LAFAYETTE, Louisiana – UT Arlington put a halt to a two-game losing streak by blowing past Louisiana in the second half to claim an 84-69 win Saturday afternoon at the Cajundome.
The Mavericks (13-9) improved to 7-5 in the Sun Belt Conference, moving ahead the Ragin’ Cajuns (13-11, 7-6) into fourth place in the league standings. UTA also snapped a four-game losing streak to Louisiana.
“It was a great win,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “I’m really proud of our guys for the way they played. They showed a lot of composure. This is the same situation we’ve been in at home when we’ve let leads slip.”
The Mavericks lost double-digit leads in losses to Georgia State and Troy last week at home. It was UTA that rallied from a big deficit this time out.
“That’s basketball,” Cross said. “Sometimes you have great second halves; sometimes you have great first halves. I’m glad our guys came out and we had a great second half so we can stop all that talk.”
The Mavericks, down as many as 11 points in the first half, looked to be a different
team to start the second. They were aggressive defensively and attacked the rim at the other end, outscoring the Ragin’ Cajuns 21-5 in the first eight minutes to lead 62-50.
The victory was a total team effort, led by Jorge Bilbao. The sophomore forward scored a career-high 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots. Bilbao was also instrumental, along with sophomore forward Brandon Williams, in slowing down Louisiana forward Shawn Long.
“You’ve got to love that guy,” Cross said of Bilbao. “He leaves his heart and soul out there, and that’s why he’s starting. He was awesome.”
Junior guard Johnny Hill scored 16 and dished out six assists in his final game of the season. Senior forward Greg Gainey scored 10. Freshman forward Kevin Hervey scored eight and had seven boards. Three other Mavs scored at least seven.
The victory was also the 150th career win for Cross, who trails his collegiate coach Eddie McCarter by 12 for the all-time program lead.
The Mavericks took their first lead if the game (48-47) on senior guard Lonnie McClanahan’s layup early in the second half. Three-point plays from Gainey and Hill were part of a 15-3 run that put UTA up 56-48.
The surge to open the second stood in stark contrast to the start. The Mavericks found themselves in an early 14-3 hole before crawling their way out. Bilbao was especially active around the basket as UTA battled back to make it a game.
Five straight points from sophomore guard Drew Charles plus a layup by Williams tied the game at 24-all. The Mavs would never lead in the half, but went into the locker room down just 45-41.
Bilbao had 11 points at the break, matching his career high. Hill added nine points and two assists. Long scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half.