Sunday, January 5, 2014

Denver Pioneers 52 at St. Joseph's Hawks 53 (NCAA Basketball) - January 4, 2014


As I was driving east from Seattle after the last game of my NFL Stadium Journey, the Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East title by beating Dallas. I knew then that I would be heading down to Lincoln Financial Field to watch them host a wild-card game. When the NFL schedule-maker made it the Saturday night tilt, some possibilities opened up for a doubleheader in the City of Brotherly Love. There were a few college basketball games that afternoon, and fellow road tripper Gary Herman would be seeing the St. Joseph's Hawks. Since he would be my drive to and from Philly, I decided to join him for the game, with the Denver Pioneers in town.

Hagan Arena



St. Joseph's campus is located in northwest Philadelphia and the Michael J. Hagan Arena can be found just off 54th street. We weren't sure if parking was free in the lot, so we parked on the street which also allowed us to avoid any post game snarls.



The entrance on 54th Street is for those with tickets, so we walked to the main entrance around back, where we found some individuals who were kind enough to give us a couple of free tickets, saving each of us at least $25 at the box office, a rather high price for college hoops.



As you can see above, the court is very cozy, with the student section behind one of the nets. There are really no bad seats here, and you can walk around the top concourse without anyone bothering you, which is what I did during the second half.



The concessions are very limited, but when a game lasts just two hours, you really don't need to eat. If you are hungry, avoid buying something at halftime, which is when the small area that houses the single concession stand (above) gets very busy. Prices are very cheap though, with bottles of soda just $2 while pizza slices and hot dogs run $3.



There have been a number of famous players to come out of Saint Joe's, and some of them are honoured with banners at the top of the gym. As well, all 13 colleges in the Atlantic 10 (another name that needs to be changed) have small flags of their own, as you can see in the background above.

It is hard to believe that this place has been in used since 1949; the renovations in 2009 make it seem like new. Well worth a visit, but if you aren't convinced, you can read a more comprehensive review at  Stadium Journey.

The Game

I knew none of the players on either team, and had no idea about their records either. Denver plays out of the Summit League but the school is much better known for their hockey team. Their basketball squad has never played in the NCAA Tournament, coming in at 7-7 while St. Joseph's was 8-4.



The Pioneers stormed to an early 16-5 lead as the Hawks had trouble making some easy shots. Jalen Love (above) was the best player for Denver, and when he knocked down his 9th point, it was 21-10 for the visitors. But Langston Galloway sank 8 straight points for St. Joe's around another Love layup and it was 23-18 with 5 minutes to go. A Halil Kanacevic (with the ball below) layup around 3 free throws tied the game at 23, but Chris Udofia dunked to restore Denver's advantage. The final 2:44 minutes saw the teams combine to go 0/7 as the half ended 25-23 for the Pioneers, good news for St. Joseph's considering they shot 27.6% over those 20 minutes and were down only two.



The second half saw the teams exchange the lead several times, but Galloway and Ronald Roberts (grabbing one of his 15 boards below) combined to put St. Joseph's up 49-42 with six minutes left.



Of course, they couldn't make it easy, and another Love trey brought Denver back to 49-47, at which point they fouled on a couple of possessions. Both Roberts and DeAndre Bembry (below) made just one of two and when Kanacevic fouled Chris Udofia, the Pioneer made no mistake on his two charity shots, making it 51-49 Hawks with two minutes to go.



Exciting, right? Not quite. Four straight turnovers and three missed jumpers brought us to the end of the game. Or almost. With 2 seconds left, Bembry rebounded a Pioneer miss and got the ball to Chris Wilson, who was fouled with 0.3 on the clock. The referees then spent about an hour (slight exaggeration) to figure out that the clock should have 0.6 seconds left instead. Wilson made his two freebies to clinch the game, and it was important that he did so, as Denver amazingly managed to inbound the ball and sink a three pointer before the buzzer.



I was really annoyed at this because in the first game of my NFL Road Trip, the Broncos scored 49 points and I was all ready to tweet about that incredible, if meaningless, coincidence, but the Pioneers ruined it. Thanks for nothing Denver.

Note that all 5 starters scores all 53 points for St. Joseph's, in fact they played 183 out of the possible 200 minutes, with Galloway not seeing the bench at all. Fun team to watch, if you are in Philadelphia and have yet to visit Hagan Arena, get over there when you can.

Notes

This was the third Hawks game in a row for me (Seahawks, Blackhawks, Hawks) and all three won. I skipped the Atlanta Hawks in Brooklyn on Monday night though and they lost. So I got one incredible, if meaningless, coincidence.

Best,

Sean

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