Bakersfield goes to NIT finals with 80-76 win over UTA

The University of Texas at Arlington's men's basketball season ended Wednesday night before an enthusiastic home crowd at College Park Center. Cal. State-Bakersfield defeated UTA, 80-76, during a National Invitational Tournament quarterfinal game. CSUB advanced to a NIT semifinal game that's scheduled for March 28 at New York's Madison Garden. UTA finished the year at 27-9. CSUB improved to 25-9.

ARLINGTON- The University of Texas at Arlington fell short in its attempt to earn a trip to next week’s National Invitation Tournament semifinal game in New York as the result of falling to Cal. State-Bakersfield, 80-76, during a quarter final game on Wednesday night at College Park Center.

The Mavericks entered Wednesday’s game with optimism after routing Akron, 85-69, during an NIT Round 2 game on Monday night. But despite an impressive rally attempt in the latter part of game, the Mavericks came up short before an enthusiastic crowd of 6,336.

UTA finished the year at 27-9. The CSUB improved to 25-9.

CSUB advance to the NIT semifinal, which is scheduled for March 28 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

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Though the Mavericks experienced defeat in their final game of the 2016-2017 season, their advancement to the NIT’s third round was a huge step forward for the UTA men’s basketball program.

When the UTA won their first round, NIT game against BYU on March 15 in Provo, Utah, it was the Mavericks first ever NIT victory.

UTA’s 27 wins this year is the highest total in program history. The 2012 and 2016 teams each won 26 games.

UTA also gave fans lots of great basketball at College Park Center this year. The Mavericks finished 14-1 at home. They were 1-1 at home in the 2017 NIT.

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“It was an extraordinary year,” said UTA junior guard Kevin Hervey. “We did some things that we never did before. But next year, we’re going to make the NCAA Tournament.”

During the first half, UTA had the upper hand, but UTA stayed fairly close through the first 13 minutes. UTA trailed by two points, 24-22, when Hervey dunked it at 7:27 remaining in the first half.

But after that, CSUB went in a scoring spree. CSUB led 45-29 at the half.

CSUB benefitted from sophomore guard Damiyne Durham (who is from Oakwood, Texas, and transferred to CSUB from Baylor) who hit four three pointers in the first half.

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“Bakersfield was extremely tough,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “We got shell shocked in the first half. But I’m proud of the way that our guys fought back in the second half and gave us a chance to win it.”

During the second half, UTA outscored CSUB 47-35. The Mavericks pulled within two points of CSUB when Erick Neal hit a pair of free throws. At that point, CSUB led, 78-76, with six seconds remaining in the game.

But CSUB held off UTA’s rally attempt when CSUB senior guard Dedrick Brasile was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to make the score, 80-76, with five seconds left to play.

Then, UTA junior guard Erick Neal (who was the game’s leading scorer with 22 points) missed a three point shot attempt with two seconds remaining. After the three point attempt failed, time ran out.

“Unfortunately, we ran out of time,” Cross said. “It wasn’t our night offensively.”