A look back: 1986 UALR Trojans finished off Centenary and rolled into their first NCAA Tournament

COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS

Chapter XIV: Champions
   On paper, UALR had a cakewalk in the TAAC championship game against Centenary. But Newell was taking nothing for granted.
   The Gents had to beat Houston Baptist 84-81 on the road just to advance to Little Rock. Centenary then beat Samford in Friday’s late game to advance to the championship in true Cinderella fashion.
   “Why is Centenary here?” Canterbury asked. “We’ve got a losing record and we’re at the bottom of every statistic except turnover margin, whatever that is supposed to stand for. I was on my way fishing when I saw the lights on at the gymnasium.”
   Only one conference winner had won the postseason tournament -- Houston Baptist in 1984. UALR would also have to beat Centenary for a third time.
   “I don’t worry about that three-time crap,” said Newell, who had the team stay at The Excelsior after the Mercer game. “You people are the ones who keep bringing that stuff up. We don’t worry about the past. This is a different regime with different circumstances, a different program. I’m only concerned with the last two years.”
   Centenary was hot and had highly-touted players Gene Vandenlangenburg, who most just called “Vandy” and “Bobo” Thomas.
  “In the past, we’ve constructed junk defenses to try and take care of them, but if the two of them hook up together, we’ll be in trouble,” Newell said.
   KTHV-TV Channel 11 had been one of the best local supporters for the Trojans. Morgan was a sports anchor and reporter there and the station had aired “The Mike Newell Show” each Sunday night at 10:30 for the entire season. They gave UALR another shot in the arm by agreeing to air the championship game live
  “This will be a first for our state’s sports fans,” then KTHV General Manager Robert L. Brown said. “This is the first time the TAAC Championships have been broadcast live to an Arkansas audience.”
   How much this would affect attendance wasn’t known. The Statehouse had held as many as 4,900 for a basketball game that season and UALR brought in an additional 800 seats for the weekend.
Sports anchors Morgan, the longtime voice of the Trojans on radio, and Ray Tucker, the current voice of the Trojans on radio, called the game. KTHV went all out, renting a fully-loaded truck with four studio cameras and all the bells and whistles.
video
Watch the opening for KTHV's broadcast

   “Outside of the University of Arkansas, no university has had a basketball game telecast statewide by a local station. We are proud to be a part of that,” Brown said. “Advertisers have responded well. We have been pleasantly surprised at the interest, but I guess we shouldn’t have been. Mike’s show this season has been great.”
   There seemed to be some tension early on as Mark Byrd announced the starting lineups in alternating fashion. Myers slapped Fred McNealy’s hand so hard it was audible to those watching at home.
   “Last year, everybody picked us near last [in the TAAC],” Jackson said. “No one expected us to win or to win the tournament. We got to the final and fell short again. Now we’ve got another chance at it. There is a big change from this year and my freshman year for me. I really want to make history. We saw Mercy cutting down the nets and that hurts us. It could have been us. We saw how happy they were cutting down those nets. We knew we could come back and that we had another year, but that we’d have to work hard.”
   Jackson had been cold the night before and Newell, knowing this was his third TAAC championship game appearance in four years, wanted to get him involved early. On the game’s second possession, Springer sprung a pass into the corner where Jackson nailed an 18-footer.
   Centenary had a smaller, quicker team and needed to control the rebounding to have any chance.
   After a miss by Vandenlangenburg, Myers grabbed the rebound as the Trojans started to run. Springer penetrated and kicked the ball out to Jackson in the corner. Before Jackson even let the shot go, Springer held up a No. 1 as he turned and sprinted the other direction. Jackson nailed it for a 6-2 lead.
   Centenary stayed close, tying the game at 6-6 on a basket by Sewell and 12-12 after Vandenlangenburg bounced in an 18-footer with 12:59 left to play. Centenary held a 10-3 advantage in rebounds but the Gents failed to take the lead when Vandenlangenburg missed. McCurdy leaped high in the air for the rebound and the Trojans wasted no time getting the ball up court. Springer passed to Jackson, who hit an 18-footer on the baseline for a 14-12 lead.
  Centenary had five offensive rebounds before UALR got its first. Clarke got one and was fouled, then got another, blocking out Thomas to score for a 16-12 lead. Two free throws by Thomas cut the lead to two before UALR scored 15 of the next 21 points. Myers had a three-point play, then scored on a dunk after posting up Sewell. He caught the pass, spun right and dunked the ball with his right hand for a 21-14 lead.
   Springer then took a charge on Vandenlangenburg, his third foul of the game. The Gents got as close as 21-16 before the run continued. Worthy, who had just missed on a air ball, hit an 18-footer.
   “Worthy tries it again, this time Kenny gets it down,” Morgan called.
   A steal by Springer led to a pull-up jumper by Myers, then Jackson struck again.
   “There’s Jackson wide open. Bingo!” Morgan called.
   Clarke scored on the inside and Worthy banked in a 12-footer for a31-20 lead. Springer, who was nearing 10 assists in the half, then scored back-to-back baskets for a 36-24 lead with two minutes to play. After another Centenary miss, UALR broke up court doing a perfect three-man weave.
   “Fast break. Springer, Worthy, Clarke, basket,” Morgan called. “And the folks at the Statehouse enjoy it.”
   Clarke scored again as UALR took a 41-25 lead into halftime. Outside UALR’s locker room, Chancellor James Young pulled Newell aside.
   “I’ve taken you this far. The rest is up to you,” Young said.
   Just to be safe, Newell didn’t start Clarke in the second half. It didn’t matter. McCurdy banked in a 10-footer, Jackson hit a corner jump shot and Myers hit two free throws for an early 47-27 lead. With the score 47-31 and Centenary on a fast break, Jackson swooped in to steal the ball from Vandenlangenburg.
   “A steal from Myron Jackson from behind. Here’s Myers. Slam dunk!” Morgan shouted. “And the Trojans open up a 49-31 lead with 17:05 left to play and this crowd loves it at the Statehouse.”
   Vandenlangenburg picked up his fourth foul with 15:41 to play but had to stay in the game.
   “The Gents are in trouble,” Morgan observed.
   He was right. Worthy scored on a finger roll for a 53-37 score and Newell screamed from the sideline.
   “Hey! D it up. Let’s go,” he shouted.
   But Centenary continued to play within striking distance. A three-point play by Randall Davis made it 53-40 with 14 minutes to play. Inside of 11 minutes, Centenary finally had its chance to cut the lead to 11 points. Vandenlangenburg raced up court on a 2-on-1 with Davis. He passed to Davis just as Springer slipped in and took the charge. Canterberry couldn’t believe it, especially after the ball went in the basket.”
   “Paul Springer got back there and makes a great defensive play,” Morgan said.
   “I don’t think Tommy Canterberry would agree with that call,” Tucker said.
   Then at the other end, Myers scored for a 59-44 lead.
   Again, Centenary cut the lead to 13 and had a chance to make it 11. This time, Thomas made a move to the basket and Jackson slipped in. The official was so close that head to step over Jackson and Thomas, but he didn’t make a call.
   Myers traveled and Centenary got another opportunity. Vandenlangenburg missed back-to-back shots before Worthy finally grabbed the rebound. Worthy then scored on a putback to push the lead back to 15. Another putback by Worthy made it 63-46.
   “Kenny Worthy with another fine ball game off the bench,” Morgan called.
   Centenary was still as close as 65-52 with 5:47 to play when the Trojans put the game out of reach. Springer hit back-to-back jump shots and Jackson scored on a layup after a pass from Worthy. Myers’ running back shot made it 76-56.
   And after Jackson blew past two Centenary players to put back a free-throw miss for a 79-58 lead, the celebration was on.
   “There’s Jackson on the follow,” Morgan called.
   “Max, it’s all over,” Tucker responded.
   “Trojans right now very close to making history,” Morgan said.
   A standing ovation took place over the final two minutes as Newell took out the five on the court and inserted Kidd, Campbell, Severn, Chase and Powell.
   Bumper stickers, most likely coming from within the athletic department also started to appear everywhere: “UALR Trojans: Arkansas’ NCAA team.”
   The game concluded with a bang after Kidd grabbed a missed shot and flung the ball down the court to Campbell, who dunked the ball with four seconds remaining for an 85-63 lead.
   “Slam Dunk Keith Campbell. And that’s that. Look at Mike Newell. He deserves it,” Morgan said. “Mike Newell has taken this UALR Trojan team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.”
   As Newell walked around the court in the pandemonium that followed, he was tapped on the shoulder. It was Young. They embraced for several seconds with Newell lifting Young off the floor. Newell also received a hug from Gov. Clinton, who had stayed until the end.
   “It was unbelievable. Gov. Clinton and other son the front row. The whole state of Arkansas -- Razorback territory -- rooting for us. All you wanted to do was put on a good show,” Springer said.
UALR won despite getting outrebounded 46-39.
Clarke is named MVP.
   “It was like a dream come true. Coach Newell, he proved all the critics wrong,” Clarke said.
   Clarke had 18 points, 7 rebounds and was named the TAAC Tournament’s most valuable player. He was presented with the just-cut-down nets as a necklace as he received his unique all-clock trophy.
   “I think I gave it to my mother,” Clarke recalls.
   It was fitting for Myers, Clark and Worthy, teammates since junior high school.
   “In high school, we didn’t get the big one. In junior college, we didn’t get the big one,” Clarke said.
   Myers had 17 points, 8 rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team
   "Coach Newell said that we’re going to have a top-notch program. He said come to work and make some sacrifices and dedicate ourselves to basketball and the books. We’ve been doing that in the past. I’m just happy that it happened to us,” Myers said. “We’re number one in the Trans America conference and it feels great because this is something I’ve worked for.”
   Jackson had 17 points. He didn’t win any wards but was satisfied after finally winning the TAAC tournament on his third try.
   “I always believed in UALR,” Jackson said. “I knew last night [vs. Mercer] I was cold and that I was really going to have to concentrate tonight because this was a big game for us. I can look back at a time when we didn’t have this many people. Right now, it’s a packed house and we didn’t let the people down. We won the tournament.”
   Springer had 14 assists while Worthy had nine.
video
UALR-Centenary highlights

   “I tell you what. After Houston Baptist down there, until that final buzzer goes off, you can’t take anything for granted,” Newell told Tucker in the postgame. “We have so many weapons that we can hurt you with inside or outside. We got some breaks too. We’re going to celebrate tonight. We’re going to the NCAA now.”
   In the Arkansas Democrat, Hall wrote: “Fame, glory and big-time basketball finally took an address in Little Rock Saturday night -- 33rd and University.
   “For the 10th consecutive time, the state of Arkansas will have a representative in the NCAA Tournament. The honor, for the first time, doesn’t go to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. All the bragging rights of the season rightfully belong to second-year coach Mike Newell and UALR, a team that has been Division I only since 1980.”
   But back in the locker room, Newell was back to being himself.
   “Guys, see what happens when you are mentally tough, when you are ready to play. Now, the party has just started. We’re going to the NCAA and we’re not going there to lose,” Newell told the team. “You made history. You know what’s really ironic? You know what else we’ve got a chance to do? Hey, when we win that first game in the NCAA that breaks that all-time winning streak also. We’re right back tied again at nine.”
   Ten would have to come in the form of a miraculous upset.
 

A look back: Future President Bill Clinton talks about the 1986 UALR Trojans

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video

This is from halftime of the 1986 TAAC Championship Game at Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Sorry for the delay

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Sorry for the delay in getting some things updated. It's been a hectic couple of days. We'll try to get things caught up by tonight.
BTH

UALR flops at home in loss to Arkansas State

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   On a big night in front of an important crowd, UALR flopped in a 75-64 loss to Arkansas State at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.

75                64
  UALR had an opportunity to move into second place in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division. Instead, the Trojans dropped into fourth.
Solomon Bozeman led UALR with 18 points, but he had to make 10 of 10 free throws to do it. D’Andre Williams had 11 points and Alex Garcia-Mendoza 10.
   UALR shot just 34.5 percent from the field, but that number was in the mid-20s much of the game. And the Trojans were out rebounded 41-23 by Arkansas State, which shot 54.2 percent.
   Uncharacteristically, ASU made 7 of 15 three-pointers, many of them turning back short UALR rallies.
   Donald Boone led ASU with 22 points, but it was Rashad Allison’s 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists from the point guard spot that hurt more.
   There were two early events that put UALR in a position it could not recover from.
   First was the start by ASU. The Red Wolves went up 11-0 by getting things done at the defensive end. They locked up UALR’s guards and forced Courtney Jackson to shoot a couple of jump shots. That, coupled with some turnovers and UALR’s failure to get back in transition, hurt the Trojans.
   The second thing was probably even more important. Chuck Guy checked into the game with 14:46 left and UALR immediately went to him. Guy’s first three-pointer was blocked by ASU’s Rashad Allison on the right wing. Guy, who normally plays with as much confidence as anyone on the UALR roster, seemed to have very little after that. He didn’t attempt another first-half field goal.
   In fact, Guy, Bozeman and Garcia-Mendoza made a combined zero field goals in the first half.
   Guy made 1 of 6 field goals and finished with 4 points.


A look back: 1986 UALR Trojans blew through the first two rounds of the TAAC Tournament

COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS


Chapter XIII: TAACy
   UALR’s first-round opponent at the TAAC postseason tournament was the same team it wrapped up the regular season with -- Georgia State.
    Statehouse Convention Center wasn’t available, meaning UALR had to find another place to play. With Barton Coliseum, Central Arkansas’ Farris Center in Conway and the Pine Bluff Convention Center also booked up, UALR turned to the on-campus Trojan Fieldhouse for its opener.

Pete Myers at
Trojan Fieldhouse.
    “I didn’t mind playing there. What shocked me was that their coach Bob Reinhardt agreed to do it,” Newell said.
   Reinhardt was just trying to get his team’s season over with. And by hanging around Little Rock a couple of extra days, he could. For UALR, the pressure to advance to their first NCAA Tournament was mounting.
   “There’s real pressure here because if we don’t win the tournament we’re not going anywhere in postseason play. But I think that will change in our conference, especially here,” Newell said. “What bothers me is that if he hadn’t had that Houston Baptist game taken away from us, we would have won 17 in a row and have the second-longest winning streak in the country.”
   Trojan Fieldhouse could comfortably seat about a thousand people with its rickety bleachers. On March 2, 1986, 1,342 crammed their way in.
   “It was wild,” Newell recalled. “If we could have played all our games there I don’t know if we would have ever lost a home game.”
   UALR jumped out to a big lead and rolled to a 115-82 victory in a game that looked more like a slam dunk contest than an conference tournament game.
Michael Clarke put on a show
at Trojan Fieldhouse.
   Clarke put on a first-half show, making all 11 of his field-goal attempts as UALR jumped out to a 49-28 lead. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.
   “I was just having fun. I didn’t really even know what my stats were,” Clarke said.
Jackson finished with 20, Smith 17, Springer 16 and Myers 13. Springer added 10 assists while Smith had 12 rebounds.
   It was Smith, who had missed almost two months with a stress fracture that kept the crowd involved. They chanted “Pizza, Pizza” throughout the final 10 minutes, hoping UALR would top the 100-point plateau to kick in a promotion that would provide free pizza for all in attendance.
  With the score 99-67, Smith slammed home an alley-oop from Worthy with 3:39 to play, giving UALR 101 points and kicking in the promotion.
   “I had a pretty good night,” said Smith, who was injured Dec. 19 in practice and spent two weeks in a cast. “That’s the most I’ve played since I hurt my foot. It felt good to have a good game. I got a few dunks and I had some rebounds. That made me feel good.”
   One fan wearing a blue Members Only jacket was so excited, he jumped four or five times in the air and ended up nearly 10 feet on the court before he was ushered back to his seat.
   “They were out of control,” Morgan said. “It was just going crazy and it was so much fun.”

Reggie Smith posts up at
Trojan Fieldhouse.
   Worthy tried another alley-oop pass to Smith, but the ball went directly into the basket instead. Another Worthy alley-oop went to the wrong side of the rim, but Smith took it high above with his back to the basket and dropped it through. As he ran down the court, he high-fived fans and even Morgan.   But pizza would have to wait. As fans exited Trojan Fieldhouse, they got right back in line, trying to buy tickets for Friday’s semifinal.
   “We’ll be packed wall-to-wall with people,” Newell predicted. “That’s what we’ve been shooting for. We’ve won our conference regular season and we’ve won 20 ball games. Winning 20 ball games is tough to do. But we have one big goal to go, and that is still two games away.”
video
UALR-Georgia Southern highlights

   UALR remained an overwhelming favorite going into the TAAC final four, probably more so after Hardin-Simmons and Houston Baptist, the two teams that had given the Trojans the most trouble, lost in the first round.
   The semifinals were to take place on a Friday nigh at Statehouse Convention Center. UALR (20-10) was scheduled to play the first game against Mercer (15-13) at 7:05 p.m. The nightcap at 9:30 p.m. featured Samford (17-12) against Centenary (12-16).
Newell downplayed the Trojans’ chances.
   “With eight or nine minutes to go against Mercer there was only a one or two-point difference or we were even. With about that much time left, Centenary was ahead of us. And against Samford, we were only about one or two points ahead,” Newell said. “A foul here and a bad pass there could have made the difference in the ball game.
   Mercer Coach Bill Bibb, whose team eliminated the Trojans the previous year, wasn’t convinced.
   “Mike has a short memory. I noticed that right off,” he said. “When we played UALR at Pine Bluff, it was a two-point ball game at the half., but with six or seven minutes to go, I would have stopped the ball game if he would have let me. We were down 25.”
   Newell was all about his mind games.
   “I’d now say Mercer is the favorite to win the whole thing because we’re playing them,” he said. “Mercer has got some player in Chris Moore, a 6-9 junior. He reminds me a lot of Wayman Tisdale. When he catches the ball, he can shoot it. And, you know, we had a one-pint game against Mercer a couple of weeks ago.”
   Mercer came into the game after upsetting Hardin-Simmons on the road 70-61.
   “We’ve gone with just 10 people all year,” Bibb said. “Some games we’ve played well, some not so well. We’ve been up and down. We have only one senior on our club, so you can expect that. I just hope we can make it a contest tomorrow night. It will take a very good effort to beat them. It will take an awful good job for anyone to beat them.”
   To advance to the championship, UALR would have to become one of only two teams in seven season to win the TAAC regular season championship and postseason tournament. Tickets cost $7.50 for box seats and $6 for reserved seats.
   No matter what he was saying publicly, Newell still had the swagger.
   “Barring sickness or injury we’ll be pretty tough to beat,” he said. “We can hurt you in so many ways. We can be very difficult to defend against, to play against. We always get maximum effort in hustle and desire from our players.”
   About the only thing more ironic than playing Mercer in the semifinals would have been playing the Bears in the championship game. It was Mercer that ended UALR’s dream season the previous year.
   “I made our guys stand out there and watch Mercer cut those nets down. I made them stay out there. Most of them didn’t want to. Still today, my stomach churns when I think about that,” Newell said. “That was our theme the whole summer and fall. we knew eventually we were going to get things corrected and be ready to compete for this championship.”
Myron Jackson plays defense
against Mercer at Statehouse.
   It was an ugly game. Jackson made 1 of 9 first-half shots but the Trojans rode the inside play of Clarke, with 10 points, to take a 28-18 lead.
   Mercer scored the game’s first six points before Clarke posted up Moore, took a pass from Springer and spun to the basket for a short bank shot over Tracy Vaughn. A basket by Smith gave UALR its first lead at 14-12 with 9:01 to play. At the other end, Springer stole the ball in the paint and, after nearly losing it, started a fast break. He passed to Clarke, who passed to Jackson. His shot missed but Clarke was there for the rebound and put it back for a 16-12 lead.
   UALR scored the final points of the half when Springer stole the ball and threw it up court to Jackson. Mercer’s Elston Harris got back to defend. Jackson dribbled twice, put the ball through his legs, faked a shot and dropped it over the top to Worthy. Mercer’s Everette Callaway already had two fouls and didn’t want to pick up a third. He let worthy Smith for an uncontested layup and a 28-18 halftime lead.
   UALR got it rolling early in the second half, where Myers scored 16 of his game-high 22 points and beat Mercer 81-66 and advanced to the championship game against Centenary.
   “We shut down Chris Moore to 15 points. That sounds like a lot, but really he only had 11 shots,” Newell said. “We played very, very well.”
video
UALR-Mercer highlights

   The victory came on the same night the seasons for Arkansas-Fayetteville and Arkansas State came to an end. Arkansas lost 67-51 to Texas A&M while Arkansas State lost 68-57 to McNeese State.
That left the Trojans to carry the banner for the state.
   “I don’t think there is any added pressure on us because we’re the only Arkansas team left,” Myers said. “Myself, Michael, Myron and Kenny -- all the seniors -- push for UALR, Arkansas and Arkansas State as well. When we wear these uniforms, we represent Arkansas. We hope we can represent Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament. I think getting to the NCAA Tournament is motivation enough for us and not just being the only Arkansas team with a chance. That’s always been our goal.”

A look back: On the road with the 1986 UALR Trojans and Coach Mike Newell

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Here's some more footage of former UALR Coach Mike Newell and the Trojans on the road in 1986. Newell will be inducted into the UALR Athletics hall of fame at halftime of tonight's UALR-Arkansas State game.
video

UALR-Arkansas State predictions

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Arkansas State at UALR (-4.5)
7 p.m. tonight
Jack Stephens Center
   The line opened at UALR being favored by three points. It's now either 4 or 4.5 points in most places. It's the seventh time UALR has been the favorite this season and the Trojans are 5-1 in the previous games. The only loss came at home to St. Bonaventure.

Ken Pomeroy (15-5): UALR 68, Arkansas State 62
Real Time RPI (13-7): UALR 74, Arkansas State 65
CBS Sportsline (13-7): UALR 69, Arkansas State 65
Jeff Sagarin (12-8): UALR 73, Arkansas State 68
The Sports Network (12-8): UALR 69, Arkansas State 63

   The Sports Network's preview of the game:
http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cbask/scores/live/preview.aspx?id=54642

   And today's UALR women's prediction:
Real Time RPI (17-1): UALR 71, Arkansas State 52

A look back: The 1986 UALR Trojans wrapped up the road trip and returned home as champs

COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS


Chapter XII: Home
   UALR was back in the win column but still had three more games to complete the road trip.
   “You just couldn’t believe what was happening,” Morgan said. “You had to be traveling with the team to appreciate what was happening to UALR basketball and UALR athletics. For me, it was like being a part of something good.”
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.
   The Trojans traveled to Statesboro, Georgia, on February 13 to take on Georgia Southern and Jackson had 29 points to lead UALR to an 83-74 victory. Jackson scored 15 of UALR’s first 20 and the Trojans raced to a 58-42 lead after a baseline jump shot by Myers with 13:06 to play. Georgia Southern got as close as 65-60 with 5:51 to play before the Trojans put the game out of reach. Myers finished with 21 points and Springer 9 assists as UALR improved to 15-10 overall and 9-2 in the TAAC.
   Up next was a trip to Macon, Georgia, to face the Mercer Bears, who always seemed to be a thorn in UALR’s side. The Trojans needed a victory to clinch the regular season championship and the right to host the semifinals and championship of the conference tournament at Statehouse Convention Center. UALR made just 13 of 30 first-half field goals and trailed 35-29 at halftime. Midway through the second half, the Trojans finally got untracked. A Clarke tip-in and a free throw by Campbell gave UALR a 43-37 lead.
   UALR nursed the lead down the stretch, but after Myers missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Mercer’s Elston Harris scored on a putback with 12 seconds remaining for a 56-54 score. Mercer called timeout.
   UALR couldn’t get the ball inbounds and called a timeout to keep possession. Then after getting the ball in to Myers, Mercer fouled. With a one-and-one, Myers made the first and missed the second for a 57-54 score. Mercer missed and fouled Myers again. This time he missed. Harris scored on a layup with one second remaining but the Bears were out of timeouts and UALR held on for a 57-56 victory.
   “It feels great to win the championship,” Newell said. “But remember, that is not our ultimate goal. The main goal is to get into the NCAAs. I’m really happy for our seniors and the people of Little Rock.”
   But in the locker room after the game, he was firm with the team.
   “Let’s don’t forget about what we’ve got left to do. Hey, this is great to win the TAAC conference. But all that does is give us the right to host it. Most important are the three playoff games,” he said.
video
Newell in the locker room
   But before they could get back home, the Trojans had one more test, a no conference game at Texas-San Antonio.
   UALR struggled throughout but used an intensive press to force the Roadrunners into second-half turnovers. Five of nine free throws in the last 28 seconds clinched a 81-76 victory and an 8-1 record on the road trip.
   UALR actually led 45-36 at halftime, but saw the Roadrunners cut the lead to 74-72 with 1:16 remaining. After a timeout, McCurdy grabbed an offensive rebound and scored. He grabbed another offensive rebound and was fouled, hitting one of two attempts. Jackson, who had 30 points, and Myers each hit two free throws for the final margin.
   UALR had been 9-9 when it started the road trip. Now the Trojans were 17-10 and the regular-season TAAC champions. And people seemed to notice.
   The Trojans returned home for a February 22 game against Samford and a Statehouse Convention Center record crowd of 4,829 attended.
   Myers was on fire, scoring 34 points on 15 of 21 shooting to lead the Trojans to an easy 87-68 victory. But Myers wasn’t finished. As UALR wrapped up the regular season with a February 24 home game against Georgia State, only 3,981 attended what would become a history-making game.
   Myers scored 37 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Trojans. The 37 points was a school record for a NCAA Division I game, breaking the just-established record of 34. Again, Myers made 15 of 21 field goals. He also had 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
   Despite the easy victory, Newell wasn’t pleased.
   “That was the worst exhibition of basketball we’ve had this year in the last 15 minutes. We played no defense. It was ridiculous,” Newell said. “They should’ve kicked our butt in the second half. When you put six or seven guys in who aren’t ready to play, they stink it up. For 15 minutes, it looked like a junior high game.”
   Perhaps Newell was just playing mind games. After all, UALR held a 58-27 lead with 14:34 remaining and the outcome was never in doubt.
 

More Mike Newell photos from the 1985-1986 UALR season

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Mike Newell will be inducted into the UALR Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday. Here's some more Newell photos circa. 1985-1986.


Mike Newell on the set of the Mike Newell Show.

Mike Newell gives an earful to an official.




Mike Newell talks to the 1985-1986 team.
 



Newell celebrates with a crowd that includes
future President Bill Clinton.
  

This is from a couple of years later. Newell
and the coaching staff on the bus reading
A Season on the Brink.
 

BTH Need to Read (1/28)

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Arkansas State at UALR
7 p.m. Saturday
Jack Stephens Center

UALR was off last night, but the Trojans host Arkansas State on Saturday. Llast night, the Red Wolves had to hold off Louisiana-Monroe at home. Read the game story from the Jonesboro Sun:
http://www.jonesborosun.com/story.php?ID=45974
Around the Belt
Florida Atlantic remained unbeaten in Sun Belt play with a home victory over Middle Tennessee, which is typically one of the league's best road teams. Read the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/fau-owls/fl-fau-middle-tennessee-basketball-0120110127,0,3281276.story

Western Kentucky is getting back to normal with another victory on Thursday, this time it came at Florida International (which also seems like it's getting back to normal). Read the Bowling Green Daily News' blog:
http://bgdnwkublog.wordpress.com/

Preseason conference favorite North Texas dropped a road game at Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday. Read the Denton Record-Chronicle:
http://www.dentonrc.com/sharedcontent/dws/drc/sports/stories/DRC_UNT_Men_0128.f902ed25.html

Gary Redus went off for 32 points last night as South Alabama beat Troy. Read the Mobile Register:
http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/01/redus_career-high_32_keys_jags.html



A look back: Miracle finish started another winning streak for UALR on way to 1986 NCAA Tournament

COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS 
Chapter XI: Redemption
   “I can’t wait to go to Abilene, Texas,” Newell said as he left Houston Baptist’s Sharp Gymnasium.
Coming off the Houston Baptist debacle, UALR had to play Hardin-Simmons, the last team to beat the Trojans before the nine-game winning streak began.
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
   This wasn’t quite the same Hardin-Simmons team that had rolled into Statehouse Convention Center earlier in the season and obliterated the Trojans. Guard Ricky Henry, who was a starter averaging 11.8 points, had quit the team. Newell was playing mind games with his team, trying to motivate them. He’d also use his assistants to build the players up, kind of a good-cop, bad-cop.
   UALR was fragile. Playing before a hostile crowd of 1,711 at the Mabee Complex, the Trojans never led in a close first half and trailed 42-37 at halftime.
   “Their fans were rowdy as heck, which was fun,” Morgan said. “I remember they were calling Mike and his wife, Margo, Ken and Barbie. They had something for all the guys.”
   The second half was more of the same. UALR tied the game at 42-42 when Myers stepped in front of a pass and raced down the court. He missed a contested layup, but Worthy was there to grab it, scoring as he was fouled. His free throw with 19:09 to play tied the game.
video
Watch Worthy's putback

   From there, Hardin-Simmons broke it open. Two free throws by Craig Sladek made it 55-47 with 11:45 to play.
   UALR gradually closed the gap and trailed by two points when Hardin-Simmons’ Greg Way went up and blocked a shot by Worthy with 3:25 to play. To the dismay of the vocal crowd, the officials called goaltending, counting the basket and tying the game 65-65.
   Neither team scored for the next two minutes until Worthy grabbed a rebound after a miss by Way and was fouled. He made the first free throw for a 66-65 UALR lead, but missed the second as Phil Gates grabbed the rebound. Ata timeout, Newell decided to insert McCurdy, who hadn’t played in the second half, into the game for Worthy. It didn’t immediately look like a good decision. On a free throw miss, Gates grabbed the offensive rebound over McCurdy and scored with 23 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys a 67-66 lead.
   Springer raced up court toward the UALR bench and Newell called timeout with 18 seconds remaining. Knowing he was setting up a shot for Jackson, who had made 7 of 21 field-goal attempts, Newell wanted another rebounded in the game with Clarke already fouled out. Keep in mind that Covington, UALR’s tallest player at 6-11, wasn’t available. He wasn’t happy with McCurdy for allowing that offensive rebound, but left him in.
   UALR inbounded the ball and held it. Jackson was on the left wing, Smith on the right wing with Springer up top. Myers was being checked inside the paint and McCurdy was stationed around the left block.
   With nine seconds remaining, Jackson made his move. He dribbled the ball with his right hand coming across the top of the free throw lane. Hardin-Simmons was in a man-to-man defense, but rotated to form a double-team on Jackson as he came across.
   Smith, now wide open, called for the ball. Jackson didn’t want to give it up. He took three dribbles, was blocked off by the double team and planted with his left foot as he came to a jump shop with the right. He went up for the jump shot as the Hardin-Simmons defenders went for the block.
   Seven seconds!
   Suddenly, he reversed while at the apex of his jump, blipping the ball back to Springer, who was positioned about four feet outside the jump circle at the top of the free throw lane.
   Six!
   Springer, wide open, caught the ball as he moved toward the basket. He stepped with his left as he dribbled, then planted his right foot as it hit the right elbow of the free throw lane. His shot was a runner that he got off just as the Hardin-Simmons defenders missed an opportunity to block. He was well into the free throw lane as he finally let the ball go.
   Five!
   The ball had a high arc as it sailed toward the basket. It hit the front left of the rim, then the back of the rim before falling off. McCurdy jumped but wasn’t in position to grab the rebound. Gates reached out with his left hand for the ball, then pulled to his body with his right hand as his feet hit the floor.
   Four!
   Gates’ momentum was carrying him toward the baseline and McCurdy helped him out, giving him an unnoticed little shove. The game official was in perfect position to make a call, but didn’t. Gates planted his left foot but was off balance.
   “He’s traveling!” Morgan shouted on the broadcast. “Call it.”
   It also appeared his right foot might have been on the out-of-bounds line.
   “I thought Paul’s shot was in, but it came out,” McCurdy said. “He really traveled when he got the rebound and then stepped out of bounds, but they didn’t call it.”
   Three!
   Seven Hardin-Simmons cheerleaders were on the left baseline and then went scrambling as Gates started to fall out of bounds toward them. As he fell, he leaped and tried to throw the ball back in bounds to two of his teammates stationed in the paint.
   Two!
   He never saw McCurdy, who had slid across the lane and was now in front of the Hardin-Simmons players, near the left block. Hardin-Simmons fans raised their arms in anticipation of the upset victory. Gates slung the ball low, back onto the court. McCurdy had to reach low to scoop the ball just outside the left block of the free throw lane.
   One!
   In one motion, he caught the ball and went up wit the shot, the ball rolling off his left fingertips just as the light on the backboard, signaling the end of regulation, lit up
   Buzzzzzzzz!
   The ball hit the backboard, just above the top left corner of the shooting square and dropped straight through the net as Gates stood up and watched in obvious disbelief.
video
Watch McCurdy's basket

   “I guess Coach Mike Newell put me in at the right time,” McCurdy said. “I went up for the ball and had it in my hands but Gates took it from me. I thought the ref would call a foul but he didn’t. I didn’t know how much time was on the clock but I knew I was going to put it up no matter what.”
   UALR players, led first by Severn, leaped off the bench. The five Trojans on the court all jumped in the air as Springer raised his arms. Had there been instant replay, it might not have counted. Today, the video is grainy and it’s tough to see if McCurdy got it off in time. It was close. And the referee on the baseline would have never been able to see both the light and McCurdy from the angle he was watching from.
   “When Gates got the rebound, I was looking for the official to call traveling. I turned back and Paris had the ball and was putting it back in,” Newell said. “I’ll take the basket over the traveling anytime.”
Officials also sprinted off the court as UALR held on for a victory it might not have earned.
   “If the official makes the call, they get to set their defense and we definitely don’t get an easy shot,” Dittman said. “Basketball is kind of funny that way. It gives and it takes.”
   Newell sprinted to center court, almost looking like he can’t believe it as he pumped his fist in the air.
   “I’m too excited to think,” said McCurdy, who finished with 4 points and wasn’t officially credited with a steal on the final play. “All I knew is I had the ball and I was going to put it in.”
   And today, Springer has vivid memories of the finish.
   “That’s the game I remember most,” He said. “I remember everything about that one.”
 

Injured Wolves expected to play tonight and on Saturday vs. UALR

BURN THE HORSE
Arkansas State at UALR
7 p.m. Saturday
Jack Stephens Center
   Some injury news/updates for Arkansas State going into Saturday's game against UALR. Of course, Arkansas State has to play tonight at home against Louisiana-Monroe first. This comes from the Jonesboro Sun:
ASU senior guard Donald Boone suffered a partially dislocated shoulder on Tuesday and did not practice on Wednesday. He should play, according to Brady, but it could be limited.
Finn did not play in the second half of Arkansas State’s 83-64 loss at UNT because of a knee injury. However, Finn has practiced since and should be ready for the Warhawks.
   Read the Sun's ASU-ULM game preview here:
http://www.jonesborosun.com/story.php?ID=45960

A look back: The 1986 UALR Trojans had the officials steal a game from them on way to NCAA Tournament

COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS
Chapter X: Rip-off
   After close victories over Southeastern Louisiana and Centenary, the Trojans had improved to 13-9 and had shot at least 45 percent from the field in each of the past eight games, better than 50 percent in the past six.
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.
   But if the streak was to continue, they’d have to do so in a house of horrors so to speak: Houston Baptist’s Frank and Lucille Sharp Gymnasium. It was legendary. It was also small, loud and more suited to host high school games than Division I college basketball.
   Officially, it seated 1,500. They’d cram more than 1,800 in there on occasion, especially if the Huskies were playing well.
Sharp Gym as it looks today
  It was a lot like Trojan Fieldhouse with one major exception. Trojan Fieldhouse had a lot more space around the perimeter of the court. Sharp Gymnasium was about like playing inside a tightly-packed room.
   “It’s not a pleasant place to play,” Morgan said. “It’s not a place you want to play college basketball in. Trojan Fieldhouse was nicer than that.
   Sharp had been unkind to UALR before. The 1982-1983 Trojan team had a nine-game winning streak snapped in a 57-55 defeat after they blew an 18-point lead. UALR had won just once in eight trips to Sharp, and that came in their inaugural Division I season of 1979-1980. Even it came in overtime.
   “We’re definitely not going down there overconfident,” Newell said. “We do expect a tough game. We’d be disappointed if we didn’t get a tough game. It’s a small gymnasium, but we’ve been in plenty of tough places before. They’re all tough on the road.”
video
The Trojans playing at Sharp Gymnasium

   There was even a setback of sorts before the teams ever took the court. Storms and tornadoes rampaged the area that night and official Dale Hudson of Dallas, who was assigned by the TAAC to work the game, was unable to get to Houston.
   Houston Baptist Athletic Director Ed Billings pulled Newell out of the locker room before the game to inform him of the situation. One official, James Boroughs, ad arrived. But Billings told Newell they needed another in order to play the game.
   And luckily, Billings had the perfect replacement in Houstonian Larry Ermis -- a local high school official.
   “I’m one of those guys that’s like, yeah, lets just play the game,” Newell said.
   The Trojans led by as many as six points but fell behind by eight points with 3:08 to play before halftime. A three-point play by Myers tied the game before Houston Baptist’s Arthur Walton picked up a loose ball after a blocked shot and hit a baseline jump shot with 4 seconds remaining to give the Huskies a 41-39 halftime lead.
   UALR jumped on Houston Baptist at the start of the second half, taking a 62-51 lead with 9:58 to play on a Springer jump shot in the paint. UALR still led 80-71 after a slam dunk by McCurdy with 1:42 to play.
   That’s when things started to unravel. Up 82-79 with eight seconds remaining, Springer was fouled and went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one. He stood about one pace from the free throw line, stepping up and toeing the line as the official handed him the ball. One bounce. Another bounce. He bent his knees deeply, put the ball just above his head and let it go with a perfect stroke.
   It swished.
  The second. Same routine. Same swish.
   UALR’s bench celebrated. The Trojans led by five points with eight seconds to play.
   Houston Baptist inbounded the ball to Fred Goporo. As McCurdy stepped in front of him, Ermis called a blocking foul with five seconds remaining.
   UALR was still OK. Newell had been doing a defense-for offense substitution with Clarke and Severn in the final minutes of the game. Severn was waiting by the scorer’s table, but had yet to be buzzed in when Ermis handed the ball to Goporo to shoot free throws. The horn sounded and Severn jogged out onto the court. Seeing the error, Ermis signaled for Severn to return to the scorer’s table.
   Houston Baptist Coach Tommy Jones sprung to life, screaming for a technical foul. Ermis paused, looked at the bench and called the technical foul for an “illegal substitution.”
   Can you believe that? Newell said.
   Goporo would get a one-and-one, then a technical foul shot. He made both ends of the one-and-one, but missed the technical shot as UALR continued to lead 84-81.
   This still looked like a victory.
   Houston Baptist inbounded the ball to Goporo, who quickly drove to the basket and Ermis called another blocking foul on Jackson with three seconds remaining. Both fouls could have just as easily been ruled incidental contact. Goporo made the first for an 84-82 score. Needing a miracle, he intentionally missed the second. Bruno Kongawoin, a 6-8 junior, grabbed the rebound and scored to tie the game 84-84 right at the buzzer.
   That’s five points in eight seconds without any available timeouts and no three-point line. UALR probably could have just stood there and let Houston Baptist drive the court for a layup when it was 84-79 and would have come away the winner.
   Newell could hardly contain himself. Before the overtime could even start, he picked up a technical foul. Goporo made both shots, then Kongawoin hit a jump shot in the paint for an 88-84 lead.
  With 1:43 remaining, Houston Baptist led 94-88. But the confident Trojans kept hanging around. A three-point play by McCurdy and a jump shot by Jackson that banked in made it 95-93 with 31 seconds to play.
   George Negron scored on a layup and was fouled by Springer for a 97-93 score. At the other end, Springer found Jackson for a jump shot, cutting the lead to 97-95 with 12 seconds remaining.
   Houston Baptist was able to inbound the ball and Arthur Goudeau ran off 10 seconds before Springer could foul him with two seconds to play. He missed the front end of the one-and-one and UALR rebounded. But before the Trojans could set up a final shot, Goporo stole the ball away and held on for the victory. Arthur Walton scored a career-high 30 points for Houston Baptist. Goporo also had a career high 29. It overshadowed 30 points by Myers and 24 by Jackson.
   After the game, Arkansas Gazette reporter Jake Sandlin talked with TAAC supervisor of officials Charles McCarthy, who almost unbelievably was in attendance and let all of the shenanigans go unchallenged.
   “I don’t know. We’ll have to get out the rule book,” McCarthy said.
   Newell didn’t need one.
   “All a player has to do before checking into a game is check in with the scorer, which Dean did, and wait for the buzzer, which he did, and wait for the official to wave him in,” Newell said. “That is not a technical. They made the correct call when the y sent Severn back to the table.”
   Still, the nine-game winning streak was over. The next morning, it got worse. The game tape showed the incident perfectly.
   Then it got even worse than that. Billings informed Newell that Ermis had been a 1968 graduate of Houston Baptist. Even though Billings knew about it, he failed to inform Newell.
   And to make matters even worse than that, Newell also learned that according to TAAC rules, the game could have been officiated by one official in an instance like this. Ermis should have never been allowed to go anywhere near the court.
   “I don’t think Billings acted professionally by withholding that information. He told me Ermis was there and that Ermis is a conference official,” Newell said. “I need to know all the facts before I can make the right decision.”
   Newell knew his team had been riding a high for weeks and needed them to maintain. He wanted to put this game out of their minds as quickly as possible. He told the reporters on the trip the officiating wasn’t the difference.
   “UALR is a first-class program. We have too much class to talk about the officiating,” he said.
That’s not what he really wanted to say.
   “They literally screwed us,” Newell said, getting mad as he thought back 20 years. “That damn game down there. That was an embarrassment to basketball.”
   They rode the bus nearly eight hours to Abilene, Texas, and set up shop. Newell had one more day to build his team back up for a game against Hardin-Simmons.
   And Newell wasn’t much for building his teams up.



NCAA restores Kibi's eligibility and he will be available to play for UALR on Saturday

BURN THE HORSE

Arkansas State at UALR
7 p.m. Saturday
Jack Stephens Center
   BTH has confirmed that the eligibility of UALR junior forward Eric Kibi has been reinstated by the NCAA. Kibi is expected to be available on Saturday when UALR hosts Arkansas State at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. UALR first made the announcement during Tuesday’s UALR Tip-In Club Coaches’ Luncheon.
   Kibi has appeared in 16 games this season, averaging 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game. His role in UALR’s rotation had been reduced in the weeks leading up to being declared ineligible.
   Since then, UALR has gone 4-2 in the games Kibi missed.
   On Wednesday, UALR Coach Steve Shields confirmed Kibi's restored eligibility and availability for Saturday, but he did not say whether Kibi would play.