Sunday, December 20, 2015

UNC Asheville Bulldogs 79 at Georgetown Hoyas 73 (NCAA Basketball) - December 19, 2015

After watching the Washington Capitals come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night, I returned to the Verizon Center just 12 hours later, this time to check out Georgetown (Big East) taking on the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (Big South). Although Georgetown is known as the Hoyas, their mascot is a bulldog, so it was a Battle of the Bulldogs.

Mascots were a theme on this day, as several local teams sent their anthropomorphic cheerleaders to the game as part of a marketing campaign of some sort. Below is Pinch, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs mascot, trying to sneak into the lower level.

The mascots held a basketball game at halftime. I was surprised to see Poe from the Ravens there, but as the Redskins don't have a mascot due to their wildly offensive name, Poe joined the spectacle as the NFL representative. The bulldog at the bottom center is Georgetown's mascot while the other three should be obvious to any sports fan.

I have been to Verizon Center many times before and when I wrote about it five years ago, I called it pedestrian. It seems like there have been a number of improvements since then, with displays around the main concourse dedicated to the Wizards franchise history and their world championship (trophy below) along with the Capitals two Winter Classic wins. I don't know if these are recent additions or if I hadn't noticed them before, but it was nice to tour the venue when the crowd was relatively small so I could take the time to see these displays in detail. Another nice surprised was finding the designated driver program in effect, a rarity for a college game as booze is not sold in campus arenas. I was the third person to sign up, suggesting that most fans don't know about the program. I estimate that I have saved about $2,000 lifetime by signing up for a free soda by promising to not drink a beer. Given that most stadium beer is overpriced swill, this really isn't a hard thing to do.

The problem with multipurpose arenas is clearly demonstrated in the shot below. The sections behind the court face straight ahead - good for hockey but terrible for basketball as you are constantly looking at an angle. Also note the space between the end zone seats and the court, that is used by the cheerleaders and dance team.

I picked up a ticket at the box office for only $12. Scalpers were not willing to sell for anything less than $10, so I ignored them. The general rule for scalping a game that is not sold out is half of face value or less. Anything more is not worth the risk as scammers are increasing with the advent of paper tickets. As it turned out, the seat was on the aisle low in the corner, a decent view for the price and better than those seats described above. Despite the stadium being a third full, the box office sold the five seats next to me instead of spacing them out, and those fans did not space themselves out, so I moved back for the second half where I could enjoy a row to myself. Common sense is no longer common.

Both teams came in at 6-4 but two of the Bulldogs wins were over lower division schools, while the Hoyas had most recently lost to suddenly powerful Monmouth. A key point came early when L.J. Peak (below) picked up his third foul about 6 minutes into the game, earning him a seat on the bench for the rest of the half.

That seemed to unsettle Georgetown, who ended up trying to match the Bulldogs from outside the arc, a strategy doomed to fail as the Hoyas clearly had the size advantage and should have been pounding the paint. The halftime score favoured the visitors 41-39, but the difference was in three point shooting as 5 of Asheville's 14 baskets were from downtown compared to just 2 of Georgetown's 14.

The Hoyas actually took a 45-44 lead early in the second period, but a trey from Kevin Vanatta allowed Asheville to regain the advantage and Georgetown never led again, though they came close at 72-71 in the last two minutes when Peak hit one of two free throws (above).

The Bulldogs then used a layup by Ahmad Thomas (#14 above) to take a three-point lead and when Georgetown missed a trey to tie, the game was reduced to a foul-shooting contest, with Asheville sinking 5 of 7 to win 79-73. Dylan Smith (#24 above) led all scorers with 19 points off the bench and was one of five Bulldogs to finish in double figures. The difference was long-range shooting: Georgetown went 2/11 from three-point land in both halves while Asheville finished 9/19. The Hoyas dominated in the paint 42-28, so you have to wonder what coach John Thompson III was doing during all those timeouts. Judging from the fan reaction, he is not a popular choice to lead this team.


This was my 100th basketball venue lifetime. Of those, 38 were NCAA venues, with 4 of those being for tournaments and one a temporary home. Thus I have only been to 33 of 351 Division I venues for a home game. Which means I could keep on road tripping for a long, long time. That's the great thing about sports travel, there is no limit on what you can see. I certainly won't be visiting the remaining 318 basketball courts anytime soon, if ever, but it is nice to know that they are out there.



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