NEW ORLEANS — The Lady Mavericks succumbed to the University of South Alabama in a 57-50 loss in the semifinal round of the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Women’s Basketball Championship. 

The No. 7 seed Jaguars came into the game riding a hot streak of wins in the conference tournament, including two upset wins in the second round and quarterfinals. South Alabama kept that momentum going by pushing UTA to play catch-up throughout the game. 

Head coach Krista Gerlich said the Lady Mavericks have become a fun team to coach and watch. 

“They’ve done a great job of just becoming UTA’s sweethearts,” she said. “You did see some of their fight, to be able to come back from nine down and to tie it up and to give ourselves a chance. You can see what they’re made of.”

UTA’s postseason fate will be determined by the championship game between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and South Alabama. UTA will receive an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament if Little Rock wins the conference and makes the NCAA tournament. 

Photos: Lady Mavericks stumble in semifinal game against South Alabama

Freshman guard Terryn Milton moves around defenders during the Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Championship semifinals against the University of South Alabama on March 15 at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. Milton grabbed seven rebounds during the game, the second highest on the team.

In a defensive start to the game, South Alabama took an early 10-5 lead, but 3-pointers by senior guard Lauren Billie and junior guards Brooke Alexander and Aysia Evans kept UTA in the game as the period ended 14-11 in South Alabama’s favor. 

The Lady Mavericks had to claw back into the game during the second quarter. South Alabama senior center Antoinette Lewis carried the Jaguars with 17 points to end the first half. Lewis ended with a game-high 22 points.

South Alabama played tight defense the rest of the first half, giving the Jaguars a 25-21 lead going into the break. 

UTA got off to a quick start in the second half as freshmen guards Claire Chastain and Katie Ferrell hit a pair of jumpers to put the Lady Mavericks within two. The Jaguars found their rhythm again and stretched their lead to 9 points in the dying minutes of the third quarter. 

Photos: Lady Mavericks stumble in semifinal game against South Alabama

The Lady Mavericks watch the final few seconds of the Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Championship semifinals against the University of South Alabama on March 15 at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. The team lost 57-50 after a hard-fought second half.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that UTA began to take offensive control as they chipped away at the lead. Freshman guard Terryn Milton finished a layup to tie the score at 46-46 with just over two minutes left in regulation. 

South Alabama came back to life to regain a four-point lead with a minute left on the clock. The Jaguars closed out the game as the Lady Mavericks couldn’t overcome the late deficit. 

Alexander finished the matchup with 12 points, shooting 4-9 from the field. Senior guard Cierra Johnson totaled eight points and eight rebounds in the game. She also collected four steals, which added to her record as UTA’s all-time leader in steals, bringing her career total to 312. 

Gerlich said the team lacked aggression in the semifinal loss, which is vital to being successful in tournament play.

“If we can’t handle a couple of byes and using our rest to our advantage, then we don’t deserve to be in the [NCAA] tournament,” she said.

@_julio_vega

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

Julio Vega is a sports reporter for The Shorthorn.

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