Saturday, March 16, 2013
Arlington is a confident group entering final
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Success isn't new for Texas-Arlington.
"Reaching the NCAA Tournament is probably the most amazing thing and that is what I am trying to convey to these guys," UTA coach Scott Cross said following his team's 69-53 victory over Texas-San Antonio in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday. "Last year we were a conference champion. These guys could have to of the best years in UTA history."
Arlington (19-12) plays No. 3 New Mexico State at 9 p.m., in the WAC Tournament championship game on ESPNU on Saturday.
Cross discussed the Aggies' size as being difficult to handle, but Arlington has been difficult for the Aggies to handle. Arlington beat NMSU by 21 points in December and the Aggies needed a Bandja 3-pointer on senior night to beat UTA last weekend in Las Cruces.
"I was mad that he hit the game-winner at the end," Arlington forward Kevin Butler said. "I think we should have won that game. We came out and actually dominated the second half. If we play like we did the second half last game the whole game, no question we win."
Butler has been among the best players in Las Vegas and wing Karol Gruszecki is 9-for-19 (47) percent from 3-point range this week.
Arlington is shooting 43 percent (19-for-44) from 3-point range this week in Las Vegas. Arlington was 10-for-23 against Utah State in the quarterfinals and UTA hit 9-of-21 against UTSA.
Arlington outscored NMSU 43-31 in the second half last week in Las Cruces and UTA's full court pressure forced 20 NMSU turnovers. Friday's lopsided win allowed Cross the luxury of resting key players.
"I don't think it was about the end of the game, it was the first half," Gruszecki said. "We didn't play with energy. Second half we stepped it up and had a chance to win. It was a good lesson for us before the tournament that if we play defense like we did tonight for 40 minutes, we can win."
Jason Groves can be reached at (575) 541-5459. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.