The UTA Mavericks have relied on Kevin Butler to carry them offensively during this stretch run of the season. But it turns out the guy can also play defense.
Butler's two steals n the final minute in addition to his 23 points allowed the Mavericks to hold on for their first WAC Tournament win, 83-78 over Utah State at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Mavs needed Butler's points and his defense in a game that saw both teams shoot better than 51 percent for the game, with Utah State shooting better than 58 percent for the game.
The Mavs got off to a blistering start, jumping to a 13-3 lead in the first five minutes and leading 29-11 with 8:40 to go in the first half on their way to a 4-29 halftime lead.
Utah State came back in the second half, cutting the lead down to three in the first 3:17. Ben Clifford then got hot from behind the arc, as he hit two three-pointers that gave the Aggies leads in the second half.
But Utah State was never able to get more than a two-point lead. And after Jarred Shaw's free throws put them up 70-69, the Mavs responded with six straight.
With less than 40 seconds left, Butler could only split a pair of free throws to put UTA up 81-78. But he made up for it by taking the ball away from Clifford with 22 seconds to go. At the other end, Jordan Reves missed two free throws - and then Butler stole the ball again, this time from Roland TeNale for a breakaway layup that sealed the game.
The Mavericks will now face former Southland opponent UT San Antonio in the semifinals. UTA beat UTSA twice in the regular season, but the Roadrunners made the tournament wide open by knocking off top seed Louisiana Tech.