NEW ORLEANS – No. 5 UT Arlington was unable to complete a second-half comeback and fell to No. 4 Texas State 52-46 in the Sun Belt Conference Championship quarterfinals at Lakefront Arena.
The Lady Mavericks ended the season with a 17-13 record. UTA’s 13-win increase from the 2013-14 campaign was the largest in program history. The Lady Mavs head into the offseason looking at the positives from a season in which they reached their first SBC postseason and finished the regular season with the nation’s 10th best scoring defense.
“I can’t say how proud I am of our kids,” UT Arlington coach Krista Gerlich said. “They are really disappointed because of the way they think they played, but I thought they didn’t give up or lay down at any point and kept battling back. We just had some untimely turnovers and couldn’t get into rhythm offensively, but I don’t want this game to take away the season that they had.”
Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Rebekah Van Dijk was just short of her 16th double-double of the season. Van Dijk was one of two players with 11 rebounds to lead UTA. She finished with nine points. Freshman Cierra Johnson led with a game-high 16 points and knocked down UTA’s lone 3-pointer of the day.
The Lady Mavs trimmed a double-digit Texas State lead down to just one in the second half. UTA had several looks to tie the game and missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Lady Mavs their first lead since early in the game. Texas State (17-13) responded and pulled away to claim its fifth consecutive win over UTA.
UTA seniors Chaun Williams and Krioni Bruce each played their final game as a Lady Maverick. Williams finished with nine points.
“I am really proud of that group,” Gerlich said. “I couldn’t be any more pleased with Chaun and Krioni and how they allowed this team to gel and buy into what we are selling. They know that brighter days are ahead of us, they may not get to be apart of it, but they helped lay the foundation for it.”
Looking towards the future, the Lady Mavs return 11 players who had regular playing time this season. Johnson led UTA in its final six games of the season averaging 14.X points per game, including a season-high 20-point effort against Appalachian State in the regular-season finale.
“It is crazy,” Johnson said of her first postseason experience. “I just wanted to win. It is different and I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Lady Mavs open up their 2015-16 season in the Women’s Preseason National Invitational Tournament. Dates and opponents will be released later in the spring.
Notes: UTA fell to 17-21 in conference tournaments. The Lady Mavs are 1-5 against Texas State in the postseason. … Freshman G Cierra Johnson finished fourth in UTA single-season history with 81 steals. She was two steals shy of third. … Freshman C Rebekah Van Dijk’s 307 rebounds this season is seventh in UTA single-season history.