Cierra Johnson steals the show as women’s basketball snags third consecutive win

Senior guard Cierra Johnson leaps for the ball during the women's basketball game against Coastal Carolina University on Jan. 12 at College Park Center. Johnson set the program's career-steals record at 286 after collecting her seventh steal in the third quarter.

Following a double-overtime win just days before, the women’s basketball team (11-4, 3-1) stormed back onto its home court to defeat Coastal Carolina University 79-53 Saturday at College Park Center.

Highlighting the game, senior guard Cierra Johnson picked up her 286th steal to break UTA’s all-time steals record, surpassing alumna Allison Gray by one. Johnson ended her record-setting game with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and seven steals.

Johnson admitted to not knowing she had broken the record in the third period until it was announced but said it suits her defensive-minded play. Head coach Krista Gerlich said Johnson’s leadership helps her younger teammates learn how much intensity is needed in every single game, adding that she could make a case for Player of the Year with similar performances in the future.

Gerlich said her team bounced back with positivity and confidence after the hard-fought win against Appalachian State University, but she was worried about energy and emotions. She praised the sharing and movement of the ball, as the team finished the day with a total of 27 assists.

“We had a lot of production from a lot of different kids,” she said. “It was nice to get some other kids in the game during the second half.”

The Lady Mavericks opened up the first quarter with an early 10-2 run, but Coastal Carolina eventually jumped ahead, leading 22-21 by the end of the period.

Despite Coastal Carolina disrupting UTA’s offensive passing game in the first quarter, senior forward Daiane Machado managed to rack up six points while senior guard Lauren Billie added five of her own.

Freshman guard Claire Chastain came off the bench and made her presence known in the second quarter, burying three 3-pointers to quickly put UTA in control. The Lady Mavericks outscored the Chanticleers 19-7 in the second quarter before heading into the break.

With momentum on their side, the Lady Mavericks saw their lead expand to double digits in the third, giving UTA a 20-point advantage.

With just under three minutes to play in the quarter, a personal foul in favor of UTA led to an exchange between the players. Freshman guard Katie Ferrell and Coastal Carolina’s DJ Williams were handed technical fouls and forced to exit the game.

Ferrell’s afternoon ended with two points, five rebounds and five fouls before exiting.

Gerlich pointed out that fouls are an “Achilles’ heel” that led to points for Coastal Carolina, which went 15-18 from the free throw line.

UTA outscored Coastal Carolina 25-12 in the third as its lead grew to 65-41.

Johnson, who was held scoreless through the entire first half, opened up her scoring in the third quarter while Chastain added five points in the second half, ending the afternoon with 16 points and shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc.

By the fourth period, the Lady Mavericks’ lead was beyond reach for the Chanticleers as the game ended 79-53 in favor of UTA.

The Lady Mavericks travel up to Arkansas for a two-game road trip, first facing Arkansas State University at 7 p.m. Thursday in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

@_julio_vega

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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