Monday, March 2, 2015

Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans 73 at UT-Arlington Mavericks 82 (NCAA Basketball, Sun Belt Conference) - February 28, 2015

Three years ago, I planned to see a basketball game at UT-Arlington but circumstances (specifically jet lag) led me to skip it. Turns out that their home court at the time, Texas Hall, was nearing the end of its useful life and was about to be replaced by College Park Center, a shiny new venue right on campus. I missed the chance to see that venue, so when I saw that the Mavericks had a home game on Saturday night, I made sure not to make the same mistake twice, adding that to the schedule, driving down from Norman after the Sooners game. The weather finally cooperated and I made the 190-mile trek in three hours, arriving 45 minutes before tipoff. The visitors were the UALR Trojans and it was senior night as this would be the last home game for UT Arlington.

College Park Center

Opened in 2012, College Park Center shows that even smaller schools can build top-notch venues, at least when their campus lies on natural gas reserves. It seats 7,000 although the second deck was curtained off for this game, with only 2,500 showing up. I guess the weather kept them away because I couldn't find fault with anything here.

Tickets are cheap, with seats in the 4th row facing the foul line just $10. An extra $8 gets you one section over, but for basketball, it is better to sit near a basket as that is where all the action takes place. Seats are uniformly blue, with student benches in one end and an adjoining corner (below). Note that all seats face the court, there are no bad spots here. Note the Sun Belt team flags along one side of the ceiling, visible in the photo above.

With the small crowd, not all concession stands were open, so those that were had larger than usual lineups. I didn't see anything there that appealed, though the nachos got good reviews from those around me. There are a few restaurants nearby, including a branch of Pie Five Pizza, and I would recommend partaking there afterwards instead of eating at the arena.

Take the time to walk around the concourse, there is a hall of honor (below) that is worth checking out.

Other than that, there isn't much here, but there doesn't need to be. This is an excellent campus facility that can be used for other events as well. It is less than a mile from AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park, so the whole neighbourhood is excellent for sports road trippers. Next time you are in the Dallas area, check the Mavericks (UT-Arlington's version) schedule and if there is a game, make the trip to enjoy college basketball in its purest form.

The Game

Before we got underway, the seniors were honoured and each walked out onto the floor with family and received warm applause.

The home team wore their road blues, which always had me thinking of the Utah Jazz for some reason. They came in at 9-8 while the visiting Trojans were 8-10 as the season drew to a close.

For the seniors, this is probably their last meaningful action as an athlete so they wanted to go out with a bang, and they did that quickly as Arlington took a 13-point lead in the first half and went into the break up 9 at 40-31. In the second half though, they let UALR back into it and the Trojans took a 67-66 lead with 4:30 to go, but UTA went on a 6-0 run to regain a semblance of control. After UALR sank a bucket to get back within 3, Maverick freshman Erick Neal drained a very long trey to make it 75-69 with 1:24 to go and the game was essentially over except for the fouling as the seniors left with their heads held high following an 82-73 win. Early in the game my camera battery died so the picture above is the only one I got of the action in front of me, but I did capture the final score using my very old iPhone.

This capped a great day with two  games in two states and nearly 200 miles between them, a true sports road trip. I looked forward to my flight home on Sunday, but Mother Nature intervened and I got to see another game instead. More on that in the next post.



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