UTA seniors provide spark in 61-46 win over Utah State
For UT Arlington’s Senior Night Saturday, four players taking the floor for the last time at College Park Center were hoping to go out in style.
And style points were in abundance for Mavericks Kevin Butler, Karol Gruszecki, Cameron Catlett and Jordan Reves.
The foursome combined to match Utah State’s entire scoring output as UTA rolled to a 61-46 win over the Aggies before a boisterous crowd of 4,837 – the second-largest crowd to witness a Mavericks home game this season.
The victory meant UTA (17-10, 11-5) will finish no worse than fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings, with the conference’s championship tournament in Las Vegas looming in the next week-and-a-half.
Utah State (19-9, 9-7) – the conference’s preseason favorite according to at least one publication – was locked into fifth place in the WAC standings after being held to its lowest point total of the season.
“It was a great all around performance by our guys,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “The thing that I’m most happy about is that our four seniors got to go out with a victory. It was an important night for them. I was concerned about our guys playing with effort and confidence, and they did that tonight.”
Butler finished with 21 points, his second-highest total of the year, while Gruszecki equaled his 14-point showing from Thursday night against San Jose State. Catlett wound up with nine points and Reves scored just two, but pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Utah State was forced to play without three regular starters – senior Kyisean Reed and juniors Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield – due to injury, and their absence was taxing on the Aggies’ depth. USU coach Stew Morrill used a seven-player rotation against the Mavericks.
With UTA leading 20-15 at the 8:30 mark of the first half following a three-pointer from Brandon Edwards, Utah State responded with a pair of buckets from Jarred Shaw and a free throw by Jordan Stone to pull even with 6:16 left in the half.
The Mavericks then finished the half with an 8-2 run to go up 28-22, thanks to a three-point play by Catlett, a three-pointer from Jamel Outler and a bucket underneath by Reves – his only points of the game – with 33 seconds left.
“It was fun, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Catlett said of his final home game. “If I’d had a dream, that’s how I would have liked for it to play out. The crowd was active and there was a lot of energy in the stadium. It was a good win for us because Utah State is a good team.”
UTA then opened the second half with a 13-3 blitz to open up a 41-25 advantage and the Aggies were never able to get closer than 13 points the rest of the way. The Mavericks shot 44 percent from the field and hit 6-of-10 three pointers in the second half to pull away.
For his part, Butler was 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-10 from outside the arc – a night-and-day difference from the struggles he’d had in the last three outings, going 8-of-28 combined from the field.
“I was shooting with confidence and really just wanted to win tonight,” Butler said. “That was my goal. I was out there having fun.”
UTA finishes the regular season with two road games against Denver and New Mexico State next Thursday and Saturday nights, respectively.
(Photography by Russell Rendon. Contact Russ today to shoot photography for your next event.)