A strong defensive outing led the men’s basketball team (6-1) to a 69-49 win over Rice University on Wednesday at College Park Center.
“We did a solid job rebounding the basketball,” head coach Scott Cross said. “We played unselfishly.”
Down by eight, three minutes into the game, the Mavericks used a 15-0 run to jump ahead of the Owls.
Following that, UTA limited Rice to 25.9 percent shooting for the half.
“This is probably our best defensive effort we’ve had all season long,” senior forward Kevin Hervey said.
The Mavericks forced nine turnovers and recorded five steals in the first half. Steals from senior guards Erick Neal and Mairega Clarke turned into impact plays on the floor.
Neal picked an inbounds pass and dished to a wide open Hervey for a 3-pointer, igniting the Mavericks early run. Closing out the half, Clarke jumped in the passing lane and drove the ball down the court for a dunk.
Hervey ended the first with a team-high 17 points, while graduate student center Johnny Hamilton followed with nine.
“[Hervey] and [Hamilton] were very, very efficient,” Cross said. “They scored just about everything.”
UTA wasted no time in the second half as Hamilton opened the scoring with a dunk. The Owls drew within 12, but the Mavericks responded with an 11-0 run, opening up a 24-point lead with 8:36 remaining.
Multiple fouls on UTA spurred an 8-0 Rice run in the final minutes of the game, but time expired and the Mavericks secured the victory.
Hervey tacked on a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Hamilton collected 17 points and eight rebounds. Neal recorded eight assists.
The Mavericks close out their three-game home stand with a game against the University of North Texas at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the center.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Cross said. “They’re probably going to have a little bit of an edge to them, so our guys have to be ready. We’re going to have to bring our best performance.”