LITTLE ROCK -
The UALR men's basketball team will play eight of its first 13 games at the Jack Stephens Center this season, as the Trojans look to build off last year's Sun Belt Conference West Division Championship. Head coach Steve Shields
enters his 10th season at the helm for UALR, having led the Trojans to more division titles (five) than any other Sun Belt program during his first nine seasons.
With six incoming freshman and just two starters back off last year's squad, UALR will benefit from playing 16 of its 31 regular-season games at the Jack Stephens Center. The Trojans will play 13 road games during the regular season, and two games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as part of the 2012 Hoops for Hope Classic.
"I'm excited that we were able to get our schedule finished. There's always a sense of relief when it's done," said Shields. "Any time you can set up your schedule with more home games than road games, it's a plus. It's a positive for our guys, our fans and our program that we were able to do that."
UALR opens the 2012-13 season with a home game against UT Martin on Friday, Nov. 9, before hitting the road to take on Louisiana Tech (Nov. 14) and Ole Miss (Nov. 16). The Rebels went 20-14 last season after falling in the opening round of the 2012 National Invitation Tournament, and are one of six postseason teams on UALR's 2012-13 schedule.
UALR returns to the Jack Stephens Center Nov. 19 and Nov. 21 to host Milwaukee and Jacksonville in the first part of the Hoops for Hope Classic. UALR will then travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to take on Southern Methodist (Nov. 24) at the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center. The Trojans will face either South Carolina or Missouri State the following day, before returning to Little Rock to open Sun Belt play against Troy on Nov. 29.
With 11 basketball playing schools in the Sun Belt this season, following the departure of the University of Denver, the league will play a 20-game schedule with each team playing one another home and away. After hosting Troy and ULM (Dec. 1) to open league play, UALR will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule with home games against St. Gregory's (Dec. 4), Tulsa (Dec. 15) and Louisiana Tech (Dec. 17), along with a trip to Cincinnati on Dec. 6. The Bearcats went 26-11 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
"Our non-conference schedule will help prepare our young team for the challenges of conference play. Having so many home games early on will certainly help our young guys get acclimated to Division I basketball," said Shields. "The Hoops for Hope Classic is an exciting opportunity, in that we get two home games and two neutral site games against some very strong competition."
The Trojans will play 14 doubleheaders with the women's team during the season, 10 of which will take place at the Jack Stephens Center. Following a road swing to South Alabama (Dec. 22) and Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 29), the Trojans will host defending Sun Belt Tournament Champions Western Kentucky on Thursday, Jan. 3. UALR closes out the regular season with three of its final five games at home, beginning with a doubleheader against 2012 East Division Champion (and NIT participant) Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 16. After a two-game swing to Florida to face FIU and Florida Atlantic, the Trojans will conclude the regular season by hosting UL Lafayette (Feb. 28) and Arkansas State (March 2).
The Sun Belt Tournament will move to a Fri.-Mon. format this season, with opening round games taking place on Friday, March 8 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Ark.