.500 at mid season, UTD men poised to challenge for playoffs

A .500 start (6-6) has the UTD men’s basketball team primed to make a challenge for the American Southwest Conference post-season as Eastern Division play resumes in mid-January.

The Comets, who are 1-0 in divisional play after winning their only ASC East game to date (82-67 over UT-Tyler), opened a 13-game stretch against division foes with a Jan. 15 road game against Mississippi College (9-4 overall). Before returning home, the Comets were stopping over in Pineville, La., for a Jan. 17 match up against Louisiana College (5-8, 1-1).

The top two teams out of the league’s two divisions qualify for the post-season tournament and a berth in the NCAA Division III national tournament – and the Comets emerged from the first half of the season with the second-best overall record among ASC East teams.

The question for the Comets – and the rest of the ASC East teams – is how they will match up against each other after having little success against the West Division teams in crossover games. Only Mississippi College finished with a winning record (5-3) against the West, while UTD finished tied at 4-4. No other East Division team recorded an overall winning record midway through the season while seven of the eight West Division teams were above .500.

“There’s no question that the West Division is loaded this year,” says UTD head coach Terry Butterfield. “But, I think everyone in the East is feeling the same way. We’re anxious to see how we match up against each other. We all probably feel like we have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The teams that get hot the second half of the season will be there. Anything can happen.”

The Comets, who were just 7-18 last season, have played balanced basketball on their way to the .500 start. Through 12 games, UTD averaged 71.2 points per game while giving up just 72.4. On the rebounding side, the numbers are again even – 35.2-35.7. Prior to the swing through Mississippi and Louisiana, UTD had won five of its last seven games, while going 5-1 at home.

Junior guard Jason Malone, a transfer from Richland College, has moved to the head of a pack of contributors. Malone’s 14.8 ppg average leads a team that features eight players averaging 7.0 ppg or better.

Sophomore Richard Scott, who led the team in scoring last season, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The combination of two youngsters in the middle – freshman James Venters and junior Eric Chatham – are averaging 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest.

– UTD Sports Information

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