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Courtesy: UTSA Athletics

Roadrunners Down Under: The Australia Chronicles (Day 8)

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SYDNEY, Australia — UTSA Assistant Athletics Director and men's basketball SID Kyle Stephens will be writing a journal during the Roadrunners' nine-day trip to Australia. Check back with goUTSA.com throughout the trip for updates to his chronicles and photo galleries.

Just a reminder that UTSA will play five games against the Gold Coast Blaze (Saturday. Aug. 13), Brisbane Spartans (Sunday, Aug. 14), Cairns Taipans (Wednesday, Aug. 17), Maitland Mustangs (Friday, Aug. 19) and Hornsby Spiders (Saturday, Aug. 20) during the exhibition tour of the Land Down Under.



Friday, Aug. 19 - "Play Abroad"
According to ESPN, there are a total of 55 NCAA Division men's basketball teams playing exhibition games abroad this month. Two of those teams are right here in Sydney, Australia. One, of course, is the UTSA Roadrunners. The other? The Drake Bulldogs of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Members of our travel party have crossed paths with players and staff from Drake several times in the past 24 hours. The Bulldogs actually wrap up their tour of Auckland (New Zealand), Melbourne and Sydney with a game tonight against the Sydney Kings of the ABL. I imagine they are having the same kind of priceless experience that we are.

Our group awoke to unusual weather for August … well, August in Texas, that is.

It was about 55 degrees and rainy here in Sydney today. Our hotel is a short walk from Sydney Harbour, so we hoofed it to the famous Sydney Opera House, which sits at the end of Bennelong Point facing the harbor, to make our 9:15 a.m. guided tour.

It was drizzling, but the group still managed to pose for a photo with the iconic landmark in the background before finding our way to meet our tour guide, Neville. We each were handed a headset, which allowed us to hear the guide and each other without having to speak loudly. This is important, because this was a working day at the opera house.

We began the tour by watching a background video and then were led into the Opera Theatre, one of eight venues in the facility. It was at this point we were told no photos or video would be allowed inside. They were setting the stage for a rehearsal for an opera to be held Friday night, so we were fortunate to see the place in action.

Next, we crossed over to the largest venue in the Opera House, the Concert Hall. Luckily, we were treated to a rehearsal with a soloist and a small orchestra in a very impressive setting. There were no photos allowed in the concert hall either, so you will have to rely on the website (or your imagination) for a picture.

Another brief video explained the politics involved in the construction of the Opera House with the famous Harbour Bridge as a backdrop off to our side. The design of the building was picked from a competition and the architect, Jorn Utzon, actually relinquished oversight of the project before it was completed.

Our final stop was the Drama Theatre. Neville informed us that many famous Australian performers, including Mel Gibson, got their start on this stage. And we all thought Mad Max was his first role.

Many thanks to Neville for being a gracious host and wonderful tour guide. It was nice to see a little bit of culture on this dreary Friday morning.

Maitland is a long haul from downtown Sydney. Due to the wet road conditions and Friday afternoon traffic, it took us two-and-a-half hours to make the 165-kilometer (102-mile) trek north for the game. Despite the low clouds and drizzle, the drive was very scenic through hilly terrain and several state forests.

Maitland Federation Centre houses one main court and three additional side courts inside a large structure, which has no heater. The cool weather followed us inside, as every person not playing donned a jacket of some sort for the game.

The Maitland Mustangs organization did a great job promoting the game to the city of 61,000. Not only did they publicize the fact that an NCAA team was going to be the opponent, they invited Australian women's legend and 2004 Olympian Natalie Porter to suit up for the home side.

Porter played 92 international games for the Opals (the nickname for Australia's female national teams … the males are called Boomers) and began a stellar career in the Women's National Basketball League (WBNL) in 1997, earning league MVP honors in the 2007-08 season.

There was a familiar face on the other side. Former Central Arkansas standout Mitch Rueter, who played against UTSA from 2007-10, is one of the top players for Maitland, which just missed out on the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) playoffs.

Click here for a link to a story the Maitland Mercury ran on Porter and Rueter in Friday's newspaper.

The Roadrunners fought off the cold and the home crowd and used balanced scoring to take a 26-21 lead through the first quarter. The lead increased to double digits thanks to a late second-quarter run. Junior Melvin Johnson III led a quintet of players who scored at least six points with 10 in the first half to help stake UTSA to a 50-39 advantage at the break.

UTSA broke the game open in the third period, outscoring the Mustangs, 25-17. The balance continued, as Johnson III and sophomore Jeromie Hill had 13 each, while seniors Sei Paye and Stephen Franklin had 11 and 10, respectively, after 30 minutes of play.

The Roadrunners pushed their lead to as many as 28 in the fourth before a very late run by the Mustangs  made the final score 94-75 (I'm not sure why the live stats lists 94-74 as the final).

Johnson III had 18 points on the strength of four 3-pointers, while Hill had 16. Paye was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor, including a trey, en route to 13 points. Franklin had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds and senior Mike White added 10 points and nine boards.

UTSA dominated the glass with a 51-26 edge, including 29 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second-chance points, and forced 21 turnovers.

Rueter led all players with 25 points, while Josh Clifford (13), Andy Allen (11) and Joel Boyle (11) also reached double figures.

After the game, Maitland fed both teams Pizza Hut (yes, they have those here, as well, although the toppings are slightly different). Everyone also got a chance to see a very rare sight. Rueter, the former UCA Bears star, wearing a UTSA T-shirt, which was the pregame gift exchanged by the Roadrunners.

It will be a short turnaround for the final game on the fixture. UTSA plays the Hornsby Spiders, also of the Waratah League, at 2 p.m. Saturday (11 p.m. CT/Friday) in Hornsby, which is about 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of Sydney.


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