EDINBURG — Knowing UT Arlington was coming into Edinburg on a two-game losing streak, UTRGV coach Lew Hill told his players to expect the Mavericks’ best performance. The challenge was to match their intensity.
UTA scored the game’s first 10 points and consistently beat UTRGV in transition and on the boards, cruising to an 86-65 win at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
“We didn’t come out with that fight, that killer instinct,” Hill said. “We just kind of let them walk around and do what they want to do.”
Kevin Hervey led Arlington with a season-high 30 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. He connected on 13 of 25 shots for the game, including an 8-of-10 mark during the second half, to go with four assists against just two turnovers.
Leading up to the game, Hill said UTRGV was focused on limiting either Hervey or point guard Erick Neal, who is averaging 13.8 points and an NCAA-best 9.4 assists per game. But even with Neal out of the lineup on Saturday, UTRGV was unable to contain Hervey.
“We didn’t fight. Especially Hervey,” UTRGV guard Lew Stallworth said. “With Neal being out, Hervey was our main focus today. We didn’t take anything away from him. We didn’t make him uncomfortable. We just let him get in his sweet spots and rise up and shoot some shots.”
UT Arlington outscored UTRGV 36-16 in the paint, and Stallworth attributed many of those struggles to the Vaqueros’ press. UTA entered the night averaging 15.4 turnovers per game, but UTRGV forced just 14 despite consistently attacking and pushing the tempo.
“When you don’t fight, the press is not good,” Hill said. “When you don’t compete, the press is not good. Nothing was good tonight, because we didn’t have what it takes to win, which is the fight.”
The Mavericks also won the rebounding battle 53-38, proving especially potent on the defensive glass. The Vaqueros pulled in just 8 of 47 offensive rebounding opportunities — a 17 percent rate that ranks as UTRGV’s worst this season.
That mark, coupled with a 37.7 shooting percentage, 17 turnovers and a 58.4 percent night at the free-throw line, contributed to UTRGV’s least efficient offensive performance this season.
“They were just being physical the whole game, playing harder, and we just didn’t come out ready to play,” UTRGV freshman Greg Bowie said. “We weren’t as aggressive as we used to be, and it just showed.”
Minutes before tipoff, UTRGV announced that freshman point guard Javon Levi had been suspended for two games for violating the student-athlete code of conduct.
Levi had played in all 12 games for UTRGV this season, starting eight, and averaging 2.7 points and a team-best 3.7 assists per game. He typically serves as the team’s primary ballhandler and is regarded as one of UTRGV’s best defenders.
In his place, Bowie made the first start of his career and notched a team-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. “I was nervous, but you have to do what you have to do,” Bowie said. “You have to play hard, play the same way you’ve been playing the whole year, and just try to do what you can for the team.’”