Revamped UT Arlington makes early statement, downs Northern Iowa to start 2-0

Trailing at intermission, 33-32, UTA eventually knotted the contest at 39-all not even four minutes into the 2nd half before embarking on a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to create the first double-figure lead by either team of the evening. (Photo courtesy of UT Arlington Athletic Communications)

Courtesy of UTA Athletic Communications

ARLINGTON – In a matchup of two of the most successful mid-major programs over the last several years, a revamped UT Arlington men’s basketball team (2-0) used a big second-half performance to pull away from Northern Iowa (1-1) on Homecoming Saturday night at the College Park Center, 74-65.

Behind the first career double-double from Edric Dennis and a game-high 19 points delivered by Brian Warren, the Mavericks overcame a halftime deficit to take down the Panthers in front of 3,789 spirited spectators.

Dennis tallied 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, while Warren also passed out a game-best four assists. Radshad Davis narrowly missed what would have been his 10th career double-double with nine points and a game-high-tying 11 rebounds. TiAndre Jackson-Young came off the UTA bench to secure seven points and seven rebounds as the Mavs raced out of the halftime locker room and never allowed UNI to catch up.

Trailing at intermission, 33-32, UTA eventually knotted the contest at 39-all not even four minutes into the 2nd half before embarking on a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to create the first double-figure lead by either team of the evening, 53-43, on a Dennis 3-pointer. From there, UTA didn’t allow UNI to get any closer than three the rest of the way.

That three-point margin came with under a minute to play, 67-64, but David Azore quickly quelled that by stepping to the line and knocking down two big free throws before eventually capping the night’s scoring with a breakaway dunk in the closing seconds to provide the final margin.

“First of all, I can’t thank the fans enough; the crowd, the students it really makes a difference – especially down the stretch. It was a great atmosphere and a great game. Our players won this game. They came in focused and handled the ups and the downs, and at the end of the game they closed it out – and a lot of different individuals had a hand in that. Down the stretch we showed some toughness, some character and some connectivity.”

UTA out-scored UNI in the 2nd half, 42-32, and that was due in large part to shooting 48.3 percent (14-29) from the floor while holding the Panthers to 36.7 percent (11-30). Additionally, after missing all seven of its 3-point attempts in the 1st half, the Mavs went 5-12 from beyond the arc in the closing 20 minutes to provide a big spark.

For the game, the Mavs held UNI to just 13.6 percent from the 3-point line (3-22) … UTA converted 10 UNI turnovers into 13 points, while UNI tallied just eight points off 14 UTA giveways … DJ Bryant netted five points, while Patrick Mwamba had six … the lead changed hands seven times and was tied on 10 occasions … AJ Green led UNI with 17 points, while Isaiah Brown tallied 15.

Despite having claimed three-straight 20-win seasons, this is now just the second 2-0 start for UTA since 2011-12, and the first time since 2007-08 and 2008-09 that the Mavericks have commenced consecutive seasons with 2-0 records.

Neither team led by more than four points in the opening half, which featured 24 fouls – a dozen on each side – and 15 turnovers, eight by UNI and seven by UTA. UTA created a three-point edge midway through the stanza, 18-15, following a steal and one-handed dunk by Mwamba to prompt a UNI timeout.

Out of that timeout, the Panthers rattled off six-straight points and 11 of the next 15 overall to open up their four-point edge, 26-22, at the 3:54 mark. The Mavericks – who feature 12 newcomers this year – responded immediately and went into the halftime break trailing.

Both teams were essentially even across the board in the opening 20 minutes statistically as UNI shot 42.3 percent (11-26) from the floor while the Mavs connected at a 40.9-percent clip (9-22). While UTA did not hit a 3-pointer in the 1st half, it did make 14 of 18 trips to the free-throw line compared with 9 of 15 for the Missouri Valley Conference member.

The matchup pitted two of the nation’s best mid-major teams over the last several years as UTA owns the 2nd-most wins in the state of Texas since 2015-16, three-straight 20+ wins seasons and a trio of postseason victories. UNI, meanwhile, has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances since 2004, winning four games this decade in March Madness, including a trip to the 2010 Sweet Sixteen after stunning top-seeded Kansas in the Second Round.

UTA remains at the CPC as it welcomes Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday, Nov. 16, for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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