I consider myself one of the most on-time people you will ever meet, and I can probably count on just a few hands the number of times I have been late for anything in my life. This is especially the case for sporting events, where I feel that you gain so much more by being there from the word go. Being painstakingly punctual means I also tend to take account of traffic and plan my departure times accordingly. As I found out Wednesday evening, it's much easier to be late when you're out of town and not familiar with the highways.
I left the Merrell Center in Katy after Lamar-Northwestern State at 4:30 to make my way to the Spring Branch area of Houston, where I would be staying at a friend's house. With the tip time for the evening session at 6pm, I assumed the 26-mile round trip could be done in 90 minutes.
I learned my lesson very quickly: don't ever underestimate Houston traffic. As the 4:00 hour turned to 5, I was still sitting on I-10 not even halfway to my friend's house. Arriving back in Katy for tipoff was probably not going to happen. After dropping my bag off at my friend's house, I got back on I-10 at about a quarter until 6 and devoured the sandwich I bought earlier from Buc-ee's in the car. Upon parking and running back into the facility owned by the Katy Independent School District at 6:20, there was 8:27 to go in the half and the score UTA 20, Nicholls State 4.
The Mavericks' previous game against UTSA was their first loss in Southland play after 15 straight wins, and it was clear that UTA wanted to not only get back on the right foot, but do so in a dominating way. When I arrived, the Mavericks were in the closing stages of a 22-2 run. UTA was relentless in its man defense against the Colonels, and the bigger, lengthier Maverick bodies forced Nicholls into missed shot after missed shot. On offense, the Mavs were constantly running, and it seemed as if every basket was an #OMGDUNX or #superhoop.
When Bo Ingram went on a personal 7-0 run to score his 18th point and put the Mavericks up 36-10 with 4:11 left in the first half, I thought UTA could win by 40 if it wanted to. I didn't think it would actually happen.
With the game all over but the crying just minutes in, UTA could have coasted, held the ball for 25 seconds at the start of every possession and won by 20. However, in the second half it played hard on both ends of the floor. The starters began to come out as the second half progressed, but they didn't sit for good until after LaMarcus Reed jumped a passing lane out of nowhere to score a fast break layup with 10:38 left. With 7:03 left, the margin indeed hit 40 after Cameron Catlett converted a three-point play.
I joked with the man sitting behind me in the dying minutes that the only drama left was to see if UTA could achieve the double up. Again, I didn't think it would actually happen. When Dantrell Thomas scored a layup for Nicholls to make the score 87-48 with about 2:30 left, the Mavs needed to go on a run to get there. They did that too, closing on a 9-0 run to make the final score 96-48 and clinched the twofold score with 22 seconds left when Stuart Lagerson connected on two free throws. It was the most comprehensive blowout I had ever witnessed, including games involving Division I teams against lower classifications. The 48-point margin represented a Southland tournament record, and the 23% Nicholls shot from the floor set a new standard for futility in SLC tourney play.
At the time, it seemed like the dominant performance was the start of a potentially glorious three games for the regular season SLC champs. As we know, things can change very quickly in March.
TEXAS-ARLINGTON 96, NICHOLLS STATE 48 03/07/2012
NICHOLLS STATE 9-20 (6-10) -- M. Muscala 8-17 14-16 30; D. Thomas 5-13 5-5 15; J. Smith 4-8 8-10 17; B. Hammond 1-6 0-0 2; S. Rillieux 1-6 2-4 4; C. Talkington 2-11 0-1 6; L. Smith-Hyde 0-5 1-2 1; S. Bailey 1-4 0-0 3; Z. West 0-1 0-0 0; S. McBeath 0-5 0-0 0; T. Lewis 0-2 0-0 0; B. Triggs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-61 16-22 48. TEXAS-ARLINGTON 24-7 (15-1) -- K. Butler 1-6 6-6 8; B. Ingram 5-11 6-6 21; L. Reed III 7-11 2-4 17; J. Reves 2-3 2-2 6; S. White-Miller 0-0 2-3 2; C. Catlett 4-6 3-5 12; B. Edwards 2-4 0-3 4; B. Gay 4-7 4-4 15; K. Gruszecki 1-2 1-2 4; S. Lagerson 1-3 3-4 5; N. Osbourne 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-54 29-39 96.
Three-point goals: NICH 4-35 (B. Hammond 0-3; J. Smith 1-3; C. Talkington 2-9; D. Thomas 0-4; S. Bailey 1-4; T. Lewis 0-1; S. McBeath 0-4; S. Rillieux 0-3; L. Smith-Hyde 0-3; Z. West 0-1), UTA 11-23 (L. Reed 1-4; K. Butler 0-2; C. Catlett 1-1; B. Gay 3-5; B. Ingram 5-10; K. Gruszecki 1-1); Rebounds: NICH 30 (J. Smith 8), UTA 46 (J. Reves 11); Assists: NICH 6 (J. Smith 1), UTA 16 (S. White-Miller 6); Total Fouls -- NICH 26, UTA 23; Fouled Out: NICH-S. McBeath; UTA-None.