Last weekend’s results shocked UTPB head men’s basketball coach Andy Newman.
After flexing their muscle to win 22 of their first 25 games, the Falcons’ momentum derailed in their last two regular-season Lone Star Conference games.
Road losses to Tarleton State by 24 and Texas A&M-Commerce by 29 dropped UTPB eight spots in Tuesday’s NABC Coaches Poll to No. 20, and maybe more importantly, out of the top seed for the conference tournament.
“It was a huge shock and it was very uncharacteristic of our team and of our players and of our coaching staff, everybody,” Newman said. “It really came out of left field for us.”
The Falcons have to quickly refocus their efforts as they head into the most important weekend of their season thus far.
UTPB travels to Frisco’s Dr Pepper Arena to compete in the Lone Star Conference Tournament. As the No. 2 seed, the Falcons will take on seventh-seeded Midwestern State in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The Falcons defeated the Mustangs in both regular-season Lone Star Conference matchups.
“Right now we’re just trying to concentrate on getting back to our old ways of playing fast and fun and playing disciplined basketball,” Newman said. “We feel pretty confident that if we bring our best, that we’re hard to beat.”
Newman has diagnosed what went wrong last weekend and said the team’s shot selection wasn’t up to par.
And as he’s led team practices this week, the Falcons’ seniors have taken ownership of both losses — knowing one more like it could completely unhinge their season.
“Our seniors really took that hard,” Neman said. “You can tell by their approach to these last two days that they’re fired up.”
At stake at the conference tournament this weekend is more than seeDing if the Falcons can get their swagger back.
By winning the tournament, UTPB will lock up a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament. If it falls, the Falcons will have to wait until the brackets are released late Sunday night to know their fate.
Nothing is guaranteed, but the Falcons’ resume should earn them a spot in the regional tournament — made up of the top eight teams from the Lone Star, Heartland Conference and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The possibility still exists for the Falcons to be the host team for that tournament, which Newman says the UTPB could do only if it wins the Lone Star Conference Tournament.
If everything aligns for UTPB to be the No. 1 regional seed, the tournament is scheduled to take place at Odessa College’s OC Sports Center — four miles from the Falcons’ campus.
Newman isn’t thinking ahead to what could be though. He said he wouldn’t be fully relaxed until the first media timeout against Midwestern, where he’ll hopefully have seen the Falcons go back to their old selves.
He wants to see that Falcons’ brand of basketball that’s disciplined on defense, superior on the glass and plays offense as a cohesive unit.
UTPB is the reigning conference champions after taking down Midwestern, Texas A&M-Commerce and Angelo State last year in Allen.
Cutting down the nets for the second straight season in the Metroplex is a feat that will springboard the Falcons back to where they want to be — in the conversation among the elite teams in Division II.
“We’re trying to prove that we are that we’ve shown we can be throughout this whole year,” Newman said. “I think if we do that, playing in the NCAA will come, being the No. 1 seed will come.”