First-half surge propels UT Arlington past ULM

Courtesy of UTAAthletics

MONROE, La. -Despite being down three players due to injuries, the UT Arlington men’s basketball team orchestrated an early 16-0 run and were never threatened again en route to a 77-64 win at ULM Friday evening inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Shahada Wells scored 17 of his season-best 25 points in the 2nd half, Sam Griffin tallied 15 of his 18 points in the 1st half and Patrick Mwamba reached double-figure points for the second time this season with 12 to lead the UTA offensive attack on a night when they led by double figures for more than 30 minutes.

UTA was without David Azore (11.4 points, 4.6 rebounds), Nicolas Elame (7.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3 assists) and Lazaro Rojas (4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds). Combined, that trio has accounted for nearly 25 percent of UTA’s scoring on the season and almost 30 percent of its rebounding.

Undeterred, the Mavs turned in their best shooting performances of the season against a Division-I opponent by connecting at a 49-percent clip (28-57) from the floor and also a 48-percent rate (10-21) from 3-point range.

In what was arguably UTA’s finest defensive performance of the season, the Mavs held ULM to just 22 percent (5-23) from beyond the arc – the lowest rate they have limited any opponent to this year. The 64 points for the Warhawks are also the fewest the Mavs have allowed to a D-I foe this season.

While defense played an integral role in the outcome, it was UTA’s offense from the jump – spearheaded by Griffin – which put things out of reach early. Griffin added a game-high-tying eight assists, by far his most versus D-I opposition, and also four rebounds. Mwamba secured a game-best eight rebounds to aid in the Mavs’ 37-26 margin on the glass.

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE

  • UTA improves to 5-6 overall on the year and 1-2 in Sun Belt play, while ULM falls to 4-6 and 2-1.
  • Griffin’s eight assists are double his previous high versus a D-I opponent (four at Louisiana last year as a freshman). His career high is nine set earlier this season against Dallas Christian.
  • Wells pulled down five rebounds and also issued three assists along with three steals. It’s the seventh time this year already the Tyler Junior College transfer has led UTA in scoring.
  • Davis Steelman registered five points and secured six rebounds – the senior’s most against a D-I team.
  • For ULM, Josh Nicholas scored a team-high 23 points on 11-16 shooting. Koreem Ozier added 16 points to finish as the lone double-figure scorers for the Warhawks. Ozier contributed eight assists as well.
  • UTA held ULM to only 35 percent (10-29) from the floor in the 1st half before the Warhawks finished the game at 45 percent (26-58).

PLAY-BY-PLAY SUMMARY
The 16-0 UTA run nearly from the outset of the game gave the Mavs an 18-5 lead at the 13-minute mark; that run was keyed by three-straight 3-pointers from Griffin, who picked up right where he left off last weekend when he scored 43 points in two outings at Little Rock.

The UTA advantage remained in double figures for nearly the rest of the opening stanza, and McKade Marquis accentuated a brilliant first 20 minutes for the Mavs with a massive tear-drop floater in the closing seconds to send the visitors to a 42-26 halftime lead.

The Mavs shot 57 percent (16-28) from the field in the 1st half, including a 50-percent rate (5-10) from 3-point range.

Coming out of the break, UTA grew that separation further with multiple leads of 20 points early in the 2nd half, and didn’t allow the Warhawks to get any closer than 12 the rest of the game.

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