Heading into conference play, the UT-Arlington Mavericks have quietly gone about their business in 2015-16, putting together a rather impressive non-conference resume. They have wins over the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Memphis Tigers under their belts, and have been a mainstay in the CCR Mid-Major Power Rankings this season.
To start off Sun Belt play, the Mavericks welcomed the Georgia State Panthers to town in another tough challenge. Year after year, the Panthers seem to be a top contender in the conference, and should find themselves near the top of the conference again this season despite the losses of R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow.
Wednesday night would give fans a better measuring point as to how well the Mavericks stack up with the top contenders in the Sun Belt this season. When the dust settled and the game was over, the UT-Arlington Mavericks inserted themselves into the conversation of Sun Belt contenders with a convincing 85-70 win over the visiting Georgia State Panthers.
In the early goings, it looked as though the Panthers were going to put some separation between themselves and the Mavericks. Georgia State took a 15-8 lead before the halfway point of the opening 20 minutes, capped off by a layup from Kevin Ware, prompting a timeout from the Mavericks in the process.
Out of the timeout, the Mavericks were able to cut the deficit to just 4 points, thanks to a three-ball from Kevin Hervey. While UT-Arlington had cut into the lead, they missed too many opportunities on offense, leading to another timeout at the 6:39 mark.
Following the break, Drew Charles made a pair of free throws to kick off an 11-0 run for the Mavericks that gave them a 28-21 advantage. Georgia State was forced to take two timeouts during the run to try and end the run, with the second of the two doing just that.
T.J. Shipes made a pair of free throws to end the run, but the Mavericks were firmly in the lead and wouldn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game.
The Mavericks stretched their lead as the first half came to a close, using a dunk from Faith Pope just before the buzzer to take a 36-29 lead into the locker room. Through 20 minutes, UT-Arlington showed that they could hang with the ‘big boys’ in the Sun Belt, and they still had more to offer in the second half.
Georgia State opened the second half on a mini 5-0 run, keeping the Mavericks off the scoreboard for over two minutes and cutting the lead to 36-34. Charles ended the run with a three-pointer for the Mavericks, and the home team was back on track.
That was as close as the Panthers would get for the rest of the game.
The Mavericks would build their lead over the course of the second half, using strong three point shooting to do just that. They had an answer for anything that the Panthers threw at them, and the Mavericks had things on cruise control down the stretch.
A layup from Kennedy Eubanks at the 6:33 mark of the second half gave the Mavericks a 20-point lead, which was their largest of the game. Georgia State would continue to chip away to try and make a game out of it, but UT-Arlington put the game on ice with strong free throw shooting in the closing minute.
UT-Arlington came into Wednesday looking to solidify their status as a legitimate contender in the Sun Belt, and the Mavericks did just that with a convincing 85-70 win over the defending champion Georgia State Panthers.
The Georgia State Panthers put up a good fight in the opening half, but once the Mavericks took a hold of the lead, they never gave the Panthers a chance to get back into the contest. Guard Jeff Thomas came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points in the loss.
Kevin Ware recorded 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on the night, while Indiana-transfer Jeremy Hollowell was held to just 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
As for the UT-Arlington Mavericks, the usual suspects led the way on Wednesday night. Star forward Kevin Hervey continued his superb play in 2015-16, recording a team-high 17 points to go along with 8 rebounds in the victory. Hervey shot an effective 6-of-9 from the floor, and 1-of-2 from three point range.
Guard Jalen Jones added in 15 points of 6-of-12 shooting, while Erick Neal put together a solid all-around performance with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
With the loss, Georgia State (7-3, 0-1) saw their four-game winning streak come to an abrupt end. The Panthers have the talent to contend for the conference title, but ran into a strong Mavericks’ team who held a firm grip on the lead. Georgia State will look to bounce back in the New Year when they take on the Texas State Bobcats to open 2016 on January 2nd.
Wednesday night showed that the UT-Arlington Mavericks (10-2, 1-0) can hang with the top programs in the Sun Belt. The win over Georgia State was the latest marquee win on their resume, and they won rather convincingly. The Mavericks will look to keep things rolling in 2016 when they take on the Georgia Southern Eagles on January 2nd.