Friday, February 12, 2016

San Diego Toreros 71 at Santa Clara Broncos 74 (NCAA Basketball, West Coast) - February 11, 2016

The Bay Area is a hotbed of college basketball, with six schools competing in the area. I had already seen Cal and San Jose State, which left Stanford, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Saint Mary's. All four were home on Thursday, but the schedule maker did not do me any favours, setting all games in the evening instead of spreading them out so a quadruple header (or even a doubleheader) could be done. Thus I had to choose, and decided upon Leavey Center, home of the Santa Clara Broncos.

There is free street parking on the other side of the Alameda, so avoid the $10 charge in the garage on campus. As you walk to the arena, you will pass by the Bronco sculpture above. In hindsight, when the Super Bowl was set for Santa Clara, wasn't it obvious that the Broncos would win?

The Leavey Center was first opened in 1975 with an air-supported vinyl roof much like BC Place. It was known as the Toso Pavilion after Harold Toso, who donated the funds to build the facility. By 2000, the roof had suffered several tears, so it was deflated and a permanent roof installed as part of a large renovation that was completed in 2001. The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation provided the money for the rework and hence the venue was renamed the Leavey Center.

The cheapest ticket is $12 for general admission, which allows you to sit in the upper benches on either side of the court. However, you can also get into the student seating area, which are the lower benches on the west side (in the picture below) and usually not filled up with students. Choose the last row as you can rest your back against the wall there.

The concourse is huge behind the west grandstand, as the administrative offices and single concession stand are here. There are salads and fresh fruit so you can actually be healthy for a change, although that will be undone if you purchase the 32-ounce soda for only $3.

Also check out the Hall of Fame, which hasn't been updated since 1980 from what I can tell as Steve Nash is not listed.

Nash was a Bronco from 1992-96 and was responsible for bringing the program to national attention. Although he is missing from the Hall of Fame, there is a large banner in his honour, along with other retired numbers.

Nick Vanos also played here from 1981-85 and was a member of the Phoenix Suns when he was killed in the crash of Northwest Flight 255 in 1987. A small memorial serves as a reminder of that tragedy.

The band performs out of the south end along with the cheerleaders. They were noisy at times, but the lack of a decent student crowd really hurt the atmosphere. Division I hoops for free and just a couple of hundred show up? Crazy.

Overall, the Leavey Center is a great basketball venue and very affordable. As is the case with mid-major schools who don't win regularly though, it is tough to attract fans. I enjoy having space to myself but it is always better to have a raucous crowd cheering on the home team.

The Game

The San Diego Toreros brought their 3-9 record to town while Santa Clara was almost as bad at 4-8. So maybe those students had a reason to stay away. Fellow sports traveler Tike joined me for this one and as he is a former basketball referee, he gave me good insight into the process the officials go through during the game.

And the officials were once again the story here. There were 23 fouls in the first half, with 13 coming in the first 8 minutes. Play was choppy and the teams started slowly, with San Diego leading 14-11 at the ten-minute mark. The teams did seem to alter their play a bit as the game was being called so tight, and flow improved for the rest of the half as Santa Clara took a 36-32 lead into the break.

There were only six fouls in the first ten minutes of the second half, and the game was quite entertaining during that time, with the Broncos allowing San Diego to take a brief lead at 40-38 before Jared Brownridge, 29th in the country in scoring at 19.9 PPG, nailed a three and followed that with a couple of layups as the Broncos took a 56-49 advantage. After that, the refs returned with a vengeance, whistling 22 fouls over the last ten minutes. San Diego got within a point at 61-60 at the under 4 but the next three minutes saw six fouls and a parade to the charity stripe, with the Broncos making 5 to the Toreros 3. There was still a chance for the visitors, but when Brownridge made a layup to make it 68-63, San Diego was forced to foul. Brownridge made four more free throws and KJ Feagin added a couple, and only a last second three from San Diego made the score look closer than it really was.

There were 51 total fouls (a few were intentional), excruciating to watch for 40 minutes. Bronco Emmanuel Ndumanya fouled out in 9 minutes of action. What surprised me was how they were so concentrated in the first ten minutes and last ten minutes; the middle part of the game was quite fun to watch. I am not blaming the officials as they are told to call the game tightly, but the rules are just too strict. I found this article to be enlightening; if the point of the rules is to make the game more free flowing, then two years on it still isn't working. I don't know what can be done, basketball is supposed to be a physical game, but it seems like even incidental contact can lead to a whistle these days.


San Diego has a player named Jito Kok (#33 above) and a gutsy female fan brought a sign "I ♥ Kok". The name does lead to plenty of basketball puns too. For example, when he swatted away a shot, it was a "Kok Block"; a travel was a "Kok Walk" and of course, any time he tried a field goal, it was a "Kok Shot".



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