The first season in the WAC for the UT Arlington men’s basketball team had its share of ups and downs, excitement and heartbreak.
There was the buzzer-beating win on Senior Night. Wins at New Mexico State, over Sam Houston, and at SFA.
Remember the win at San Francisco? Well, the Mavs followed that up with a flop to a bad Cal Bears team.
As you can see, 2022-23 had its fair share of ups and downs. Greg Young was fired by Jon Fagg one day after beating UTRGV on Feb. 9 in Edinburg.
And following an opening round loss at the WAC Tournament, it took Fagg just a few quick days to hire former Kentucky associate head coach KT Turner as the new head coach of the UT Arlington men’s basketball team.
With Turner’s hiring, a new excitement is creeping around the DFW Metro area. More like a different vibe.
With a win-now mentality, the Mavericks got the Turner era off to a good start with a 75-71 win over Oral Roberts on Nov. 6.
Five nights later, the Mavericks gave KT Turner win no. 2. And on Homecoming nonetheless.
Sure, it was a non-Division I opponent. But, don’t fault the Mavs for that. They tried to get Oral Roberts or even Texas State to play them on Homecoming. Neither accepted the invitation.
So, the Mavs took what they could get. For what it’s worth, it might have been a good decision to have UT Tyler come into College Park Center on Nov. 11.
The Mavs go on the road in five days to New Mexico and then to Tucson to take on Arizona. Yes, that same Arizona squad that just upset Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
So, take what you are about to read with a grain of salt if you so choose. That’s because I have said many it times. What happens in non-Division I games isn’t a good judgement of where a team is at.
However, through two games, one thing that is apparent for the UT Arlington Mavericks is a different vibe in the program. Perhaps a vibe of confidence. Definitely a vibe of excitement.
Whatever the vibe is, through two games, you can see that…in the body language of the players, the chip on the shoulder of a new head coach, and a team hungry to be competitive and win ball games now.
“I want to get to where we play hard every second of the game,” UT Arlington head coach KT Turner said. “That takes time but we’re working on it.”
Considering that the Mavs are 2-0, it appears Turner’s team may have bought in.
In one of KenPom’s best games of Opening Night, the Mavs played hard every second of the game. Opening up by hosting Oral Roberts, a 2023 NCAA Tournament team, the Mavs had to play hard every second of the game. Trailing by six with just over 12 minutes to play, the vibe changed.
Dwayne Koroma pulled down three offensive rebounds on one possession, leading to a DaJuan Gordon layup. Gordon’s free throws with 4:58 left to play gave the Mavs a lead they never relinquished.
“Our confidence is high,” Mavs forward Shemar Wilson said. “We just know we got a shot and don’t have any doubt in ourselves.”
On Saturday, against a non-Division I opponent in UT Tyler, the Mavs hit 17 3-pointers, tying the single-game record. DaJuan Gordon had a double-double and freshman Kade Douglas had a team-high 18 points.
Were there spurts where the Mavs weren’t playing hard in a blowout win? Perhaps. But, the body language, energy and massive chip on the shoulder says otherwise.
Heading into a big road trip at New Mexico and at Arizona, fans will get to learn even more about the Mavericks.
One thing KT Turner has confirmed about his team through the first week and that he already knew, is this team wants to win.
“They compete,” Turner said. “I kind of knew that in practice but you never know once you get in a game situation. I think the other night they showed they wanted to win. And that’s all that’s on their mind is winning. Proud of these guys overall. We got a big test coming up next week at New Mexico so we gotta get ready for them this week.”