Hoping to build on last year’s fast finish, the UT Tyler men’s basketball team is ready for the 2013-14 season.

The Patriots open their season Friday, traveling to Nacogdoches to meet the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks. Tipoff at Johnson Coliseum is 7 p.m.

Last year, the Patriots set a program mark for wins (18-8) and placed second in the East Division of the American Southwest Conference. UT Tyler’s season ended in an epic ASC Tournament opening round game, falling 104-101 in triple overtime to Hardin-Simmons.

After the season, longtime coach Kenny Bizot left to coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss.

This year, the Patriots welcome their third head coach in Jamon Copeland, who brings an up-tempo, aggressive style from Ave Maria University, an NAIA school in Florida. He is also a former assistant coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens.

While the team features a host of newcomers, UT Tyler welcomes back a core of key players from last season, including Joe Stephens (6-3 senior guard, Flower Mound), Travis Dykman (6-3, senior forward, Crandall), Nathan Harbour (6-4 senior forward, Graham) and Tre Potter (5-9 senior guard, Arlington).

Dykman (12.9 points per game) returns as the team’s leading scorer, garnering first team All-ASC East Division honors.

Stephens averaged 10.2 points per game and led the team with 48 3-pointers.

The Patriots are picked fourth in the realigned ASC. This season, the conference combined the divisions, with each team playing each other in a home-and-home series throughout the ASC season.

In the preseason poll of coaches, media and sports information directors, Mary Hardin-Baylor is picked to win the league, followed by UT Dallas, which features the ASC Preseason Player of the Year Kyle Schleigh.

Last year’s ASC champ Concordia-Texas is picked third, followed by UT Tyler.

Rounding out the league are Hardin-Simmons, East Texas Baptist, Mississippi College, Louisiana College, LeTourneau, Howard Payne, Sul Ross State and Ozarks.

The ASC Championship tournament is scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 3 at the regular-season champion’s home court.

PATRIOT POINTS — The Patriots’ home opener is Friday, Nov. 22, against Rhodes College. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. The Alumni Weekend game is Saturday, Nov. 23, against Hendrix (3 p.m.). … Home games are at the Herrington Patriot Center. The Patriots open ASC play Nov. 30 against Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark. … The Patriot women’s basketball team opens its season Saturday, Nov. 16, against Centenary in Tyler. Tipoff is 1 p.m.

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