Road Trip: Little Rock
The drive from Jonesboro to Little Rock is a little over two hours and mostly uneventful. The team was headquartered at a Hilton on University Drive, just down the road from the UALR campus. Cajun teams have stayed there many times over the years. After checking in, there was some website work to be done and by the time that was finished, it was time for dinner plans (after a brief nap…shhh…don’t tell anyone.)
I drove toward “The Butcher Shop” a place famous for steaks where I’ve eaten many times over the years, but instead of taking a left to get to that restaurant, I decided to turn right just to see what else might be available.
What was available was P. F. Chang’s.
There’s something about this place that seems to bring folks out. Lafayette residents have complained that there isn’t one available in the Hub City. And frankly, I’ve never found anyone that didn’t love this place. And, you can count me in that number. It doesn’t matter what city, if you go to P. F. Chang’s at night, you have to wait to get a table. I was fortunate that there was a table at the bar. Dinner was great and it looked like the wait for a table was up to more than an hour by the time I left.
Saturday was NFL playoff day, but I knew I would see very little of the games. I caught a piece of Pittsburgh/Baltimore before heading to the arena. The women’s game was at halftime when I arrived and the score was tied. Last year when I got to the arena, it was halftime of the women’s game and UALR had gone on some ungodly run and led by thirtysomething. After setting up equipment I got to watch the women hold their own until about the eight minute mark when UALR pulled away and stayed unbeaten in the league.
It’s been unusual for the men to get off to a good start on the road this year. Just Thursday night, they were down by 15 in the first half before making a run. This time, however, the Cajuns started strong and led by 10 with eight minutes to go. But UALR went on a 23-8 run and led by five at the half.
It was another Saturday night in the Sun Belt as far as the officials were concerned. Sam Croft, the referee, had been out of college basketball for a few years and is just getting back into it. Ken Pike and Brett Miles were both officials who do most of their work in the Big South and OVC, respectively. And the whistles were blowin aplenty. Thursday night against Arkansas State, the Cajuns were called for 14 team fouls. Saturday night, they were called for 14…in the first half, 27 for the game. And this time, the whistles weren’t consistent. The Cajuns shot 19 free throws. UALR shot 33. And, it wasn’t because one team was settling for jump shots. The Cajuns took 21 three pointers, UALR 19. The two worst calls came at critical times. One was a possession call where it was pretty obvious that two UALR players hit the ball out of bounds and yet kept possession. The other was a travel where the UALR post player was falling down. He got the ball to Solomon Bozeman after the non-call, who promptly hit the biggest three pointer of the game.
It’s to the point where Saturday night officiating in this league is reaching the depths of the old American South Conference.
Now THAT’S bad.
And, for the record, the guys from UALR thought it was the worst officiated game they saw all year.
The Cajuns played well overall, but UALR got out of the arena with a 73-68 win, the 15th road loss in a row for Louisiana. It was good to see Randall Daigle and David Perez have good scoring games. And, J. J. Thomas just keeps getting better, with a double-double in both games this past week.
Sunday’s drive home was in the cold and rain. And, judging from the way the road has been this season, I guess that was only fitting.