JONESBORO, Arkansas – Freshman guard Erick Neal’s runner rimmed out at the buzzer and UT Arlington dropped an 81-80 heartbreaker to Arkansas State on Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
The Mavericks dropped to 15-12 and 9-8 in the Sun Belt Conference after their second consecutive loss. UTA had rallied from a 15-point deficit in the first half and led on multiple occasions in the second half, including an 80-79 edge on Neal’s long 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining.
The Red Wolves (11-15, 6-11) took their final lead on Anthony Livingston’s rebound put-back with 15 seconds to play. Livingston finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds.
“It was a heartbreaker,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “We couldn’t get the rebound and they really hurt us on the boards.”
Neal and senior guard Jamel Outler each scored 21 to lead UTA, as both guards made three 3-pointers in carrying the offensive load. Senior guard Lonnie McClanahan added 11 points and five assists. Freshman forward Kevin Hervey had nine points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The back-and-forth second half featured 12 lead changes and
eight ties. UTA outscored the Red Wolves 40-20 in the paint, but A-State had a 17-7 edge in second-chance points and nine-point advantage (22-13) in made free throws.
The Mavericks didn’t have any timeouts after Livingston’s go-ahead layup. Neal had the ball in his hands as the clock was winding down before taking it to the basket. His shot had a chance, but rolled off the back of the rim.
“I would have liked to see a little more ball movement, but Erick just hit a big-time shot and he wants the ball,” Cross said. “You want it in the hands of somebody who wants the ball. There is something to be said for a guy who has the nerve to step up in those kinds of situations.”
Neal’s driving floater gave the Mavericks their first lead of the game (44-43) early in the second half. Outler put UTA back up after converting a three-point play for a 53-51 advantage.
The Red Wolves would inch back ahead 63-61 with 8:23 remaining after a three-point play from by Livingston. Neal answered with a 3-pointer to retake the lead for UTA.
“We needed to get stops,” Cross said. “That’s the bottom line. Every time we had a chance to get a stop, it seemed we fouled them. Our defense wasn’t good enough to win on the road.”
The Mavericks found themselves down 5-0 early and spent the rest of the half playing catch up. UTA trailed by as many as 15 (32-17) before mounting a surge going into the break.
Buoyed by a pair of 3-pointers from Outler, the Mavs trailed just 37-35 going into the locker room. UTA finished with an 18-5 burst, including the final seven points of the half.
Outler scored 12 by halftime on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-3 from beyond the arc. Greg Gainey added five points. The Mavericks overcame a cold start to shoot 46.9 percent (15-32) at the half.
The Red Wolves were hot from deep, making 7 of 12 3-pointers during the opening 20 minutes. Livingston had 12 points and Frederic Dure scored nine.