By Jake Curtis, The Sports Xchange
MORAGA, Calif. — Texas-Arlington’s players and coaches had trouble articulating the magnitude of their 65-51 victory over No. 12 Saint Mary’s on the Gaels’ homecourt Thursday night.
“Humungous deal,” said Mavericks forward Kevin Hervey, who had 15 points and seven rebounds in the upset.
The Mavericks (8-3) had never beaten a Top 25 team, going 0-28 against ranked foes since becoming a Division I program in 1959. And they ended that streak against a Gaels’ team that had won 23 of their previous 24 home games.
“It’s goes down definitely as the best win in our history, not even close,” said Mavericks coach Scott Cross, whose team has won seven in a row. “It was definitely an unbelievable game for us.”
The Mavericks beat Texas 72-61 on the Longhorns’ home court on Nov. 29, but after watching film of the Gaels before traveling to California, Cross said he thought the Gaels were a bigger challenge.
“I thought Saint Mary’s was the best offensive team I’ve seen in my life,” Cross said.
The Gaels (6-1) did not look like a great offensive team against Arlington.
They entered the game ranked third in the nation in field goal percentage at 53.2 percent, but hit 31.3 percent against the Mavericks.
Saint Mary’s averaged only nine turnovers coming in and ranked second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. (2.2) But they had 16 turnovers and 11 assists Thursday.
“I thought we got outplayed, pretty simple,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “That’s a good team. We needed to play well to win and we didn’t play well in any phase. We just … I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it.”
Two things were clear. Saint Mary’s could not handle Arlington’s quickness, and the Gaels could not handle Mavericks point guard Erick Neal, who had 13 points and eight assists as well as five turnovers.
“The key was defense,” Neal said.
Saint Mary’s guard Emmett Naar, an all-conference player last year who entered Thursday’s game fifth in the nation is assists at 7.7 per game, was limited to two points with one assist and three turnovers.
Gaels forward Calvin Hermanson, who made 7 of 9 from 3-point range while scoring 25 points in last week’s victory over Stanford, had five points on 1-of-7 shooting from long range against the Mavericks.
“Emmett and Calvin were pretty much taken out,” Bennett said.
Jock Landale, who came into the game averaging 19.7 points on 76.1 percent shooting, scored 14 points on 3-for-10 shooting for the Gaels, and seven of those points came is the first 7:08. No other Gaels player scored in double figures.
Arlington took command in the first half, using an 18-3 run to turn a 12-9 deficit into a 27-18 lead with 7:01 left in the half. The Mavericks got the lead up to 34-20 before settling on a 13-point halftime lead,
But in all three of their losses this season — against Minnesota, Florida Gulf Coast and Arkansas — the Mavericks had a double-digit lead at halftime.
“We definitely learned from that,” Hervey said. “This time it was rock and roll.”
The Mavericks increased their lead to 20 points with 11:30 left, but an 8-2 Saint Mary’s run that included four points by Landale got the deficit down to 11 with 9:20 to go.
Mavericks guard Drew Charles then scored five straight points to end Saint Mary’s surge. Saint Mary’s never got closer than 12 after that.