Stephen Franklin

At times, it seemed as though the Roadrunners were playing against both the Mavericks of UT Arlington and the Southland referees, but the Runners built a big enough lead to hold on for a 97-88 victory Saturday, March 3, in front of a Convocation Center crowd of 2,611.

“I was very happy with our performance tonight,” Head Coach Brooks Thompson said. “We got to shooting the ball; we shot with confidence, and that was the key.”

That confident shooting led the Runners to shoot 57 percent from beyond the arc as they got hot early and often from the field.

Among the confident Runners was senior forward Stephen Franklin, who finished the day with 15 points, six rebounds and a game-high four blocks.

“Everybody came to me and told me I had no passion in my eyes,” Franklin said. “It was my last time on this home court; I had to come out and play my hardest.”

The Runners’ hot shooting was enough for them to hold on, even after the officials saw fit to give as much assistance as they could to the Mavericks in the final four minutes of the game. In that span, the Mavericks were given 18 opportunities from the free throw line to the Runners’ seven.

The Mavericks made 15 of their 18 in that time frame, bringing their total to 31 makes out of 40 attempts in the game. The Runners made six-of-seven in that same stretch to finish the game with 23 made free throws out of 27 attempted.

The Runners will enter this week’s Southland Conference tournament in Katy, Texas as the number five seed. They begin the defense of their conference crown against the fourth-seeded McNeese Cowboys in the first round.

“Our guys are excited about Katy,” Thompson said. “Our guys are confident right now; it should be an interesting week.”

The Runners will still go game-by-game in the hope that their season extends as deep into March as last season.

A potential rematch with the Mavericks would loom if they knock off the Cowboys.

“We aren’t overlooking anybody,” guard Michael Hale III, who led all Runners’ scorers with 21 points, said. “Right now, we are worried about McNeese.”

The win improved the Runners’ record to 18-13 overall. They finish their final Southland season with a mark of 10 wins and six losses.

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