The breakfast buffet at Food Fantasy down in the Jupiters Hotel lobby costs a mere $29.90 per person (ours is included with the room). If you want to eat dinner there, you can expect to be set back $44.90 on weeknights and $54.90 on the weekend. The spread is outstanding, but if breakfast wasn't comped, the author of this blog would be eating elsewhere.
Speaking of food, Burger King is here in Australia, but it really isn't. It's called Hungry Jack's here and that, according to Melbourne native and Team Operations Coordinator Shenton Wai, is because when Burger King sought to expand here back in the 1970s, a restaurant called Burger King already existed and controlled the rights to that name. Thus, Hungry Jack's was born Down Under. Imagine the famous Burger King sign with the words "Hungry Jack's" inserted in the middle. Click here
to see the logo for yourself.
After breakfast, the travel party boarded a bus for Carina, which is a suburb of Brisbane located approximately 75 kilometers — another big difference is that Australia is on the metric system — or 42 miles northwest of Gold Coast. When we were about 10 minutes away from the arena, the bus driver informed us of a bad accident that had traffic backed up considerably on the freeway. We took the back roads — the scenic route — and found the gym about 15 minutes later, thus avoiding what apparently could have been a 45-minute delay.
The Rowland Cowan Basketball Stadium is located adjacent to Carina State School and surrounding the arena are fields for baseball, cricket (no one asked what day of play they had made it to) and rugby, where a youth match of boys no older than 12 was in full-tackle mode. Inside the facility are the main court with box seats and bleachers for about 500 fans and three side courts, to go along with a natatorium next door. An interesting sign is located behind one basket, which warns players that no dunking is allowed and that offenders will be removed from the stadium. The Roadrunners put on a dunking display in pregame warmups — which is allowed under FIBA and Australian rules — and no one to my knowledge was kicked out prior to the contest.
Head coach Brooks Thompson pointed out to me a large banner in one corner of Cowan Stadium. It was of his former Oklahoma State sidekick Randy Rutherford decked out in a yellow Brisbane Bullets jersey, a celebrity of sorts in these parts after a successful Australian career.
Despite the short rest, the Roadrunners looked much fresher against the Brisbane Spartans of the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL), the nation's second-tier conference. Thompson put a new starting five on the floor — seniors Sei Paye and Alex Vouyoukas, junior Kalif Bakare and sophomores Jordan Sims and Tyler Wood — and the result was a much better start than last night.
Two early 3-pointers by Sims and Paye helped stake UTSA to an early lead and more sharpshooting from junior Melvin Johnson III and sophomore Jeromie Hill — who was introduced enthusiastically by the PA Announcer as a "Queenslander" — put UTSA up, 26-14, after the first 10 minutes.
The Roadrunners continued their solid play in the second period and took a 45-30 advantage into halftime. Hill and junior transfer Kannon Burrage — who continues to impress with his aggressive play — had nine points apiece to lead the way.
The lead grew larger in the third quarter, as UTSA received contributions from nearly its entire roster and outscored the Spartans, 22-7, in the period. The scoreboard showed 72 for the "Dark" and 37 for the "Light" in reference to the color of jerseys each team wears.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, which was near domination by the Birds, who led by as many as 45 and trailed for only 1:41 in the first quarter.
Senior Mike White had a big final period and finished with 11 points and five rebounds to help UTSA run away from the Spartans, 93-52. Hill and Burrage led the Roadrunners with 15 points apiece, while Perth native Igor Nujic posted a dozen. All but one player scored and UTSA was equally dominating on the glass, out-rebounding Brisbane, 49-36, behind a game-high nine from Sims.
After the contest, Brisbane's players and staff hosted a meal in the club area of the facility. Both teams enjoyed lasagna, stew, rice, bread and desserts in what is a tradition Down Under (the host team feeding all players and staff postgame). The party then boarded the bus to head back to Gold Coast with the cricket game still underway.
The weather has been absolutely brilliant during our stay here. Highs have been around 20-22 degrees Celsius (another difference), which is about 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, and today was the first day we have seen any clouds. Apparently, Gold Coast has ideal weather all year around, even in the dead of summer — December-February in the Southern Hemisphere — when the temps range into the 90s. The breeze off the Pacific Ocean keeps things in check most of the year and maybe the ideal weather is part of the reason this area is one of the top tourist attractions for Australians and foreigners alike.
Sunday evening is on our own with an early wake-up call of 6:45 a.m. in order to catch our bus to Brisbane International Airport. We will board a Qantas flight for Cairns at 9:45 a.m. Monday and then will arrive in Hill's hometown early afternoon. I'm sure he is looking forward to his homecoming and the rest of the travel party is, too.
What's on the itinerary for the next few days? A boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef on Tuesday and a trip to the highly-acclaimed Cairns Tropical Zoo on Wednesday morning before a 7 p.m. matchup (4 a.m. CT) against the Cairns Taipans of the NBL.
One schedule change to pass along … Saturday's final contest has been altered. UTSA now will play the Hornsby Spiders of the Waratah League, the same level (ABA) as Sunday's opponent and Friday's foe, the Maitland Mustangs.