In the 50th meeting in the history between UTSA and UT-Arlington, the Roadrunners and the Mavericks entered the Southland Conference (SLC) tournament aiming to settle the rivalry, at least for this season. The orange and blue entered as the defending back-to-back tournament champion.

In the end, the ‘Runners would forfeit their two-year hold on the SLC tournament losing to the Mavericks, 68-63.

For the fifth straight post season, UTSA and UTA met in the eight-team SLC women’s basketball tournament- the champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. In their last meeting at the SLC tournament championship game on March 14, 2009, the Roadrunners punched their ticket to the Big Dance, defeating the top seeded Mavericks, 74-63.

Both teams feature players on the 2009-2010 All-Southland Conference teams. For UTSA, freshman guard/ forward Judy Jones and sophomore guard Whitney York earned second team honors while junior forward Ashleigh Franklin was selected to the third team.

Maverick Shalyn Martin received the first-ever defensive player of the year award for UTA; Martin also received All-SLC third team honors. UT-Arlington guard Meghan Nelson was named to the Southland first team.

The Roadrunners struggled in the first half, making only 9-32 from the floor, as well as a meager 8-17 from the charity stripe. The Mavericks shot 50 percent on 11-22 shooting; UTA went into the break with a 35-28 advantage.

UTA extended their lead to 12 with 10:26 remaining, but the Runners clawed back into the contest on a 10-4 run over the next 3:38. In a game where UTSA never led, the ‘Runners would get as close as one, 59-60, on a Whitney York layup with 2:48 remaining, but the Mavericks would close the door by hitting 8-9 free throws in the final 2:14 of the game.

UTSA would have one final chance after a Maverick turnover, giving the Roadrunners the ball down three, 63-66. On the ensuing possession, Franklin would miss the 3-point attempt and the rebound sailed behind the backboard.

“I thought we had a chance there at the end to get it done, but it didn’t happen,” Head Coach Rae Rippetoe-Blair said. “The ball didn’t just bounce our way, we missed some easy layups and you can’t expect to win against a team like UTA with those kind of mistakes.”

History and parity aside, both sides understand the significance of the growing rivalry in the western division of the SLC.

“I want to give UT-Arlington a lot of credit,” Rippetoe-Blair added. “It’s always a battle when we play each other. It’s probably our biggest rivalry and I thought our kids played with a lot of heart. They never gave up.”

“We were up early and survived UTSA’s comeback and to hold on against the defending champions. That shows a lot of poise by our girls,” UTA Head Coach Samantha Morrow said.

“I think this is a huge win for us,” Maverick forward Martin said. “We knew that coming into today’s game that we had never beat UTSA in the tournament and that was in the back of our minds all day, which really helped push us that much harder.”

Junior Amber Gregg led all scorers with a game-high 20 points, including 7-7 from the free throw line. York and Franklin added 14 points each, while freshman Judy Jones added 13 points and six boards. York also had a game-high five assists.

Nelson led the Mavericks with 18 points while hauling in seven boards. Tamara Simmons and Martin added 14 points and 17 points each, respectively.

The teams split their regular season meetings; each team winning on their home court (Jan. 16, 2010-UTSA W, 69-51/ Feb. 13, 2010-UTA W, 78-71).

In a move to solidify the progression of the women’s basketball program at UTSA, Rippetoe-Blair, who holds the record for most victories in school history with 176, signed a contract extension through 2015.

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