Wallace, Riles lead Mavericks to second NCAA trip in three years

HOUSTON -- Texas-Arlington didn't expect to go undefeated in the Southland Conference this season.

It just turned out that way.

Terra Wallace scored 22 points and Tiffeny Riles had 14 points to help the Mavericks earn their second NCAA Turnament berth in three seasons by beating Stephen F. Austin 68-47 in the Southland Conference women's championship on Saturday.

The Mavericks (24-8) have won 19 straight games and completed the first unbeaten run through the league's regular season and tournament since Stephen F. Austin did it in 1996.

"That's kind of a hard goal to obtain," said Ashley Bobb, who 10 points, six rebounds and two assists. "You set goals for one game at a time. Thank God, our team and our coaches, we were prepared every game."

Especially for this one.

Texas-Arlington ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense and smothered the Ladyjacks (21-11) from start to finish, forcing missed shots and miscues.

Stephen F. Austin finished with 17 turnovers, shot 30 percent (17 of 56) from the field and missed all eight of its 3-point attempts.

"We just try to play hard basketball, good defense and rebounding against anybody we play," said Texas-Arlington coach Donna Capps.

Evelyn Edwards had eight points and six rebounds for the Stephen F. Austin, which was trying to win the league tournament for the 16th time in 21 seasons. The Ladyjacks had reached the title game and lost only once before, to Texas State in 1997.

Charity Egenti, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, was hampered with early foul trouble and finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

The 6-foot-3 Egenti went to the bench with her third foul with 9:54 left in the half and drew a technical foul from referee for complaining.

"I told her [the referee] that that was a lie. That wasn't a foul," Egenti said. "She gave me a technical foul for that."

Stephen F. Austin played better without Egenti, looking smoother on offense and holding their own on the boards.

The Ladyjacks shot 29 percent in the first half (8-for-28), but Texas-Arlington led only 31-26 at the break, failing to take advantage of Egenti's absence down low.

"Definitely, we were happy to see her go to the bench," Capps said. "Consequently, we didn't capitalize that well on it."

Egenti, the league's top rebounder and second-leading shot-blocker, was still benched as the second half started and Tojjinay Thompson and Maryann Abanobi promptly scored inside to stretch the Mavs' lead to 35-26.

Egenti returned with 18:01 left, but Riles immediately scored inside on an inbounds play. Wallace, the league's player of the year in 2006, then hit a pair of perimeter jumpers before Bobb scored inside to put Texas-Arlington up 43-28.

"We just picked up our intensity," Thompson said of the second-half burst.

The Mavericks double-teamed Egenti every time she touched the ball. And when she passed, her teammates could do nothing to help her, missing perimeter shots or coughing up turnovers.

Stephen F. Austin missed 11 of 16 shots and committed eight turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the second half.

"They knew what we were trying to do, and they just took it away from us," said Stephen F. Austin point guard Nikki Carr.

Egenti went 3-for-12 and had four turnovers.

"When I got in there, I took the shots I normally take," she said. "They just didn't fall. I can't blame it on the refs that I shot that poorly."

The Ladyjacks mounted a late 8-0 run to get within 10, but Wallace hit two free throws and hit a jumper from the wing to extend the lead again.

The Mavericks will make their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. They lost to Texas Tech in the first round in 2005.