ARLINGTON- The University of Texas at Arlington advanced to the NIT quarterfinals after routing Akron, 85-69, in an NIT second round game on Monday night at College Park Center.
No. 6 seed UTA will play in the quarterfinals game at 8 p.m. Wednesday. If the Mavericks win, they’ll advance to the NIT semifinal, which is scheduled for March 28 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
UTA improved to 27-8. Akron finished the year at 27-9.
Though the Mavericks put on an impressive offensive show for the 5,390 fans, UTA coach Scott Cross praised the team’s defensive efforts.
“This game was won on the defensive end of the floor,” Cross said. “We probably weren’t as efficient offensively tonight as we were against BYU (in UTA’s NIT first round victory over BYU on Wednesday when the Mavericks won the game by a score of 105-89), but I can’t complain because we played so well defensively.”
The Mavericks were balanced offensively with six players scoring in double figures. They were Kaelon Wilson (18 points), Kevin Hervey (13), Erick Neal (13), Drew Charles (11), Jorge Bilbao (10) and Nathan Hawkins (10).
UTA dominated Akron throughout the entire game on Monday. The Mavericks led for 37:31 of the 40 minutes.
The Zips scored first when Kwan Chatham Jr. hit a 3 pointer with 1:18 seconds into the game. But the Mavericks immediately countered when Hervey hit a three-pointer 21 seconds later to tie the score at 3.
After that, UTA went on a 6-0 run and never trailed the rest of the game. By the end of the first half, UTA led 39-26.
UTA opened the second half in dramatic fashion when Neal hit back-to-back three pointers within the first 49 seconds of the second half. The Mavericks took the lead with 45-28, with 19-11 remaining in the game and never looked back.
Throughout the game, the Mavericks thrived on the support from a larger than usual crowd.
“It was amazing,” Neal said of the enthusiastic crowd. “If every home game could be like that, I don’t think we could lose.”