Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Virginia Tech Hokies 71 at Boston College Eagles 56 (NCAA Basketball, ACC) - February 23, 2016


I'm on my way to Maine to see the AHL's Portland Pirates as my silly quest to complete that league continues. But it is even sillier to drive all that way for just one game when there are so many other options that lead to a short sports road trip. For example, the Boston College Eagles were hosting Virginia Tech in an ACC battle on Tuesday night, which provided a good stopping point before continuing on to Portland. My buddy Eddie joined me for this game and we drove up from New York, arriving in Boston in the early evening.



The Eagles play in Conte Forum, named for alumnus Silvio O. Conte, who served 32 years in the House of Representatives. The venue is on campus and there is a free garage nearby, but we found parking on Beacon Street so we just left the car there to avoid any possible postgame traffic. Ha! In order for there to be traffic, you need fans, but BC basketball barely registers in Boston's crowded sports scene. Look at the lonely security guard below, staring out the window, wishing for a crowd to appear so he could do his job.



The reason that basketball is largely ignored here is that Boston College is a hockey school and a very good one at that. They have won three national championships in the last decade (2008 trophy below, and also in 2010 and 2012), while the basketball team languishes at the bottom of the powerful ACC. When another low-ranking school like Virginia Tech pays a visit, only die-hard hoops heads make it out.



As such, you can sit where you want. We used StubHub to buy lower bowl tickets because they were cheaper than the upper bowl tickets at the box office. Face value for these good seats is $30, but they were $9 including fees online, while an upper deck ticket will cost $10 for the end sections.



Note that the upper deck seats are just benches, but as it is pretty much free seating for these lesser opponents, you can move down to the comfy seats.



The venue is very attractive, with the maroon seats going well with the court. You can see many banners on display; there is a ton of history here but most of it is for hockey.



Along the concourse you can find a number of different displays that are worth checking out. The lack of fans is an advantage here as you can read at your leisure.



For each sport, all former Eagles that have made the pros are shown. Below is a selection of hockey players; Joe Mullen might be the most famous, but there are over a dozen others still in the NHL now, including Cory Schneider of the Devils.



Current Flame Johnny Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker Award in 2014.



The highlight is the Hall of Fame at one end of the arena. Do take your time to go through this impressive collection; many of the athletes did not turn pro but you will see a few familiar names.



Of course, Doug Flutie is here, though the likeness on his plaque is anything but.



There are also banners honouring championship teams, such as the 2010 hockey squad who shut out Wisconsin in the final at Ford Field.



Inside the gym, those with retired numbers are honoured prominently too. Like I said, there is a lot here, so get there early if you enjoy this sort of thing.



Basketball does get short shrift, but Canadian Olivier Hanlan was named Eagle of the Year for 2015 before being drafted by Utah in the second round. He is now playing in Lithuania.



Finally, there is a sculpture of an eagle just inside one of the entrances, just in case you forgot which team you were watching. Perhaps it should be covering its eyes when the basketball team takes the court.



Obviously this is a great venue for hockey and I hope to be back next season. For basketball though, it can safely be ignored, as most of Boston has been doing for years now. That's too bad, because BC used to be in the Big East and went to the Elite Eight in 1982; now that they are in the ACC you can expect more seasons like this one.

The Game

The Eagles came into the game 0-14 in conference play (one of three winless teams including Chicago State and Rutgers), though a 68-65 loss to North Carolina a few weeks back was promising. The Hokies were 6-8 and had lost five in a row on the road.



The teams combined to miss four shots in the first 45 seconds, a sign of things to come. Eventually a few shots started to drop, and when Dennis Clifford (#24 in the foreground above) followed an offensive board with a layup, the Eagles were only down 19-18 with 7:21 to go in the first half.



That was as close as they would come though, as they missed their next four shots and turned the ball over a couple of more times while VT got hot to go on a 13-0 run, led by Chris Clarke (#15 above) who had five points and an assist over that span. The Eagles did end the half on a fantastic putback dunk from Garland Owens (#5 above) that was the top play on the late edition of SportsCenter, but they were still down 40-27 at the break.



The Hokies started the second half on an 8-2 run that pretty much sealed the game, and the Eagles never got closer than 14 the rest of the way, losing 71-56. The home team shot 35.5%, including a dismal 5/28 (17.9%) from long range, while Virginia Tech sank 26 of 53 from the field (49.1%), 4/12 from downtown. Not a memorable game except for that thunderous dunk.



Notes

On the way to Boston, Eddie mentioned a place near Fenway Park where the Black Sox scandal had first been agreed to. This is the Boston Hotel Buckminster and coincidentally, I was staying there. The Fenmore Grill's decor is dedicated to the event, and there is a plaque outside commemorating it.



The hotel is right next to Fenway Park and my room had a view. Not much of a view, but a view nonetheless. As much as I hate the Red Sox and David Price, the sight of this ballyard is always breathtaking.



After the game, we took a brief walk through campus. Blow is Gasson Hall, which lies just northeast of the arena and is quite an impressive sight at night.



You might have noticed that this post has more photos than usual. I recently purchased a new phone with a decent camera, so it is much easier to take pictures quickly, so expect more posts like this one going forward.

Best,

Sean

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