The women’s basketball team (19-6, 11-3) rebounded with a gritty 67-62 win over Arkansas State University on Saturday at College Park Center. The game was the program’s annual UTA Beats Cancer game, with the Lady Mavericks boasting all pink home uniforms.
Head coach Krista Gerlich said the ground out win helps the team bounce back and not go a full week with a big loss in mind.
“I think they were just zapped from the emotion that they played with on Thursday and the letdown from that game,” she said.
A slow start in opening minutes saw both sides score a combined nine points as senior guard Cierra Johnson and freshman guard Terryn Milton trudged the Lady Mavericks on.
Johnson burst into rhythm in a pink blur as the quarter came to an end, notching 11 points and three rebounds. Gerlich said her team captain is playing on a different level at the moment.
“She’s trying to drag her teammates with her, and it’s fun to watch her lead like that,” Gerlich said.
The second period saw more defensive play on both sides. Freshman guard Katie Ferrell added eight points to give the hosts some added insurance as the Red Wolves tried to get back into the game. UTA outscored Arkansas State 14-12 in a close second period to lead 35-25 at halftime.
With 20 assists on the night, Gerlich said the team’s unselfish play defines their game play.
“I do think that’s one of the things that makes us a really good basketball team, is that we share the ball,” she said.
The Red Wolves went into attack mode in the opening minutes of the third period, scoring four and pinning The Lady Mavericks to their half for nearly two minutes. Junior guard Aysia Evans sunk a 3-pointer in between two jumpers from freshman guard Claire Chastain to keep Arkansas State at bay.
The visitors pulled within six points during the third quarter, but UTA took control again, expanding the cushion to 12 courtesy of a 3-pointer from Milton. Johnson added three from the charity stripe to hold on to the slim lead. She said that too many times the team lacked the tempo needed, which seemed to carry on from Thursday’s game.
The dying minutes were gritty, with tacky fouls and more missed chances on both sides as senior guard Lauren Billie capped off the period with a buzzer-beating effort from beyond the arc.
Arkansas State outscored UTA 10-4 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, soon trimming the Lady Mavericks’ lead to five.
Throughout the third period, UTA’s foul trouble under the basket led to six points given up from the line, cutting the lead to one point with 44 seconds on the clock.
In one of the last offensive drives, Billie netted a 3-pointer after some buildup with under 20 seconds to play. In the final seconds, as Arkansas State looked to salvage the game, UTA shut down the shop and forced fouls, killing the game’s momentum.
Gerlich said Billie’s effort was huge in putting the game to bed.
“As she was catching it, I was thinking to myself, ‘Well, that’s a senior. We’ll see what she’s made of,’” Gerlich said. “And she knocked it down.”
Johnson ended with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists while Ferrell earned her second double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Gerlich said she and the rest of the team tell Ferrell to shoot more often.
Gerlich said Ferrell is a complete player that just needs to add more scoring to her game, comparing her abilities — and reason for her jersey number, 41 — to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.
Up next, the Lady Mavericks travel to the University of Louisiana at Monroe to face the Warhawks at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.