When putting together this season’s schedule for UNO’s men’s basketball team, coach Mark Slessinger wanted to put an emphasis on bringing back in-state rivalries for the Privateers.
UNO released the team’s 2015-16 schedule Tuesday, highlighted by nonconference road games against Tulane on Dec. 2 and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Dec. 21.
“I think it’s really important for the city to have that game where two of the local teams get to play against each other,” Slessinger said. “We wanted to play that game when students were still in session so they can make that trip uptown and watch us play.
“Not to mention, getting the opportunity to play a team like ULL that’s recently been in the NCAA tournament can always help your team along the way.”
UNO forward Kevin Hill, who played at John Ehret with former UL-Lafayette standout and current Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, said he especially looks forward to playing Tulane and the Cajuns this season.
“I think it’s great for us as a team, and just for the city to get to see us play,” Hill said. “For me personally, I’m looking forward to those games, because I didn’t get offers from a lot of those in-state schools coming out of John Ehret. So I think it will be a great opportunity to show how far UNO has come since I’ve been here.”
UNO kicks off the season with eight of it’s first 10 games on the road against nonconference foes, with five of them winning at least 15 games last season.
“It’s going to be a tough stretch for us to start the season,” Hill said. “But we’re returning seven of our guys from last year’s team, and I think we went through some tough games last year and we’ll be prepared going into this season.”
Last year, the Privateers finished 11-18 record, but the team went 4-2 to end the season on its way to the Southland Conference tournament, the school’s first postseason berth since 2010.
The Privateers went on to win in their first-round matchup in the conference tournament against Nicholls State 82-73 and lost in the second round to Texas A&M Corpus-Christi 61-58.
“That was a great experience for us, and I think we really have grown a lot from that,” UNO guard Nate Frye. “Getting that opportunity to play on the big stage in those do-or-die games kind of showed us what it takes to win, and it’s great that we’re bringing a lot of those guys back so we can build on it.”
The Privateers play their first home game of the season at UNO Lakefront Arena on Nov. 19 against Pensacola Christian College and begin their home conference schedule with a game against Incarnate Word on Jan. 11.