Sunday, January 17, 2016

Delaware Doubleheader - January 15-16, 2016

The final stop on my first trip of the year was in Newark, Delaware, a city that millions pass by on I-95 every year without a second thought, unless they are avoiding the $4 toll entering or exiting the First State. In that case, drivers will pass along the southern edge of the University of Delaware, right next to the Bob Carpenter Center, home of Fightin' Blue Hens basketball.

The BCC also hosts the Delaware 87ers of the NBA D-League and the schedule maker was kind enough to slate the Raptors 905 as visitors on Friday night, before the Blue Hens faced Northeastern on Saturday afternoon. Rather than pay an extra rental day, I returned the car in Philadelphia and took SEPTA down to Newark using their one-day Independence Pass. A one-way ride from the airport to Center City is $8 and then it is $6.50 to Newark, while the pass is only $12. Philly sports travel guru Andrew Van Cleve joined Dom and I for lunch at the Field House Sports Bar in Jefferson Station, an added benefit of ditching the car. Anyway, I eventually made it to Newark and headed over to see the 905s against the Sevens. Numeric nicknames really have to go.

Bob Carpenter Center

Normally, I would briefly review the venue at this point, but instead, I'll compare the Bob Carpenter Center in its guise a D-League court with its regular use as a D-I gym. Of course, since the 87ers are guest tenants, they have very little on display, and certainly no permanent installations. The stickers on the floor are all you see to let you know you are at an 87ers game.

On the other hand, you will be greeted by a large hen (that is neither Fightin' nor Blue) to remind you of who really owns this facility.

There is a Hall of Fame (Jeff Trout, Mike's father, is an inductee) but ironically it was closed off during the Blue Hens game, so I was unable to take a picture. As well, there are Blue Hen trophies on display, including several D-II football championships from back in the 1970s and before.

The two photos below illustrate the main difference in the seating setup:

Above you have the 87ers court, where one side of the seating is folded up, opening up the space for a kids zone, which was in use throughout the game. Of course, that limits the number of good seats, but the 87ers do not draw very well, so it really didn't matter. Below is the more traditional setup for the college game.

In both cases, the far end zone is not open either, but when the 87ers play, those seats are folded away and covered with a black curtain.

When the Blue Hens take the court, the pep band uses this area, and the rest of the seats are covered with tarp declaring it to be Blue Hens Country. You will also notice the many banners, including one from the Blue Hens appearance in the 2014 tournament, where they lost to Michigan State in their opening game.

The other key difference is in the fans. The 87ers drew many more families, and most of the fans paid scant attention to the game, spending time in the kids zone, or just wandering around. The Blue Hens following skewed older, though there were still many kids, but they sat and watched the game from start to finish.

The concessions were similar for both games, though the Blue Hens had a very nice sandwich station with pulled pork and chicken platters for $9.25. There are tables as well, so you can enjoy a decent meal before the game. My recommendation here though is the UDairy Creamery ice cream, which is fresh and at $3.75 for 2 large scoops, a bargain. Their motto is "From the Cow to the Cone", which is not particularly appetizing (also, how do cows produce cherry vanilla ice cream?) but once you get over that marketing misstep, you will definitely appreciate the taste.

Both games featured cheerleaders, though it was the 76ers dance team that appeared for the 87ers. The Delaware squad featured YoUDee (on the right below) who had won the Open Division of the National Mascot Championship the night before. Yes, there is a National Mascot Championship, Aubie from Auburn won the Division IA title.

With all that being said, the venue is definitely better for the college game. Of course, the 87ers are trying to generate revenue and interest and hence have to change things up a bit, but for me, I appreciated the more controlled atmosphere of the Blue Hens game. So did the fans, as only 1,534 showed up for the 87ers, while 2,763 made the trip to see the college contest.

The Games

Much like the venue, the two games were quite a contrast. The D-League game saw no defence, particularly from the Raptors who gave up many easy buckets on the evening. They led 4-3 before Delaware went on a 16-3 run, scoring at will. The Raptors fought back, tying the game at 28 early in the second, but they could not take the lead. They again managed to knot the game at 55 late in the first half, but Delaware finished the frame on a 7-2 run. The third quarter was fairly even as the Raptors were down 6 entering the final period, but Delaware scored the first 5 points and the 905s never got closer than 7 the rest of the way, losing 119-104. Russ Smith, who played for Louisville's 2013 championship team, scored 37 points on 28 shots in his first game for Delaware. You could tell from his attitude that he believes he belongs somewhere in the NBA. The teams combined for 178 shots in the 48 minutes (3.7 shots per minute). Hey, you don't defend your way to the Association!

The next afternoon was much more sedate. Northeastern came in at 3-2 in CAA play, while Delaware had yet to record a win in the conference. The two teams had met in Boston the week prior, with the Huskies winning 88-56.

The story here was Northeastern's three-point shooting. In the first half, they launched 15 long balls and made only one, allowing Delaware to take a 28-23 lead into the break. They also missed their first two of the second half, but that did not deter them, and eventually they found some rhythm from long range. Down 39-33, they made four straight treys, followed that with a layup and a dunk, and then added three more from beyond the arc to take a 58-48 lead that left the home team and their fans stunned. David Walker (#4 above) was the star with four long balls in that period.

Delaware got within 6 but missed several layups down the stretch as the Huskies won 69-60 in a game that took only 1:42, with only 32 fouls called. Walker led all scorers with 24 while Marvin King-Davis (#21 above) paced Delaware with 23 points and 15 rebounds. The teams combined for 108 shot attempts in the 40 minutes (2.7 per minute, 1 less than the D-League game).

Next Up

A quiet week with a couple of area NCAA games on tap. I'll complete the 14 NYC area schools with a visit to Fordham on Wednesday, and then a trip to Poughkeepsie for Marist on Friday night, weather permitting. As always, updates will follow, so check back regularly!



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