A night after junior guard David Azore’s buzzer-beating shot ended UTA’s losing skid and made SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays at No. 1, the Mavericks were back at College Park Center to celebrate senior day against Arkansas State University.
Over the past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, the way sports events are handled at UTA and around the world has changed.
Last February, 3,309 fans filled College Park Center to celebrate the UTA careers of guard Brian Warren and forwards Jabari Narcis and TiAndre Jackson-Young.
It was considerably different this time around: only 624 people attended, and they all donned masks while celebrating senior guard Davis Steelman and senior forward Lazaro Rojas.
“Those guys mean a lot to us. They put a lot of time and effort into the program,” head coach Chris Ogden said. “It’s always good to win on senior night.”
In a game that came down to the wire, the men’s basketball team (13-12, 9-8) prevailed in a 64-56 victory against Arkansas State on Saturday.
“Once again, we executed down the stretch, last four minutes of the game we got the stops we needed,” Ogden said. “Like I’ve been saying, we’re starting to play our best basketball.”
The Mavericks were led by sophomore forward Patrick Mwamba’s 13 points and three rebounds. Azore added 12 points and nine rebounds, and junior guard Shahada Wells contributed 12 more points and 9 assists.
“Patrick’s just one of those guys. He’s just ‘Mr. Reliable,’ doing whatever needs to be done,” Ogden said. “He’s really found his niche and role.”
Both offenses played well in a competitive first half with 11 lead changes. The Mavericks shot 40.6% from the field and was 6-14 from three. By halftime, UTA was ahead 35-33 with the help of Mwamba and Wells’ combined 16 points.
The second half came down to the last four minutes. Though the Red Wolves attempted a comeback, UTA’s defense stayed strong.
With 59 seconds left, Wells blocked a crucial layup that would have brought the UTA lead down to four points.
“Those are winning plays, especially at the end,” Wells said. “We need that to seal the deal.”
Wells, who is in his first season with UTA, has made an immediate impact on the team. He leads the program in scoring, assists and steals.
“My role is just to get people the ball and help my teammates better themselves as I better myself,” Wells said.
Ogden said the team will take some time off before the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, but after that, it’s right back to work for the Mavericks.
The conference tournament will begin this weekend in Pensacola, Florida. UTA holds the No. 3 seed in the West Division and will face the East Division’s sixth seed, Troy University, at 8 p.m. Friday.