– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
FRISCO, Texas — Which two teams will end up shining the brightest when the dust settles at The Star?
For the second consecutive year, the Conference USA Basketball Tournament will be held at the Ford Center at The Star, the state-of-the art indoor facility that is shared by the Dallas Cowboys, the City of Frisco, and Frisco-area high schools. For one week out of the year for the next three years, it will also host the C-USA Tournament, as 2019’s edition will look to see if Marshall (men) and Western Kentucky (women) can defend their crowns won last season.
One of the things that makes this tournament unique from almost every other D-1 college basketball tournament is that, given the over 500,000 square foot facility and the multiple arenas that are housed on the grounds, most sessions will see two games being played simultaneously, one occurring on Court A while the other on Court B. The multiple courts and paralleling contests also make it tougher for reporters to cover the entire tournament…at least without getting a serious workout from one court to the other.
This is where Ross James, photographer extraordinaire and ironman, comes in. Over the next few days, he will be covering a number of the men’s and women’s tournament games by doing just that, hopping between different courts to bring us some of the best action of the day. And Day 1 of the men’s tournament saw some thrilling action.
The first contest of the day on the men’s side saw No. 8 seed Louisiana Tech rally from a 14-point halftime deficit to edge Florida Atlantic 57-56. Game No. 2 saw No. 5 UAB handle No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee, looking far from the team that had won two consecutive C-USA Tournament titles in 2016 and 2017. In the evening session on the men’s side, No. 10 North Texas had a couple of standout performances in its 71-57 triumph over No. 7 FIU; Guard Umoja Gibson hit seven three-pointers for the Mean Green while teammate Zachary Simmons hit all seven of his field goal attempts on his way to 19 points and 16 rebounds. The nightcap saw defending champion and No. 6 sed Marshall, led by Jon Elmore’s 32 points, cruise past No. 11 Rice 82-65.
The women’s side saw two seed upsets, as No. 9 North Texas defeated No. 8 Southern Miss 49-46 while No. 11 UTEP needed double overtime to eliminate No. 6 Marshall 64-56. The win for the Mean Green sets up a date with No. 1-seeded Rice, who will come into the game with the nation’s third-longest winning streak at 18 games and coming off finishing the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record in league play.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday night’s action, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 29 pictures in total.