Game #9-239: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Arkansas-Little Rock TrojansDecember 17, 2012 8:00 pm
Jack Stephens Center
Every winter I tell my girlfriend Jaclyn to pick a road trip destination, and I'll pick the accompanying basketball games. This winter trip is my basketball rejuvenation of sorts, providing a welcome relief from my usual Midwestern haunts. Last year we witnessed games at Richmond, Virginia, and VMI. This year's trip began with the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (UALR), but not after a trip to lovely downtown for the express purpose of getting these photos.
The Jack Stephens Center reminds me a lot of my own Bowling Green's Stroh Center - the two share so similar an architectural style that it wouldn't be a stretch to assume Stroh was based on the Stephens Center design. Unlike Stroh, "The Jack" (as I'm sure no one calls it) features an upper deck, where we were comfortably seated for the tilt against upstart Louisiana Tech. I hadn't planned on this being such an engaging game coming in, and was pleasantly surprised with the two teams 16-7 combined record.
Since we had been driving for most of the day, my girlfriend left to find the restroom while the game tipped. Early on, I was pleased to see a more uptempo contest than I'm used to. Instead of a Midwestern grind, these two teams were comfortable with running and airing it out, while retaining sleek finesse and determined physicality. In short, I was extremely engaged, and hardly noticed when Jaclyn returned after an unusually long seven-minute game clock absence.
"What took you so long?"
"I checked out the merch. There's something over there you're going to want."
I was intrigued, but couldn't tear myself away from what was quickly becoming a very compelling contest. Promising that we'd go at half, I fixed my eyes on the court and soaked in the #WACtion. Louisiana Tech has been a surprise by most every account this season, and should contend for what (for a while) looked to be the last WAC title ever. Instead, they'll just have to shoot for their last WAC title as a member (the Bulldogs are planning a shift up the Red Line with the move to Conference USA next season). And shoot they did, continuing to push the tempo the entire game, something UALR adapted to surprisingly well. Despite some uninspired field goal attempts from the Bulldogs, their relative control of the glass gave them a 42-39 halftime advantage. As the buzzer sounded, Jaclyn insisted that I come with her immediately to the merch table, and we darted through the concourse until we were standing in front of racks of clothes, foam fingers, jerseys, and...wait...what's that...?
Do you know that part in Wayne's World where Mike Meyers sees Tia Carrere's rock and roll vixen for the first time? Where the rest of the world melts away and all he can hear is Gary Wright's 1976 kitsch anthem "Dream Weaver"
At around 7:50pm CT on December 17, 2012, I experienced merchandise nirvana.
For a number of years I have been desperately trying, through various ways and means, to obtain a folding bench chair. If you've never had the pleasure of sitting in one I highly encourage you to do so. The bench chair combines the utility of the folding chair with the comfort of the easy chair. Couple that with the fact that this particular piece was a bona fide NCAA Tournament chair, and you've got true love.
I waited for the register to clear and make my request. The cashier looked quite surprised. Apparently this isn't a common purchase in Little Rock. He could barely contain his excitement as he motioned for his coworker to bring a brand new one up from storage. When it arrived it was folded in an awkwardly large cardboard box, long and thin. I asked if they might hold it until the end of the game and the clerk cheerily obliged.
The real challenge arrived after the horn had sounded on an exhilarating 75-73 Louisiana Tech victory. The contest's frenetic pace had kept up throughout, and with UALR down two the Trojans' James White was fouled driving to the hoop with 1.2 seconds remaining. White missed the first free throw and had no choice but to try and bounce the second off the back of the rim. He executed the intentional miss to perfection, but the Trojans couldn't get up a clean shot as Josh Hagins heave at the buzzer floated harmlessly off the mark.
With a thrilling game in the books, the logistical challenge of furniture transport began. The trek from The Jack to my car involved going down steps, over a bridge, up steps, and through a parking lot. Not being of a particularly "built" body type, I settled on a team lift solution, with my girlfriend taking the front end of the box and me taking the back end. And so we weaved amongst the disappointed Trojans, chortling amongst ourselves about how ridiculous we must look while feeling the idle heat of curious glances as we moved.
I knew that I had to see it with my own eyes before we could leave the parking lot. Jaclyn groaned as we reached the car and I began to pull open the top of the stapled box. With a quick lift, there it was. It took me long enough to find a chair, but I think I found the perfect one.
LOUISIANA TECH 75, at ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK 73
LOUISIANA TECH 9-3 (0-0) -- J. Washburn 5-16 3-3 13; K. Smith 3-5 2-3 9; R. Appleby 6-14 3-4 17; M. Kyser 2-5 4-6 8; C. Johnson 2-8 0-0 5; B. Gibson 1-5 4-5 6; K. McNeail 1-5 6-6 9; J. Lewis 0-1 0-0 0; A. Hamilton 5-8 3-4 14; J. Johnson 0-3 4-6 4; C. Anderson 1-4 0-2 3; I. Massey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-58 26-36 75.
ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK 8-5 (2-0) -- J. Gillon 5-10 4-4 15; L. Isler 3-7 4-4 11; W. Neighbour 3-6 0-1 7; T. Lockhart 4-6 0-0 9; M. Javes 2-9 1-2 5; J. Hagins 3-7 2-2 8; J. White 3-6 1-4 7; B. Dillard 2-5 1-2 6; G. Leeper 0-0 2-2 2; S. Billings 0-0 3-4 3; K. Osse 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 18-25 73.
Three-point goals: LTU 7-24 (B. Gibson 0-1; C. Johnson 1-4; K. McNeaill 1-4; R. Appleby 2-8; K. Smith 1-1; C. Anderson 1-2; A. Hamilton 1-2; J. Johnson 0-2), UALR 5-15 (B. Dillard 1-3; T. Lockhart 1-1; W. Neighbour 1-1; J. White 0-1; J. Gillon 1-4; J. Hagins 0-2; L. Isler 1-3); Rebounds: LTU 41 (M. Kyser 10), UALR 31 (M. Javes 7); Assists: LTU 10 (K. Smith 4), UALR 12 (J. Hagins 4); Total Fouls -- LTU 24, UALR 26; Fouled Out: LTU-A. Hamilton; UALR-T. Lockhart.