UALR still looking for breakthrough victory on the road

Statistics tell us that the home team wins more than 70 percent of the time in college basketball. So the fact that UALR Coach Steve Shields’ teams have won 44 percent of their Sun Belt Conference road games is remarkable. Take away the 2009-2010 season and his percentage jumps to 50 percent on the road.

But it hasn’t translated yet for this season’s group of Trojans, who are still looking for their first victory away at home as they begin a road swing to Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

Since arriving at UALR in the 2003-2004 season, Shields’ teams are 33-42 in Sun Belt road games. That number includes the 2009-2010 team that went 0-9 on the road. And that was a season in which UALR just kept finding ways to lose on the road.

UALR started that season on its way to upsetting South Alabama on ESPN2. But a second-half injury to Mike Smith allowed that game to slip away. It became a trend. Buzzer beaters and late-game shots seemed to go the other way. It was a team that couldn’t seem to find a path to break through.

And it was in complete contrast to the previous year. After losing its Sun Belt opener to Western Kentucky, the 2008-2009 Trojans won their final eight Sun Belt road games

UALR’s Sun Belt road losing streak reached 11 games before winning 78-70 at Florida International on Jan. 20, 2011. UALR went 2-6 on the road that season and 6-2 last season.

The Trojans are 0-3 on the road in Sun Belt play this season, including losses at South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette and Troy. They’ve held the lead in the second half of two of those games and were as close as 2 points with 10 minutes left in the other.

Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are traditionally two of the toughest places in the Sun Belt to get victories. But if UALR hopes to split on the road in Sun Belt play this season, the Trojans will have to win five of the remaining seven including stops at Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Arkansas State, Florida International, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Monroe.