Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils 57 at Texas Southern Tigers 73 (NCAA Basketball, SWAC) - February 18, 2013


I've written enough about my change in plans necessitated by UNO moving their Monday basketball game from Lakefront Arena. I didn't want to make the 350 mile trip to see a secondary venue, so I stayed in Houston and instead went to see the Texas Southern Tigers hosting Mississippi Valley State in Southwestern Athletic Conference action.

The SWAC is a conference with ten historically black universities in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Texas Southern, with an enrollment of 11,000, is the largest of these while Mississippi Valley State is the smallest with just 2,500 students. In basketball, MVSU won both the conference and tournament last year but graduated many of their players and are 4-20 this season, while Texas Southern was 12-14 and on a 7-game win streak. The Tigers play at the Health and Physical Education Center located in Houston, just five miles south of downtown.

Health and PE Center

Built in 1989, the Health and PE Center is a large gymnasium that hosts the men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams. With over 8,000 seats, its capacity is nearly as much as the student population at the university. Located in a dark corner of the Texas Southern campus, I had trouble finding the place as the listed address (3100 Cleburne Street) is really the university's main address; the H&PE center is closer to the intersection of Ennis and Rosewood. There is a parking garage right next to it, but I ended up parking across the street near a sorority house.



The main entrance is at the top of a long ramp from where you can see the Houston skyline. Tickets are $10 for general admission and you can sit anywhere as it seems most students are not that interested in basketball. There were only 650 fans at the game I attended, which meant you could have a row to yourself.

There were two concession stands serving hot dogs, funnel cakes and a few other snacks, but nothing interesting. There are some banners commemorating past successes, mostly SWAC championships, although the 1977 team won the NAIA title.



The band, known as the Ocean of Soul, sits in one corner and plays during timeouts. With so few fans, the band dominates the atmosphere, especially with so many tubas as you can see above.

There is one scoreboard above center court and a couple of more detailed video boards above each end of the gym. That's about it; the H&PE center is as basic as a college venue can be. Not every school is part of the hype machine that is the NCAA and in those cases, the game is still the primary attraction rather than the venue itself.

The Game

The visiting Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils were ranked 344 out of 347 Division I basketball teams in RPI. They were 1-15 on the road, while Texas Southern had won 11 of 12. A rout was expected and that is pretty much what happened.



The first half was an embarrassment for the Delta Devils (in green), who shot 17% while falling behind 35-16. It was ugly, with air balls, bad shots, and turnovers the order of the day for the visitors.



The second half was time for the referees to shine as they called 33 fouls during the 20 minutes of action. From what I could tell, most of the calls were correct; the players simply were unable to play defense without committing an infraction. The photo above sums up the half - ugly basketball and fouls - there was a loose ball fall called on the play above. There were 40 FT attempts which dragged out the half. Check out the scoreboard below - both teams had reached the 10 foul limit with over seven  minutes left!



The bright spot was Fred Sturdivant, #4 for the Tigers. He scored 21 points including a couple of monster dunks, and grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 8 blocks as he dominated both ends of the floor. Unfortunately, his weakness was revealed by his 5-18 performance from the charity stripe.



For me, the surprise of the game happened when Delta Devil Matt Smith fouled out of the game. The fans swarmed the floor near the MVSU bench and sang and danced to a song that I sadly did not recognize. It was the most energy the fans had displayed all evening and it was good fun to watch.



Notes

The 346th best team is New Orleans, which suffers in the rankings from being an independent. They won the game I was originally going to attend, beating a non-Division I opponent 100-59.

The worst team is also a member of the SWAC, Grambling State, who are 0-23.

Next Up

A short drive today to College Station today to watch the Texas A&M Aggies in college baseball this evening. Check back tomorrow to see how that went.

Best,

Sean

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