March is the only important month for a single-bid conference like the Southland, and no one knows that more than the UT-Arlington men after their 72-66 win over second-seeded Sam Houston State in the conference tournament semifinals in Katy.
The seventh-seeded Mavericks lost twice to Sam in the regular season by a combined 30 points. They may have lost on aggregate, but they won when it mattered.
UTA quickly erased a three-point halftime deficit and pulled ahead by as many as 13 in the second half. Sam Houston State got within three in the game's final moments, but the Mavericks were able to convert from the stripe and came away with their twentieth victory of the season.
Junior forward Anthony Vereen gave UTA an early spark off the bench and finished with a game high 20 points. Sophomore guard and long distance sharp-shooter Rog'er Guignard finished with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Guignard also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
Sam Houston State was led by senior forward Ryan Bright with 19 points in his final Southland Conference game.
UTA (20-11) will appear in its first Southland Conference championship game and shot at the big dance since 1998 at noon Sunday on ESPN2. The Mavs will take on the winner of tonight's other semifinal matchup between Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State.