Provo • Texas-Arlington should look into playing more games at the Marriott Center.
Eight months after thumping BYU in an NIT first-round game, the Mavericks crashed BYU’s party again, pounding the Cougars 89-75 in front of 13,636 fans.
“This team is good, and it was a good test for us,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “They got us pretty good, but our kids kept fighting.”
Kevin Hervey led the way with 23 points and Erick Neal added 21 points and 10 assists as UTA improved to 2-0 by handling BYU (2-1) with more ease than the Cougars’ WCC foe Loyola Marymount. UTA beat the Lions 95-90 a week ago.
As such, the Mavericks were able to prepare for BYU for a week, while the Cougars were on the East Coast Wednesday scratching past Princeton, 65-56.
“Well, it was a long night,” Rose said. “Not the best schedule in the world … We knew this would be a tough turnaround for the guys.”
Still, UT-Arlington was an incredible 12 of 20 from 3-point range. Neal, the point guard, was brilliant with the ball and Hervey was as unstoppable as he was in March, going 9 for 20 after a slow start.
“A big key to their team is that little point guard,” Rose said. “He is as good of a point guard as we’ve ever played against.”
Elijah Bryant and Dalton Nixon scored 15 points apiece to lead BYU, and Nixon also had a career-high eight rebounds. Yoeli Childs found the going difficult inside, but still mustered 12 points and five boards.
“They have three [future] pros on that team,” Bryant said. “That’s a good team. That’s an NCAA [Tournament] team.”
Bryant momentarily left the game because a UTA player landed on his foot and Childs left for a spell after getting whacked in the side of the head.
Aside from not being able to slow down the Mavericks, the Cougars did themselves no favors with their shooting. They were 6 of 27 from beyond the arc.
“We need to hold ourselves accountable and make shots, including me,” said Bryant.
Rose said the difference was that BYU was 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half when it fell behind 43-28 and lost some of the confidence it garnered in Wednesday’s road win.
“I think that was the difference in the game,” Rose said. “Our guys got a little bit sideways with our inability to score.”
The Cougars missed 16 straight 3-point attempts during one stretch. They also allowed UTA to score 16 points off their 15 turnovers and 13 second-chance points off eight offensive rebounds.
“We had some really good looks, shots we need to make,” Rose said. “Some of our schemes, they had pretty good counters for.”
Rose said he was encouraged by the way his players stayed together and fought to the end, something that didn’t happen the last time UTA visited the Marriott Center.
UTA led by as many as 25 in the second half before a late BYU rally cut it to 11. Nixon led that charge, along with Payton Dastrup, who hit a couple 3-pointers in the second half.
“Dalton is a fighter, a good competitor,” Rose said.
The Cougars led by six early, and it was tied at 15 before the Mavericks went on a 15-2 scoring run midway through the half to take control.
“They just out-executed us,” Rose said.