sun Belt at 7-5. UTA also finished five consecutive road contests with back-to-back blowout wins after dropping the first three as part of an overall four-game losing streak.
Jalen Jones scored 17 and grabbed six rebounds to pace a balanced effort by the Mavs. Drew Charles hit four 3-pointers and had 14 points. Erick Neal had 10 points, six boards and three assists. Jorge Bilbao had a team-high seven rebounds.
But even more impressive was UTA’s defensive performance. Texas State was held to its third-lowest scoring output of the season, along with 28.6-percent shooting. Only one Bobcat scored at least 10 points.
The Mavericks controlled the tempo from the opening tip, running out to lead that expanded throughout the first half. UTA repeatedly forced the Bobcats into tough shots and cleaned up most misses.
Kennedy Eubanks’ 3-pointer gave the Mavs their first double-digit lead (17-6) nine minutes into the contest. Neal’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 28-10 and UTA went into halftime up 32-16.
The Mavericks hit 6-15 from beyond the arc in the first half. Texas State was shooting 21.4 percent at the break (6-28) and missed all five of its 3-point tries.
UTA took a 43-20 edge by opening the second half with an 11-4 run, punctuated by an acrobatic reverse by Jones that forced a Texas State timeout. The Mavs would take as much as a 29-point lead.
Charles, Nathan Hawkins and Neal knocked down 3-pointers during an 11-2 spurt that turned a 17-8 lead into a 28-10 advantage. The Mavs would hold a double-digit lead for the remainder of the night.
UTA enjoyed 20-11 advantage in points off turnovers. … The Bobcats made only 3-17 3-pointers, good for 17.6 percent. TSU came in shooting 33.1 percent from deep. … UTA outrebounded TSU 42-36.
Sophomore forward Kevin Hervey had successful surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ACL. The procedure was performed by Dr. Curtis Bush in Fort Worth at Harris Methodist Hospital. … After facing Texas State, UTA has now played every team in the Sun Belt this season. … Texas State’s 16 points in first half tied the low for a UTA opponent in a half this season. Grambling State also scored 16 in the first half on Nov. 25. … UTA improved to 33-30 all-time against TSU, including 5-1 as Sun Belt foes. … UTA has won 12 games by double figures this season.
The Mavericks return to College Park Center on Saturday to face Appalachian State at 7:15 p.m. It’s the first home game for UTA since Jan. 23. Tickets are available at UTATickets.com.
Head coach Scott Cross opening statement:
“It was a defensive battle. Texas State is a very good defensive team, as well. I thought we did play the right way, especially in that first half. Erick did a great job running our basketball team. He was able to get the ball where it needed to go. He drew two defenders and he passed out, and we were playing four against three, so we got good shots and good looks, and our shooters knocked down some open jump shots. The second half got a little bit sloppy at times. That’s a unique deal being up the way we were. That’s not something that we practice a whole lot. We got careless with the basketball a few times and our defensive intensity dropped a little bit, but overall to come in here, this is a tough place to play, they had a good crowd, and for our guys to go out and perform the way they did, I’m very proud of them.”