Monday, December 12, 2016

Howard Bison 62 at George Washington Colonials 79 (NCAA Basketball) - December 10, 2016


I spent the weekend wandering in Washington with my wife on an almost non-sports road trip. Both the Capitals and Wizards were home, but I have been to the Verizon Center enough, so concentrated on the only game that would allow me to add to my venue count, namely a college basketball tilt at George Washington University.



The Colonials play at the Charles E. Smith Center in the Foggy Bottom area of town. Their campus takes up several city blocks and the arena is in southwest corner of it all. It’s easy to get to on the Metro, with the Foggy Bottom/GWU stop the obvious choice. My friend Oliver was in town too and we walked over from the Smithsonian, about a 25-minute trek. The building itself is pretty bland, only the front entrance lets you know that there is a game going on.



GWU is in the Atlantic 10 but prices itself like a power conference stud, with the good seats (blue in the shot below) going for $50, the upper deck along the sidelines for $25, and the end zones for $20. Thus, take a few minutes to ask around for freebies before approaching the box office. Pick up a free program and game notes here too.



There is a walkway around the entire floor that separates the two levels along the sides, so the first two or three rows in the upper level are annoying to sit in as fans walk back and forth during the action. Ushers guarding the lower bowl are also very strict, so you get latecomers standing at the top of the section showing their tickets while the play is still going on. The end zones have no lower section and are quite steep and if you get in the second row, you get a clear view, so I recommend that, or at least five rows up on the side.



The stadium is fairly generic, with the highlight the floor that features several local attractions.



The four-sided scoreboard is quite good and there are more scoreboards behind each basket, but detailed stats are not displayed.



Go downstairs to find a small concession stand with a few items, as well as the trophy case. The late Yinka Dare is the most famous Colonial that I saw honoured here.



Behind one corner of the seating bowl is the Champions Club, a full-service bar that is open to all ticket holders and offers beer and wine, a rarity for an on-campus venue. The band sits in the upper level behind the GWU bench, while a dance team and cheerleading squad perform on the floor during timeouts. The fight song is played before and after the game with lyrics shown on the scoreboard so you can join in. George Washington himself (or a reasonable facsimile) also circulates through the stands trying to recruit for the Colonial Army.



Finally, check out the banners, with two of note. Red Auerbach went here back in the 1940s (there's also a red seat in the lower level in his honour as he was a season ticket holder until his death in 2006). As well, the Colonials are the defending NIT champions (beating Valpo in a game I saw at MSG).



Overall, the Smith Center is a decent hoops facility in an excellent location. Tickets are definitely way too much for this level of college hoops though (the best seats at Michigan State cost $32), which is the main downside here. If you are lucky and find something cheaper, great, but if not, take the $20 seats and enjoy the view above the action.

The Game



Cross-town rival Howard (1-6) was visiting GWU (6-4) and I expected a home blowout win, which is exactly what I got. The first half was fast paced, taking just 40 minutes as the refs only called 11 fouls. Jaren Sina of GWU hit 3 quick treys and his mates were equally adept from the outside as GWU stormed to a 24-13 lead. Howard tried a lot more driving to the basket and ended up sinking several free throws to keep it close but the half ended palindromically, 43-34 for the home team.



I fully expected the refs to tighten up in the second half, and they did just that, whistling for 23 fouls, including a few of the ticky-tack variety. The Colonials stopped hitting their shots, but Howard was unable to take advantage, getting within 13 but no closer. The last few minutes saw several more fouls despite the game being essentially decided as the final was a convincing 79-62 win for GWU.



This was an interesting game because the two teams played such different styles, with the Colonials spreading the floor and shooting from the outside, while Howard tried more isolation plays. GWU hit 13 of 26 from beyond the arc (Howard was 5/20) while taking only 25 shots from inside (hitting 10), compared to the Bison’s 40 (making 15).

Notes

The campus restaurant/pub is called Tonic at Quigley's and they gave away a $20 gift certificate to a teenager for answering a trivia question, which worked well as advertising as Oliver and I headed there after the game to watch the horribly depressing MLS Cup. Definitely worth stopping in there before or after the game (or both).

Next Up

That’s almost it for 2016. I ended up seeing 87 new venues bringing my total to 696. I won’t be doing as much next year, mainly because I’m running out of new places to go. Regardless, the schedule will be released shortly, so check back in a couple of weeks to find out where I'll be heading in 2017.

Best,

Sean

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