A look back: 1986 UALR Trojans hit the road and kept winning and winnng

Chapter IX: Road
  What do Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Hammond, Louisiana; Shreveport, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; Abilene, Texas; Statesboro, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas, have in common?
2011 marks the 25th
anniversary of UALR's
upset of Notre Dame in
the 1986 NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mike Newell is being
inducted into the UALR
Athletics Hall of Fame on
January 29. BTH takes a look
back at 1986 with Jeffrey
Slatton's book, written in 2006.
   All were cities that UALR would visit before returning to Statehouse Convention Center for another home game.
   “You have to play seven conference games on the road anyway, so it doesn’t matter if we play them all in a row or not,” Newell said. “We have an attitude, but it’s not being overconfident. We like to have a challenge. We’re ready to go. When you’re on a roll you can’t wait to play. We’ve just got to continue to do this for another seven or eight games.”
   It began with a January 23 game against Georgia State at Atlanta. And it was a freshman -- a different freshman -- that pulled out the victory that got UALR above .500 for the first time since the opening days of the season.
   UALR led 78-75 in the final minute when Campbell was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one but McCurdy grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws for a 80-75 lead.
   Georgia State’s James Andrews hit a shot in the deep, left corner for an 80-77 score and the Panthers fouled Campbell with 20 seconds remaining. Campbell, a 46 percent free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one. Again, McCurdy grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 19 seconds remaining. He hit both free throws for an 82-77 lead.
   “When Keith puts a lot of arch on the ball it usually hit’s the back of the rim,” said McCurdy, who finished with 12 points. “I can usually judge the ball and tell where it will go, and I was there and got the rebound.”
Clarke led UALR with 24 points. Worthy and Jackson had 14 and Myers 10.
   Now UALR was 10-9 and owners of six-consecutive victories. Up next, the Trojans drove to Birmingham for a January 25 game against Samford.
   UALR led 66-59 with 4:45 remaining when Samford started fouling, hoping the poor free-throw shooting Trojans would let them back in the game. Instead, UALR made a nearly amazing 15 of 16 free throws during that span to win 83-73. Jackson moved into sixth on the career scoring list with 29 points.
  “We have seven more games left,” Newell warned. “It doesn’t matter if they are on the road or at home, we want to win them all.”
A few highlights from Samford

   With a February 1 game at Centenary already on the schedule, UALR stepped out of conference for a January 30 game against Southeastern Louisiana at Hammond.
   SLU had already beat UALR twice this season -- once at Little Rock and once at Norman. Newell thought his game would be a good gauge for his team.
   Springer got into foul trouble, forcing Campbell into his first extended action at point guard in weeks. UALR went from a 29-29 tie to down 49-34 in a four-minute span of the first half. But Campbell came off the bench to score 19 points, 16 in the final 12 minutes, as UALR beat Southeastern Louisiana 105-97 in overtime. Jackson scored 31 points to lead the Trojans to their eighth-consecutive victory, boosting the overall record to 12-9.
   If it wasn’t for Campbell, the game probably would have never even went to overtime. The Trojans trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half before putting together a furious rally. In the final seconds, Campbell stole the ball and led a 2-on-1 break with McCurdy. He faked the pass then leaped over a Southeastern Louisiana player to slam the ball with his right hand, cutting the lead to 85-83.
   Newell leaped off the bench, yelling for a timeout and McCurdy called it with 11 seconds remaining. After the timeout, UALR fouled and Southeastern Louisiana missed the free throw. Campbell scored on a layup to tie the game 85-85, sending it to overtime.
   Jackson scored six of UALR’s first eight points in overtime, then he and Campbell put the game out of reach with two free throws apiece.
   How good was it going for UALR? Worthy nailed an 80-footer at the buzzer as sort of an exclamation point.
   “Keith has potential to be a big-time player,” Newell said. “He’s starting to play with confidence and is thinking that he can contribute to the team. We got a great performance out of some of our youngsters and our seniors again came through.”
Highlights from Southeastern Louisiana

   The Trojans then went to Shreveport’s Gold Dome to play Centenary in a return to TAAC play. And it again it was a freshman point guard that keep the winning streak alive.
   UALR built a 35-20 first-half lead but led only 43-38 at halftime. Centenary finally tied the game 57-57 with 6:54 to play when Troy Sewell hit a long jump shot.
   The teams traded baskets with Centenary leading 62-61 until Worthy cut to the basket as Andrew Dewberry stepped in front of him to take the charge. Game officials ruled the basket was good, giving UALR a 63-62 lead. But they also called a charge on Worthy, sending Dewberry to the free throw line at the other end for a one-and-one with 2:46 to play. He missed.
   In a timeout, Newell pulled out the marker board usually used for drawing up plays. Instead, he drew a ring and wrote the word “TOUGH.”
   “If you ain’t this,” Newell said pointing to the word “tough” and the ring, “You ain’t going to get that.”
   UALR ran down the shot clock and Springer’s jump shot gave the Trojans a 65-62 lead with two minutes to play. Springer hit two more free throws in the final minute to preserve the 70-66 victory, tying the school record of nine-consecutive victories.
Highlights from Centenary including Springer' jumper

   If it seemed like things were going too well, they were. As UALR returned home the following Monday, bad news awaited. Covington was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. It happened when his knee gave out as he went up for a dunk in practice.
   It was a blow to UALR’s depth, but the Trojans were still rolling.