STILLWATER — Texas-Arlington arrived at Gallagher-Iba Arena with a reputation for carelessness.
Against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night, the Mavericks lived up — or is it down? — to the bad rep.
The Cowboys rolled 69-44, romping to a big early lead with UTA committing 20 turnovers … in the first half.
The record watch was on after that, with the opponent record for turnovers in a game at 36, set by Prairie View A&M in 2007. The Mavs fell short, so to speak, finishing with 31 turnovers, a season-high, yet representative of who they've been through eight games.
“That was a big part of the scouting report, how they couldn't handle pressure,” said OSU center Philip Jurick. “We just kind of embraced it.”
And attacked it.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “It wasn't necessarily just against UT-Arlington, but we talked the past two days about wanting to get back to pressuring the ball.
“I think that had a lot to do with it. We pressured the ball a lot more tonight. We wanted to do it, but when they started turning it over, it kind of fed into us.”
The No. 24-ranked Cowboys improved to 9-1 and ran their winning streak to four games, with four players finishing in double figures scoring. Markel Brown led the way with a game-high 17 points, while Phil Forte added 13 and Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart had 10 each.
Yet in this game, offense was secondary.
The Mavericks, falling to 5-3, averaged just 64.7 points a game coming in, yet had played respectively in their previous two losses, both to Big 12 foes Oklahoma and Texas. And like the Cowboys, they've posted impressive defensive statistics, holding foes to 33.4 shooting from the floor, compared to OSU's 35.3 field goal percentage defense.
It was the Cowboys who dominated with defense, creating 15 steals and seven blocked shots.
UTA leading scorer Karol Gruszecki didn't score and didn't even get off a shot, with Brown locking him down. Mavs big man Jordan Reves, the team's second-leading scorer, managed eight points, but just two by halftime, when the Cowboys were already in control at 36-17.
“Loved our defensive effort,” Ford said. “A very consistent effort. That was the difference in the game. When you turn somebody over 31 times at home, you're probably going to win.
“We're winning not the prettiest, but that's kind of how we are right now. And I love it. I just like winning with defense. I like the way our guys played tonight, I thought they played every possession.”
The Cowboys bolted to a 13-3 lead less than four minutes into the game and were up 25-8 at the 8:16 mark.
After making its first shot of the game, UTA started its bumbling ways, quickly producing more turnovers than points. The Mavs didn't overcome that stat until just 9:48 remained, scoring their 28th points, against 27 turnovers.
Said UTA coach Scott Cross: “Nothing like a good slice of humble pie for your Christmas present.”