A look back: 1986 UALR Trojans turned the tide and put Notre Dame away to win first NCAA game


Chapter XIX: Finish
   During the timeout, Newell drew up a play - a basic play the Trojans ran all season long. It was called Press Attack and Newell drew it up just to make sure everybody had it.
   Worthy got the ball to Myers, who held it high and threw a two-handed pass across mid court to Springer. He caught the ball and dribbled once before chest passing to Clarke in the right corner. It was a four-on-three advantage for UALR as Jackson trailed the play. Jackson then sprinted up the middle, catching the ball in front of Royal and scoring on a layup before Notre Dame could react.
   The basket gave Jackson 1,347 career points, setting a UALR school record.
   The Trojans needed the defensive stop they had been unable to get much of in the previous five minutes as the Irish rode the hot-shooting Rivers. But Notre Dame didn’t go there. Instead, Hicks attempted a 15-footer from the right side. It hit the front of the rim and Barlow leaped to tip it back in. But it didn’t go and after it was tipped around again, Worthy grabbed it and held the ball.
   As Hicks reached in, he poked Worthy in the eye and the game had to be stopped again. Official Frank Scagliotta examined Worthy’s eye before allowing him to continue.
   Keeping possession, UALR worked on the 45-second shot clock. Myers, Jackson and Worthy played catch as the clock wound down to 15 and then 10. Jackson lobbed a short pass to Myers on the left side and he scored on a jump shot over Dolan, who picked up his fifth foul on the play.
   Phelps, crouched in front of the Notre Dame bench, exhaled and held his left hand over his mouth, almost in disbelief.
   “UALR executing perfectly right there as they run the clock down,” Thompson said.
Myers’ free throw with 2:38 remaining made it 79-75. Then after a Rivers basket cut the lead back to two points, Royal’s eight-footer hit the front of the rim and pinballed through three players.
   An unlikely player -- Jackson -- grabbed it.
   Myers held the ball right in front of Newell on the left side of the court and motioned for Jackson to clear Hicks, who was guarding him, out. Jackson ran past, and Myers drove quickly with the left hand right past Royal. Rivers and Kempton ran over to cut off Myers’ path to the basket, but Myers stopped and flipped a pass up the middle of the lane to Clarke, who was left wide open by Kempton.
   Clarke caught the ball, slipped between Royal and Barlow and laid it in over Kempton for an 81-77 lead. Newell pumped his right fist, then screamed, “Get back,” as he motioned to the other end of the court.
   Notre Dame wasted no time. Rivers passed to Kempton, who attempted a jump shot from the left elbow. The ball hit the back of the rim, deflected off the front of the rim, then hit the back again before kissing the backboard. It then spun halfway around the rim and dropped out on the left side, right where Clarke had Barlow boxed out for a rebound.
   Clarke shuttled the ball to Springer, who raced up court. Needing to foul, Hicks undercut him right in front of Phelps near the UALR bench. Springer could have been hurt if he had fallen off the raised court. He made sure he was OK, then rolled over and sat on the floor until Jackson helped him up.
   He took his time getting to the free-throw line, then went through his normal routine. One, two dribbles. Bend the knees. Swish. The second hit the front of the rim but was also good for an 83-77 lead with 1:33 remaining.

   Notre Dame needed to answer and Rivers made another move to the basket. Jackson stayed in front of him the whole way, forcing a traveling call with 1:26 remaining.
   The Metrodome was now rocking as Phelps, almost in desperation, called another timeout. Newell tried to be calm with his players as he went over the pressure he thought Notre Dame would apply.
Out of the timeout, the Trojans beat the press. Jackson got it to Worthy, who threw it down the court to Myers. Stevenson reached in and fouled Myers with 1:15 left to play. At the free throw line, Myers dribbled twice, spun the ball back in his hands and dribbled twice more. His shot swished for a 84-78 lead.
   “I’ll tell you what, we’ve seen some upstarts in this tournament. Miami of Ohio being one, and certainly Akron early today against Michigan, really pushing the Wolverines,” Larrivee said. “But this team here, Arkansas-Little Rock, coming in well-prepared to battle Notre Dame.
   Almost effortlessly, Myers swished the second for an 85-77 lead.
   Now Notre Dame was in a panic. After nearly turning the ball over, Barlow traveled on the left block as he tried to make a move to the basket.
   “Boy, I think school’s out. It would take a miracle now,” Thompson said.
   Notre Dame fouled Myers and Phelps took a big sip of water, looking like he was having trouble choking it down. He certainly was having trouble swallowing what was happening to his heavily-favored team.
   Myers made 1 of 2 free throws and Royal hit two free throws with 47 seconds remaining for an 86-79 score.
   “Zone trap,” Phelps told Rivers from the sideline.
   Notre Dame didn’t want to foul Myers and the space he was given allowed him to throw the ball down court to Clarke. Instead of going for a layup, Clarke dribbled back out and passed to Springer, who was fouled.
   Newell told Clarke, “We’ve got 40 seconds left, we don’t want to shoot it.”

   Springer swished the first to make it 87-79. He high-fived Myers, Jackson and Clarke and turned around and pumped his fist toward Worthy.
   “Hey, don’t foul,” Newell screamed.
   He swished the second for an 88-79 lead.
   Rivers forced up a quick jump shot that hit the front of the rim. Myers leaped high to snatch it away from Worthy and Notre Dame fouled. Newell turned his back to the players on the court and pumped his fist three times to the bench and UALR crowd, swelling behind there. He quickly turned back around, not wanting the five players on the court to see him celebrating.
   “Come on Pete. We’ve got to get these down,” Newell said.
   Again, Phelps went to the water bottle, struggling with it. Myers’ first free throw hit the rim and dropped in for an 89-79 lead. The second shot swished to make it 90-79.
   Rivers cut it to 90-81 with 21 seconds remaining and Notre Dame called timeout, drawing a chorus of boos from the crowd. Hicks Also scored to make it 90-83 but the Trojans held on when Jackson drew the fifth foul on Barlow.
   Jackson embraced Clarke. At the other end of the court, Clarke hugged Myers and Worthy as the three Mobile players celebrated the biggest day of their lives. The score was 90-83 and UALR was on the nation’s basketball map.
   “They just took over that game,” Morgan said.
   Much like the TAAC championship game, Newell jumped in the air at the final buzzer, skipping up the sideline to shake hands with the shocked Phelps.
   “No matter what we tried defensively, they hit the clutch shots. For them it is a great moment. They don’t force many shots, and we couldn’t stop them defensively. They were just determined to win that game,” Phelps said. “There wasn’t much I could change. It was just one of those nights where we came out and the other team did everything right.”
   Myers led UALR with 29 points, making 10 of 14 field goals and 9 of 12 free throws.
   “Even when we pressed them at the end and went up one, they came back and scored,” Phelps said. “They just smelled it and went after it. They shot 79 percent in the second half. That’s what I’m talking about.”
   Clarke had 27 points and 10 rebounds, making 8 of 13 field goals and 11 of 14 free throws.
   "I had to be confident in myself on the free throws,” Clarke said. “I knew that either we’d win that game or be on the plane back to Little Rock.”
   Jackson had 22 points, while Springer added 10 points and 8 assists. The Trojans got outrebounded 31-30 but held their own against the bigger Irish.
   “This is the greatest victory in the history of UALR basketball,” Newell said. “We did it for our school, our city and for our state.”
   Rivers led Notre Dame with 25 points, most of which came late in the game.
   “We’ve noticed from the films that David Rivers does not shoot 45 percent from the perimeter. All of his baskets are from transition. If you can keep him from penetrating and make him stand outside and shoot, he’s just an average player,” Newell said. “And he’s vulnerable to the charge. I’ll guarantee you that, in our game, if he wasn’t David Rivers, we’d have fouled him out.”
   Still, Rivers was in enough foul trouble to keep him off his game.
   “They outplayed us. That’s basically it,” Rivers said. “We didn’t execute our offense, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do, I couldn’t be as aggressive as I wanted to after the third foul.”
   Newell was eating up the media attention.
   “We had a five-point lead with five seconds to play at Houston Baptist. There were a couple of technicals, one on a substitution. They had a substitute official, a guy who went to school there,” Newell said, setting up the media for a joke. “That’s why I wasn’t confident [against Notre Dame]. If we couldn’t hold a five-point lead with five seconds left against the Baptists, an eight-point lead with 21 seconds against the Catholics could get away too.”
   For the players, the evening was quiet.
   “We went back to the hotel and got something to eat. There wasn’t no celebration because the mission wasn’t completed,” Springer said. “We were focused on Sunday.”
   For the fans, it was a different story. With all the boosters staying at the same hotel as the team, three kegs of beer were purchased and set up in a hospitality room for the postgame celebration. But Minnesota had some sort of law on the books that prevented these kegs from being tapped after Midnight and the hotel shut them down.
   The hotel did come up with a solution -- albeit a pretty profitable one for them. They could sell the liquor bottles but would have to do so by the drink. That meant $20 bottles of liquor were bought for $200. Still, the party went on long into the night.
   “You never think you can win a lottery and when you do win, you go crazy. We knew we could win this game, but we’re not crazy. We know we gotta play again on Sunday. … Tomorrow, more people will know about a team from Little Rock, Newell said.