Friday, February 10, 2012

Stanford Cardinal 61 at UCLA Bruins 72 (NCAA Basketball, Pac 12) - February 9, 2012

I am without a car for these three days in LA, which meant a rare adventure - taking LA transit to a game. I am staying out near the airport, about a mile from Mariposa Station on LA Metro's Green Line. From there, it is under an hour to get to downtown, transferring at Harbor Freeway Station from where the Silver Line express bus whisks you down the highway using bus-only lanes. It was a lot easier than I expected, and with a day pass costing only $5, a substantial savings on renting a car, not to mention gas and parking.

I had two games to choose from on this day. Both the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans were at home in Pac-12 basketball action, with UCLA hosting Stanford while USC welcomed Cal. The Bruins usually play at Pauley Pavilion, but with that facility undergoing renovations this season, they are using the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for most of their home games. That historic building is just a half-mile away from the Galen Center, where the Trojans hoop it up. After much thought, I decided on the Bruins-Cardinal game for two reasons: first, it appeared to be the better matchup, as USC (6-18) is abysmal this year; second, it provided an opportunity to see an old venue that is not in regular use any longer.

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena

The LA Sports Arena was opened in 1959 after 15 months of construction that cost just $8.5 million (still only $66 million in 2012 dollars). The Trojans were the first team to be regular tenants, playing there from 1959-2006, when they moved to the Galen Center. The Lakers, Clippers, and Kings have also played here over the years, as have many defunct franchises, such as the WHA's LA Sharks.

Despite its age, the venue has been well maintained, having undergone renovations to strengthen its resistance to earthquakes among other improvements. There are no luxury boxes here which means even the 3rd level of seats is relatively close to the floor. For Bruins games this season, general admission tickets are $15, while the 2nd-level loge seats go for $30-$40. There were no seats at the arena level available at the box office, but people had extras and were looking for $30. With just four games left in the season, it's not likely any of you are going to make the trip, but if you do, take the $15 option and sit pretty much anywhere in the upper deck.

The single concourse (above) is more than wide enough, although the place was perhaps just a third full. There are unique triple water fountains dotting the concourse, but not much else.

There is an inner concourse that encircles the court and you can stand there for a minute or two to take pictures from different angles before you are asked to return to your seat.

There are several UCLA National Championship banners that have been moved from Pauley Pavilion but otherwise this is just a temporary facility and had nothing else of note related to this venerable program.

There were a couple of interesting food choices: bacon-wrapped hot dogs and candy apples. I did not partake in either as you are allowed to bring food and drink in, so I bought a tasty cheesesteak sandwich from Figueroa Philly and enjoyed it from my seat.

The scoreboard over center court is four-sided with no other information than the score, foul count, and timeouts left, but there was a high quality video screen over the north end that showed live game action and replays.

The surrounding area is called Exposition Park has a lot to see as well, including the Memorial Coliseum, which has hosted two Olympics among other famous events. There are also three museums here and an entire day can easily be spent touring.

As this is not a regularly used venue any longer, I am glad I took the opportunity to see a game here. I really enjoy these historic arenas which were built when the sport was still the most important thing rather than gouging fans. There is a lot of history in the area as well, so if you are in LA in the near future, check to see if you can visit the Sports Arena as well.

The Game

Both teams were 6-5 in conference play entering the evening, but the Cardinal were 16-7 overall compared to the Bruins at 13-10. Neither team is ranked and I'm not sure if either will make the tournament come March Madness.

The first half was deja vu for me - just like the previous night's D-Fenders' game, the home team raced to a 23-9 lead. The Bruins were helped along by 9 Stanford turnovers in the first 11 minutes. Once the Cardinal learned how to protect the ball, they started to score, and a last second 3-pointer by Chasson Randle closed the gap to 8, with the score 35-27 Bruins at the break. I should note that this was an ugly half of basketball with fouls being the order of the day, with 20 in the first 20 minutes. The constant stoppages prevented any flow from developing and nearly put me to sleep as the jet lag began to take hold.

In the second stanza, Stanford started with a 9-4 run to get within 3 before the officials again took over, whistling both teams with alarming frequency. I was yawning uncontrollably in my seat and eventually started walking around the inner concourse to stay awake.

No foul here, surprisingly

Whenever the Cardinal got close, the Bruins went on a mini-run of their own and the visitors could not manage to knot the affair. With 4:45 left, Stanford again climbed within a trey at 56-53 but the Bruins scored 10 unanswered points in the next three minutes, making the last 1:45 an exercise in the futility of fouling intentionally. I hate basketball when the losing team fouls in an attempt to draw closer, it is the worst aspect of the game.

The final was 72-61 with the difference being points off turnovers, where UCLA dominated 28-13. That's Jerime Anderson dunking off a steal below.

Lazeric Jones (#11 below) of UCLA led all scorers with 21, while Randle potted 16 to make him the only double-digit scorer for Stanford.

Overall, this was a very bad game. There were 41 turnovers, 42 fouls (most of the non-shooting variety), and every time out was used by both teams. Despite only 40 minutes of game action, the contest lasted over two hours. There were some good plays but again, continuous flow was not allowed to develop, which I found most frustrating as a fan.


The USC game ended 75-49 for Cal so it looks like I made the right choice.

I was surprised to see the Cardinal decked out in snazzy black uniforms; I would expect all teams to be dressed in their signature red.

You can buy a pair of seats from the Pauley Pavilion for only $479, with 3 choices: blue, gold, or a blue and gold combination.

I don't like the hype that surrounds college sports, but I do enjoy the enthusiasm put forth by the students. Despite the arena lying several miles away from campus, The Den (the two sections reserved for students) was full with some students dressed in silly costumes. The band and cheerleaders (gratuitous photo below) did a good job keeping fans in the game as well.

Transit is a great idea during the day, when buses and trains are more frequent and traffic is slow; we zoomed along the highway and I reached downtown from Mariposa in about 4o minutes while cars were crawling along. At night though, when buses are much rarer and highways are clear, driving is the better option timewise, but will still cost more if you are by yourself.

Next Up

I'm flying to Calgary today and will be starting the Canadian portion of the road trip on Saturday with a drive to Lethbridge for some WHL action. Check back for a recap then!



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