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Men’s basketball faced with challenge at season’s start

Submitted by Alton Young on September 25, 2013 – 4:03 pmNo Comment
Senior Will Neighbour (photo courtesy Nelson Chenault)

UALR senior Will Neighbor takes a jumper from the top of the key. (photo courtesy Nelson Chenault)

The 2013-14 UALR Trojan Men’s Basketball team will open their season with a challenging non-conference schedule that head coach Steve Shields hopes will help them later in the year.

“When you put together a non-conference schedule, you want it to prepare you for conference play and I think this one certainly will,” Shields said. The sweeping schedule, that takes the team from Louisiana, to Florida, to the British Virgin Islands and back, begins Nov.11 at the Jack Stephens Center against Sun Belt Conference rival North Florida.

Big-name basketball schools dominate the non-conference matchups to begin the season. All of the games will be played on the road against schools like the Florida Gators on Nov.16, the Oklahoma Sooners on Nov.29, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Dec. 7 and the Memphis Tigers on Dec. 13.

The game against the Tigers will be the first contest between the teams since the 2009-10 season when they defeated the Trojans at Verizon Arena. This time the contest will be played in the state-of-the-art FedEx Forum Arena, which is home to the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies.

The Trojans dominated at home last season with an impressive 13-3 record. The team will look to continue that scorching pace at home, while improving their road play.

This will be especially critical as the SBC tournament will be played at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans for the first time since 2002.

The setting in the “Big Easy” will pose a new and different challenge from last year’s familiar location of the Summit Arena in Hot Springs, which had been the home of the SBC tournament since 2009.

The team will also participate in the Tropical Shootout tournament in the Virgin Islands in December, before gearing up for their first conference opponent in January. The team will be well tested by the start of the conference schedule. “It’s a tough stretch for our team, but I do think it will prepare us for conference play,” Shields said.

The Trojans finished last season with 17 wins while having one of the youngest rosters in the country and will return with a year of experience that could pay off during a tough early season schedule. “Our guys will be excited about this year’s schedule,” Shields said.

“I think this schedule will challenge our team and we’ll find out a lot more about ourselves early in the season,” he said. “I always say that every team’s ultimate success will be determined by the way they handle adversity.”

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