Jags shooting goes cold at UT-Arlington

ARLINGTON, Texas - The University of South Alabama men's basketball team shot 32.5 percent in the second half in an 86-75 loss at Texas-Arlington Saturday afternoon at College Park Center.

The Mavericks stay on top of the Sun Belt Conference standings at 12-3 and are 22-6 overall. The Jaguars go to 6-9 in the league and 13-15 overall.

"I was disappointed in the first half because I felt like we had a good game plan with how we wanted to guard certain actions and we just were really slow in reacting to what we wanted to do," USA head coach Matthew Graves said. "They shot a pretty good percentage in the first half and got a lot of clean looks, which was disappointing.

"I did feel like we kept battling and we really competed better in the second half - we were a lot more active on the ball. We gave ourselves a chance to get back in the game, but never could close the gap to put pressure on them."

South Alabama converted 38.4 percent for the game but went 13 for 40 from the floor after halftime, including 3 for 19 (15.8%) from 3-point land. The Jags trailed by as much as 18 in the second half but could not get within single digits in the final 17:50.

"We were missing some shots that we normally make and we had some good looks," Graves said. "We were taking care of the basketball, which was really encouraging, but tonight we didn't get our shots to fall from the perimeter. We missed a lot of free throws that could have cut it to single digits.

The Mavericks were up eight at halftime and used a 7-0 run to take an 18-point lead midway through the second half. UTA started the half 4 for 4 from the field, en route to a 53.8 conversion percentage in the final 20 minutes.

USA put together a 12-4 run to get within 10 (72-62) with 6:59 left after a layup from freshman Trhae Mitchell (Austell, Ga.), but UT Arlington scored six unanswered to push its lead back up to 16 with 5:53 to play.

The Jags cut the deficit to 11 three times in the final 5:04, but got no closer, thanks in part to shooting 8 for 18 from the foul line after halftime, and 11 for 23 for the game.

"To their credit, we start in zone and Drew Charles got loose twice and made us pay," Graves stated. "It was just a lack of communication on where the shooter was on the baseline. From there, it was back and forth the rest of the night. When you dig yourself a hole against a really good team on their home floor, it certainly makes it a daunting task.

"If we made a few more of those free throws down the stretch, I think possibly we could have cut it to a six or seven-point game, and maybe you get a turnover and a kick-out '3' and cut it to one possession, but unfortunately we weren't able to convert on those free throws."

Senior Nick Stover (Los Angeles, Calif.) had a game-high-tying 16 points off the bench on a pair of 3-pointers. Mitchell and freshman Josh Ajayi (El Monte, Calif.) had 11 points each, and Ajayi and junior Nick Davis (Mt. Vernon, Ala.) grabbed six rebounds apiece.

Four of UTA's five starters reached double-digit points. Erick Neal and Kevin Hervey totaled 16 points each. Hervey added 13 rebounds and a game-high six assists. Drew Charles tallied 13 points and Jorge Bilbao had 12.

The Jaguars travel to Texas State for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Monday.