Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Razorbacks schedule UALR in women's basketball
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors smiles during a WNIT third round game Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Neighbors and Joe Foley were playing golf, but talking hoops.
The basketball coaches at the University of Arkansas and University of Arkansas at Little Rock, respectively, were together on the golf course in Little Rock a few days after Razorbacks Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced Aug. 30 that the UA had scheduled UALR and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in baseball and planned to play the Trojans and Golden Lions in other sports as well.
“Right after Hunter’s announcement, I was playing golf with Coach Foley and we started talking right then about scheduling a game,” Neighbors said Thursday. “We’ve been working on it and got it done.”
Neighbors confirmed Arkansas and UALR will play in Verizon Arena in North Little Rock during the 2019-20 season. A date hasn’t been finalized, Neighbors said, but the game will be played in November or December.
It will be the second time Arkansas and UALR have played in women’s basketball, but the first time in more than 40 years.
The Razorbacks beat the Trojans 74-54 on Dec. 9, 1977, in Little Rock in the teams’ only previous meeting.
“I think it’s a game our state needs,” Neighbors said. “I’d be very hypocritical if I said I want to grow our game and then didn’t try to schedule UALR.
“I’m glad we’re able to schedule this game. I think it’ll be a great thing four state. It will be a good game for our RPI because UALR is in the NCAA Tournament every other year, if not every year.”
Foley has led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament six times as well as five WNIT appearances since 2010.
“We hope to play them every year,” Neighbors said. “That’s a good thing for our state. That’s not a bad thing.
“I’m not worried about somebody saying, ‘Oh, you lost to an in-state school.’ They’re a good program and Coach Foley has done a hell of a job.
“I respect Coach Foley immensely and what he’s done and how they’ve done it. They’ll beat us from time to time in this series, and we’ll beat them, too.”
UALR played in the NCAA Tournament last season and lost to Gonzaga in the first round while Arkansas played in the WNIT and lost to TCU in the quarterfinals. The Razorbacks haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
“We’ll be the underdog,” Neighbors, who will be in his third season at Arkansas after leading Washington to a Final Four appearance in 2016 among three NCAA Tournament trips in four years, said of playing the Trojans. “They’ve been to numerous NCAA Tournaments.”
Neighbors said he considers playing the Trojans at Verizon Arena — rather than UALR’s Jack Stephens Center — to be a neutral site.
“If you’re not playing on your own rims and using your own basketballs, it’s not a home game,” Neighbors said. “It’s a neutral site if you’re playing where neither one of you play.”
Neighbors said he expects the game to draw well.
“If everything works out, I think it could be a huge crowd,” he said. “I think people are going to be excited about our teams playing.
“We just want to get it started and see where it goes.”
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