Trojans aim to carry on hot streak

UALR guard Khalen Robinson (2) is one of three players on the Trojans’ roster who played in the NCAA Tournament. Robinson was in the NCAA Tournament last season at Texas A&M and in 2022 and 2021 while at the University of Arkansas.
(UALR Athletics)
UALR guard Khalen Robinson (2) is one of three players on the Trojans’ roster who played in the NCAA Tournament. Robinson was in the NCAA Tournament last season at Texas A&M and in 2022 and 2021 while at the University of Arkansas. (UALR Athletics)

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- The Arkansas Little-Rock men's basketball has enjoyed its recent success.

The Trojans have not lost since Feb. 1 (68-66 at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and have won nine games in a row and 12 of 13.

But the stakes will be higher tonight as the Trojans take the floor in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at the Ford Center against the winner of Thursday's late game between Western Illinois and Tennessee State.

With a mostly veteran group of players on the roster, UALR will head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 with a pair of wins over the next two days.

"We're a really good team and we're dangerous now that it's tournament time," point guard Khalen Robinson said. "I'm excited for it and can't wait. We haven't really achieved the goals that we set out for yet."

Robinson, along with 6-10 forward Mahkel Mitchell and reserve guard Pavle Kuzmanovic have been to the NCAA Tournament at their previous schools before coming to Little Rock.

Robinson played in the NCAA Tournament last season at Texas A&M and in 2022 and 2021 while at the University of Arkansas. Mitchell did so with the Razorbacks last season, while Kuzmanovic took part in the tournament in 2023 and 2022 at Boise State.

Mitchell said he hopes the experience on the roster will give the Trojans a leg up on the competition.

"We just need to continue doing the things that we've been doing that got us here," Mitchell said. "Just turning the page and turning it up a notch. We're not done. We got to get the conference tournament and hopefully make it to March Madness. We take it day by day."

UALR Coach Darrell Walker said he was very satisfied that his team was able to win a share of the OVC regular=season title, but he is ready for the challenge that the conference tournament presents.

"It's just a do or die game, that's the only difference," Walker said during an interview with KATV Channel 7. "Everybody knows everybody and what they are going to run offensively and defensively. So it's just about doing what you did to get to the tournament."

"These guys are focused. They know this is a business trip. We got to go down there and win two games. Take it one game at a time. That's been our mentality the whole time on this winning streak, take it one game at a time."

The Trojans got the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament as a result of owning all the tiebreakers against Morehead State and Tennessee-Martin, the two other teams that earned a share of the regular-season championship. Tennessee-Martin was awarded the other double-bye as the No. 2 seed, while Morehead State fell to No. 3 and had to play in the quarterfinal round against No. 6 seed SIU-Edwardsville on Thursday night.

"We've been practicing hard because everything carries over to the game," Mitchell said. "Iron sharpens iron. Once the ball goes up, we all got the same goal. We just got to stick with it and trust Coach."

"It's a blessing. A lot of people counted us out," Robinson said. "I've been on three March Madness teams. That's what I'm used to. The togetherness and the process that it takes behind it, I think that's big. We're not done yet."


OVC men’s glance

At Ford Center,

Evansville, Ind.

THURSDAY’S QUARTERFINALS

Western Illinois 61, Tennessee St. 59

Morehead St. 78, SIU-Edwardsville, 63

TODAY’S SEMIFINALS

All times Central

UALR vs. Western Illinois, 7 p.m.

Tennesse-Martin vs. Morehead St., 9:30 p.m.


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