Utah State (21-9) vs. Texas-Arlington (17-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 14, 11:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: USU 14-4, UTA 7-7. Away Record: USU 7-5, UTA 10-5. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, UTA 0-0. Conference Record: USU 11-7, UTA 11-7. Series Record: Texas-Arlington leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to bounce back from consecutive defeats to close out the regular season, the Texas-Arlington Mavericks prepare to take on the Utah State Aggies in the quarterfinals of the 30th annual Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
One of a number of new teams added to the WAC for this season, the fourth- seeded Mavericks had a very successful month of February with six wins in eight tries, the only defeats coming against league-leader Louisiana Tech and UC Irvine out of conference.
The Mavericks have only this one opportunity to make an impression in the WAC as after this season the team will be competing in the Sun Belt Conference.
Last weekend, the fifth-seeded Aggies closed out the regular season with a 71-51 victory versus Texas-San Antonio, marking the 1,500th victory in program history and making USU just the 52nd school in NCAA history to reach that plateau. The win also gave the Aggies at least 21 victories in 14 consecutive campaigns, one of only five teams in the country (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse) capable of making that claim.
The Mavericks lead the all-time series with USU by a count of 2-1 after sweeping the two regular-season meetings this year, the most recent of those coming less than two weeks ago at home in a 61-46 final. The winner this time around will be rewarded with passage to the semifinals of the tournament where they will face off against the survivor of the UTSA/Louisiana Tech battle for the right to advance to the title game on Saturday night.
Utah State has a record of 12-5 in this event since joining the league and is one of only two current members that has won it all, doing it twice in fact in both 2009 and 2011.
Refusing to pack it in, after losing both leading scorer Preston Medlin (16.3 ppg) and another key contributor in Kyisean Reed (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) due to injuries. the Aggies soldiered on in 2012-13 and were led by Jarred Shaw (14.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Spencer Butterfield (12.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg) who were both named to the All-WAC Second Team for their efforts. While it should be noted that it came against Texas State at home in one of the last games of the regular season, Butterfield showed that he can rule the paint in the right situation as he cleared a massive 20 rebounds just last week.
The Mavericks certainly have the confidence they need when it comes to taking on USU in the quarters, seeing as how UTA defeated the Aggies twice during the regular season. Using defense as a driving force, the Mavericks held the competition to just 61.8 ppg this season on 38.2 percent shooting from the floor and 31.4 percent behind the 3-point line. It was rare to see the Mavs explode for huge numbers at the offensive end of the floor and those few instances came against weak competition for sure. As a result, only Kevin Butler displays double-digit scoring for the program with 10.7 ppg overall and a slightly better 11.6 ppg in league action.
The Aggies have the experience of being in this league and having quite a bit of success in the tournament, but there's only so much a team can do after losing so many key contributors. Utah State won't go away quietly, but it also won't be playing on Friday either.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-Arlington 67, Utah State 61
03/14 10:37:07 ET