Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/15/12
ARLINGTON, Texas It's been almost 25 years since a current member of the Big 12 Conference founds its way to a basketball court on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. Oklahoma State ventured to Texas Hall on Dec. 3, 1987, and was knocked off by the Mavericks 69-58. UTA is hoping for similar results Friday night when the Mavericks host Oklahoma at 7 p.m. at College Park Center in what's arguably the biggest-game ever at the downtown Arlington school. "It's important to win with OU here," said UTA head coach Scott Cross. "That's my expectation is to win the basketball game. The days of just showing up and trying to draw a paycheck and being somebody's whipping boy are over. We have to take that next step." Taking the next step would be huge for UTA, which is off to a 1-0 start. There will certainly be plenty of people watching. UTA's basketball complex opened towards the end of last season and the Mavericks drew well against the likes of Texas-San Antonio. But getting a school like OU to come to UTA is a huge get for the Mavericks, and it wasn't easy. Cross said the school has tried to get Big 12 schools and other state schools to travel to Arlington to play for years. But playing on a stage like Texas Hall wasn't appealing. Nor was the possibility of losing a game to the Mavericks. Oklahoma, which will host UTA next season, didn't see it that way when UTA approached it. The Sooners saw the game as a chance to play in front of a large Metroplex-based fan base, show off for recruits and give their three Texans a chance to play in front of family. Getting Oklahoma to come to Arlington is one thing. Beating the Sooners is another. UTA is 5-62 overall against Big 12 schools including 0-26 since its 1987 victory. UTA has three wins against TCU and one against Baylor. Beating the Sooners (1-0) would be big for UTA. It's a homecoming game and there are already more than 5,800 tickets sold for the game. If the Mavericks beat OU, it might not help future scheduling. Teams may not want to take a chance to come play the Mavericks if they feel like they're going to lose the game. But UTA is also building its basketball pedigree, coming off a trip to the NIT last year. "You win this game and it's easier to put people in the stands," said Cross, whose team has two road games against Big 12 teams still on the schedule this year (Texas, Oklahoma State). "It's kind of a give and take. I kind of think the benefits of winning the game far outweigh if you don't win the game." Cross said the feeling around campus right now he's never experienced. He played at UTA in the mid-1990s and there was never a buzz for one game like this. He's taken UTA to the NCAA Tournament and the NIT and won a conference title last year. Even when College Park Center opened last year, the feeling wasn't the same. All the tickets for the home games were free. That's not the case for Friday's game. "It's great for the students and the community," Cross said. "We'd like to be able to generate revenue through basketball. This is a steppingstone for that. That's kind of how I envision the program as one day being the big school that buys other schools and has home games. With this facility, that's what you want. It's a huge thing to be able to have home games. If you put people in the stands, it lets you have home games." Cross is far from the only person on the UTA campus feeling good about Friday's games. It means a lot to the UTA players too. Last year the Mavericks played in the Southland Conference against the likes of Lamar and McNeese State. This year UTA has stepped up its conference in the West Athletic Conference. But even in the WAC, playing teams like Denver and Idaho isn't guaranteed to generate excitement. That's not the case when it's OU coming to town. "It's big, especially we normally have to go to schools like on the road," said senior forward Kevin Butler, who started his career at TCU. "When I first got here this never could have happened because we were playing on a stage. Everyone knows OU. It's cool because our students know OU and they get to come watch them play at our place. This is one of the biggest games of my college career. It's cool to be part of something this big."
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