Sunday, February 28, 2016

Holy Cross Crusaders 68 at Boston Terriers 83 (NCAA Basketball, Patriot League) - February 27, 2016


To get back from Portland to NYC I booked two buses: one from Portland to Boston for $1, and then another from Boston for $10. That is cheaper than the $15 toll to get into the city by the way. I had a few hours in Boston between arriving and departing, enough time to sneak over to Boston University for college hoops starting at noon. The Terriers were hosting Holy Cross at Case Gym in the final regular season game for both teams.



The gym is also known as The Roof because it is on the top floor of the Case Physical Education Facility, above Walter Brown Arena, where the women's hockey team plays. The men's hockey team plays in nearby Agannis Arena, which was supposed to host conference basketball games as well when the Terriers moved to the Patriot League in 2013. However, as in many northeast schools, basketball is second fiddle to hockey and the team draws very poorly, so they now play all games at Case, which seats 1,800 compared to over 6,000 at Agannis. Below is Walter Brown Arena, which had a game between the Boston Junior Eagles and New England Junior Falcons, a couple of elite teams with players born in 2004. I watched the first period and was quite impressed with the skill level displayed by these kids.



To get to Case Gymnasium, take the B Branch of the Green Line to Babcock Street and walk north a couple of blocks. You will pass Braves Field Way, so named because Braves Field used to sit here. Part of the structure still exists as Nickerson Field (below), where the soccer and lacrosse teams play. The grandstand and concourse underneath are much the same as when it was a baseball stadium. You can also see the field is set up for lacrosse; Boston was hosting Navy but the game started at 1:00, conflicting with the second half of the basketball game. When that was over, it was nearly halftime, so too late to complete the official doubleheader (Boston won 10-9 in double overtime).



There are pictures of the construction of Braves Field and an informative plaque inside the lobby of the PE Center.





There is also a small Hall of Fame honouring past stars. The most recognizable name was Chris Drury, who won the Hobey Baker Award in 1998. Jack Eichel will be added here shortly. I expect that Agannis Arena houses the hockey trophies that have been awarded and I'll have to come back to check that out next season.



Tickets are $12 for any seat, and as the place normally draws about 500, you can generally choose where you want to sit. On this afternoon however, nearby Holy Cross was visiting and over 1,200 fans showed up (you can see the full sections below), making it a more energetic experience than expected. It was also quite comical as many fans did not sit in their assigned seats, so latecomers struggled to find empty spots. There are no ushers here, and I think that many fans thought it was general admission. So keep that in mind if you are attending a game with the Crusaders or another local school visiting.



There are five sections on either side of the court, with no end zone seating. Section 1 is reserved for the band, so if you don't like loud music in your ear for two hours, avoid sitting low in Section 2. Buy your tickets at the window in the main lobby and then take the stairs which lead outside to the main entrance to The Roof.



The highlight for men's basketball happened in 1959 when they made the Elite Eight. They haven't been to the tournament since 2011, and nobody cares about the CBI semifinals, but they still put it on the banner.



Overall, Case Gym is a basic facility with its place in baseball history the biggest attraction. The large crowd made a difference in the atmosphere on this day, but I think that if you attend a game against a distant opponent, you will find a game here rather mundane.

The Game

Holy Cross came in 4-13 in conference play while Boston was 10-7. Off the tip, Karl Charles (#1 below, giving me the evil eye) of the Crusaders had an easy layup, but that was the only lead of the night for the visitors. The Terriers went on a 22-7 run, with Eric Fanning (at the line below) leading the way with 10 points.



Holy Cross got back within 3 as the half wound down but Fanning scored the frame's final four points as Boston went into the break 34-27. Holy Cross kept it within reason and were down 49-43 after Robert Champion (#22 below) drained a three but a quick 9-2 Terrier run ended any real chance of the upset.



The game moved quickly as the officials were letting them play (only 33 fouls called), and both teams sacrificed defense down the stretch to pad their final numbers as Boston won 83-68, giving them third place in the conference and a home game in the tournament.



Fanning was dominant with 25 points and 16 boards, while Champion led the Crusaders with 14 despite 2/8 shooting from downtown. Boston shot a very impressive 58% from the field and if they keep that up, they could surprise in the tournament.

Update: Holy Cross was the one who surprised in the tournament, winning 4 games on the road to clinch a bid. Their final record is 14-19, which is why conference tournaments suck. Only the top 4 teams in a conference should participate; let's have the regular season mean something.

Notes

Bucknell won the Patriot League by a game over Lehigh. I saw those two teams play back in January in the game that essentially decided first place. It is always interesting to look back at the games I've attended to see how they affected the final standings in short seasons such as this.

Boston will host American, while Holy Cross finished ninth and will play #8 Loyola for the right to face Bucknell.

Next Up

Army finished fourth in the Patriot League, thus they will host Colgate in the first round of the tournament at West Point. Can Army finally make the NCAA tournament? I was going to go there on Thursday to see if they can take the first step, but then I found out The Who was in concert that night at MSG. So Army will have to wait until next season, I hope it will be for a football/basketball doubleheader.

I am heading to St. John's, Newfoundland in the middle of next week for a couple of games, so check back for recaps then.

Best,

Sean

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