UTPB NOTEBOOK: Falcons ready to return to the court

Both the UTPB men’s and women’s basketball teams are ready to return to the court this weekend after some time off with the Christmas break.

For women’s basketball coach Rae Boothe, she’s just ready to see the Falcons take the court in general. Her team has only played one regular season game to this point, a 72-59 victory over Western New Mexico back on Dec. 15.

The first two scheduled Lone Star Conference series between UT-Tyler and Cameron were both postponed due to COVID-19 protocols with UTPB’s opponents. Despite the delays, Boothe credited her team for making the best of the circumstances.

“I think a lot of what’s happened to us is out of our control, but I’m really proud of how our women have handled adversity,” Boothe said during a Zoom press conference Monday. “We are continually doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be ready.”

The Falcons’ next chance to take the court comes this weekend as they host Arkansas Fort Smith in a two-game series beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Falcon Dome followed by another matchup with the Lions on Sunday.

In preparing for the game, Boothe said that the time off came at a good point for her team to recharge and focus on things outside of basketball. She added that players were allowed to go home during the break and said that everyone is healthy upon returning to campus.

“I think probably every coach in the country is so nervous right now with the travel,” she said. “Thankfully, so far, everyone is healthy.”

The team was scheduled to hold its first practice Monday in preparation for the weekend series against the Lions. Boothe added that she’s glad to get a few days to get her team ready and hopes to use the pair of games to adjust her lineups with her team at close to full strength.

“We hope that we have everyone as healthy as possible to play Saturday and Sunday,” Boothe said. “We were hoping to experiment a little bit more against Cameron but we didn’t get that chance.

“Hopefully, we’ll get it down to what would have been a top 10 after four conference games.”

>> APPROACHING A RECORD: The UTPB men’s basketball team is looking to keep its strong start to the season going in its two matchups against Arkansas Fort Smith this weekend.

The Falcons are currently 5-0 and one more victory would match the best start in program history.

Head coach Josh Newman said that he believes his team can do even better because they have had to reshuffle the lineups with players having to fill in at different positions.

He added that his focus is just on winning whoever the Falcons play next, not so much chasing after records.

 “I think it’s great for the fans and for the media and I wish our fans were able to watch us play,” Newman said. “But for me as a coach and I’ve said this from the beginning of my career that we don’t measure the season success by wins and losses but by championships.”

“We just want to put our team in the best situation come March to win a conference championship and hopefully punch out ticket to the big dance.”

>> FAMILIAR FOE: Newman is also getting set to once again face a program that he had a hand in building up from a junior college program to a four-year Division II team.

He spent 12 seasons as head coach with Arkansas Fort Smith before taking charge of the UTPB program prior to the 2018-19 season. He added that he still has a connection to the program for being a part of that transition.

At the same time, his focus will be going up against a Lions team that runs a system that Newman says his team hasn’t had much experience facing.

“They’re unique because they’re a motion team and that’s not something we’re going to see a tremendous amount,” he said. “They’re also a pack line defensive team and that’s something that we haven’t seen a lot of this year.

“They’re going to sit back and dare you to make shots. The way I coach is that we give our guys a lot of offensive freedom so they’re going to see open shots all night long. We just have to make them.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas