The men’s basketball team defeated Troy University 62-57 on Saturday. The game also marked former head coach Scott Cross’ return to UTA since his departure in 2018. 

Cross led the Mavericks as head coach between 2006-2018, an assistant from 1998-2006 and was a player from 1995-1998. Head coach Greg Young was on Cross’ staff in 2009-2013 as an assistant and associate coach from 2013-2018. 

"A lot of things that I do are because of him," Young said. "He was very influential on my coaching career."

With the win, the Mavericks hold a 100-41 record inside the College Park Center.

“For our guys to compete the way we competed, I'm so proud of them and to finish the game the way we finished it,” Young said.

Regardless of who they play, it is about protecting the home floor, and the team did that with their win, he said.

Graduate guard David Azore scored the first six points, and the Mavericks began the game on an 8-0 run. They made seven of their first 11 shots.

Even with the early start, Young said he knew Troy would generate scoring runs and keep the game close.

The Trojans responded with a 12-2 run to close the gap as the Mavericks led 22-18 with 9:37 left in the half. After missing their first five shots, Troy’s offense improved as they made seven of their next 13.  

The Trojans force 9.6 steals per game on average, second in the conference. But UTA turned the ball over twice in the first half.  

Even with fewer turnovers, Young was not pleased with the Mavericks’ performance in limiting the Trojans’ rebounding opportunities. Troy finished with 18 offensive rebounds, compared to UTA’s six.

The Mavericks took a 34-29 lead into halftime, led by 11 points from Azore. They forced nine Troy turnovers.

The Trojans outscored the Mavericks 13-6 to begin the half and take a 42-40 lead, their first lead of the game. Each team’s defenses were productive in the second half, with each team shooting below 34%.

Each team traded the lead, with Troy growing their lead to six points.

An Azore 3-point play and the forced charge gave the Mavericks the ball with 1:16 left, tied at 57. He made a 2-pointer to give UTA the lead.

Troy would have one last shot, but sophomore forward Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu blocked the shot with 7.6 seconds left.

Akobundu-Ehiogu said he tried to ensure the player didn’t get to the basket. He became the fifth player in program history to eclipse 100 blocks in his career. 

Azore said Troy presented a different challenge because of his relationship with Cross and knowing Azore’s playing style.

With the win, it's the Mavericks’ first 2-0 start in Sun Belt Conference play since 2016-2017.

“We know that we're good enough to play against some of the better teams in the league,” Young said. “But we also know humbly we got a long way, we’d better get better.”  

UTA’s next game will be on the road at 6 p.m. Thursday against Georgia State University.

@D_Tineo4

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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