Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bryant Bulldogs 71 at Sacred Heart Pioneers 72 (NCAA Basketball, NEC) - January 30, 2016


If you are a regular reader, you know that there are 351 Division I basketball programs in the country,  and at least that number of arenas (some schools play at two facilities), making NCAA hoops a great sport for winter roadtripping. I'm always looking to add to my venue count in this sport, so when fellow sports traveler Gary of Royalty Tours mentioned that he would be driving to see the Sacred Heart Pioneers on Saturday afternoon, I said that I would join him. The campus is in Fairfield, Connecticut, close to New York but not easily accessible on transit, so I wanted to take advantage of sharing a rental car. When I checked the overall schedule, I saw that Yale had a night game in nearby New Haven (the two venues are only 20 miles apart) and Gary agreed to go there as well instead of watching AHL hockey at Bridgeport.

Gary picked me up in just after 1:00 and the King and Frank joined for the short ride to Sacred Heart. We arrived about an hour before the 3:30 tip and parked a short walk away from the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center, more commonly known as the Pitt Center.



There isn't much to see outside the gym, other than a sitting sculpture of the Pioneer mascot, Big Red, who has a very evil grin, a bit out of place at a Roman Catholic university. Who wants to sit next to this guy?



Inside, there are a few trophies honouring those Pioneer teams and individuals who brought glory to the school.



The gym has several banners, with fencing the sport that seems to generate the most success. Sacred Heart did win the Division II basketball national championship in 1986; they transitioned to Division I in 1999-2000 and have yet to qualify for March Madness.



The gym itself is very basic. There are two seating areas on either sideline, and a small end zone section where the cheerleaders rest between performances. Tickets are $12 for the lower seats on the far sideline, which are benches but come with seatbacks, while the rest of the seating area is $10 for general admission. There is a tiny concession stand with very limited options, such as a $2 hot dog. I didn't notice a grill anywhere near here, so I wouldn't recommend buying anything other than a can of soda here, a bargain at $1. There are also vending machines, where bottles are $1.50.



This is really one of the least appealing venues I've seen for college basketball. The campus is in the middle of nowhere, and there were few fans to add to the atmosphere, perhaps scared away after being told to "SHU" repeatedly. To be fair, the school itself is only 53 years old, and it doesn't have a storied athletic history, but they could do a bit more to make it stand out.



The visitors were the Bryant Bulldogs and both teams came in at 4-5 in NEC play. Cane Broome (#1 for Sacred Heart in grey and red below) was the leading scorer in the NEC, averaging 21.9 PPG, good for 14th in the country. Bryant's Dan Garvin (#22 below) is from nearby Bethel and brought a small cheering section along with him. The first half was fast-paced with a lot of back-and-forth play and relatively few fouls as the Pioneers led 38-35 at the break despite 14 points from Garvin.



In the second half, the refs started to call the game much tighter (there was no real change in the physicality of the play) and as a result, the game started to drag. Neither team shot particularly well, but Sacred Heart had built a 69-64 lead with a minute to go. Bryant called timeout with 35 seconds left and off that play, Hunter Ware drained a three while being fouled by Sean Hoehn. Ware sank the free throw, and then on the ensuing inbounds play, pressed Sacred Heart into turning the ball over out of bounds. The refs took an eternity to verify that play, but it was Bryant ball, and off the inbounds, Ware immediately swished another three in a play that was identical to the one before. That's seven points in seven seconds of game time (and nearly four minutes of real time thanks to the refs) and it was 71-69 Bulldogs.



Sacred Heart called timeout and no surprise that the ball was going to Broome. He swept to the right elbow, stepped back, and launched a three that rattled in with 11 seconds left to give the Pioneers the 72-71 lead. Another timeout, another delay as the refs checked something or other, and then Bryant had one final chance. Shane McLaughlin (#4 above) dribbled away a few seconds then drove to the basket, only to miss the layup in a crowd as the buzzer sounded. Pioneers win! You can watch the last 5 minutes here, note that the final minute of game play took over ten minutes in real time. It might seem like an exciting ending, but it took so freaking long to play out that most fans just wanted the game to finish either way so they could get on with their lives.



There's your final above. Garvin finished with 25 points, while Broome had 17 for the winners.

Notes

I mentioned how several schools play games at two facilities: one on-campus gym for lesser opponents and then a larger multipurpose venue for conference games. St. John's and UConn are two examples. In these cases, only the campus arena counts as the "home" arena and those are the ones I am interested in visiting. My count after this one was 37.

I saw Bryant on the road last season when they beat Wagner by a point. Those are the only two 1-point games that the Bulldogs have played over those two seasons. They are based in Smithfield, Rhode Island and I plan to visit there next season.



Basketball can be a great sport but there are too many timeouts and other delays as the game winds down that make those final few seconds excruciatingly long. On three occasions in the dying minutes, the refs had to double check to make sure they got the right call on an out-of-bounds play or something else. So they'd stand there and watch the replay a bunch of times while fans got restless. Get used to pictures like the one above as replay is becoming a crutch for these guys (in all three cases the original call was correct). Seriously, ten minutes to play one? I really wish somebody would do something, when a 40-minute game takes over two hours, there is something wrong.

Best,

Sean

Friday, January 29, 2016

Niagara Purple Eagles 69 at Marist Red Foxes 66 (NCAA Basketball, MAAC) - January 28, 2016


I had planned to take a trip to Poughkeepsie to see Marist hoops last weekend, but the winter storm that paralyzed New York City forced me to postpone that journey until Thursday. It worked out quite well, as there was also a women's game to see beforehand. Interestingly, the two visiting schools were different, with Siena facing the ladies in a fight for first place in the MAAC, while the guys took on Niagara in a battle of also-rans.

MTA

Poughkeepsie is the last stop on Metro-North's Hudson Line, which runs parallel to the Hudson River. The ride on the express train is just under two hours and costs $35.50 return if you travel during off-peak hours. Make sure to sit on the left side on the way up for nice views of the river.



Anyway, Metro-North is part of New York's massive transit system, known as MTA. This stands for Metropolitan Transit Authority, but a more accurate acronym is Maybe Train Arrives. Certainly, I've been spoiled after so long in Japan, where trains almost always run on schedule, but the service here in New York is just not very good, particularly outside of commuting hours. Schedules are rarely followed, signal outages are common, and constant track work forces weekend line closures. To be fair, the system runs 24/7, but that doesn't benefit me very often; I'd rather have more regular and reliable service between 6 am and midnight. I have been late to games on several occasions when a train failed to show or was significantly behind schedule, so much so that I leave 30 minutes earlier than recommended by their trip planner. With trains to Poughkeepsie leaving Grand Central only once per hour, I decided to take the 1:43, which would give me some time to grab lunch at a bar before heading to McCann Arena for the women's game, which started at 5.

Of course, MTA had other ideas. The train left Grand Central on time, but at the first stop in Harlem, the engine crapped out. Yep, it just stopped working. Safe to say that this never happened to me in my time in Japan, but New Yorkers are used to this, so everyone just crossed to platform to catch the local train to Croton-Harmon, where we switched to a train that was waiting for us. I was surprised that nobody was in the least bit angry (New Yorker drivers honk their horn approximately 1 nanosecond after the light turns green), but in the end, we arrived only 40 minutes behind schedule. I decided to stick with my plan to have a decent lunch and enjoyed some time at the Derby, just a block from the station, forgoing the first quarter of the women's game.

For those of you saying "first world problems", I agree that I am complaining about trivialities, but I will say that the New York transit system is not "first world" and the one thing that keeps the city from truly being world class. If you plan a trip to New York and will visit anywhere outside Manhattan, be prepared for some waiting, either on the platform or on the train.

McCann Arena

Anyway, I left the pub and walked the mile or so to Marist's campus, my second trip here after seeing a football game there in 2014. McCann Arena is just to the left of the main entrance to campus and from the outside is rather nondescript. The only indication of basketball being played was the steady crowd walking towards the entrance. As it was dark and my crappy camera is broken, I did not take a picture of the exterior.



The first thing I noticed upon entering was the MAAC championship trophy, which was won by Manhattan the last two seasons. Ironically, it has never been won by Marist, who were members of the ECAC Metro Conference when they made their only two tournament appearances in 1986-87. The most famous basketball alumnus is Rik Smits, who was drafted #2 overall and enjoyed a long career with the Indiana Pacers. Smits donated the floor, which is dominated by the Red Fox logo. His number 2 jersey is also retired.



Before you enter the gym proper, there is a small hallway with all the MAAC championships listed. You generally only hear about college football and basketball, but there are 21 other college sports that rely on the money brought in by the more popular activities. It is good that schools recognize these achievements equally and visitors should take a minute or two to see what at which sport the school excels (Swimming and Diving are the big winners at Marist).



McCann Arena is similar to other NCAA basketball venues, with chair backs on the sideline and bleachers in the end zone. Note that the cheerleaders and pep band sit in the end zone by the main entrance. You can stand here as well, the view from there is below.



There was a Hall of Fame with trophies and other mementos, but it was being used for another purpose so I did not go inside. There was also a small concession stand but having just eaten, I did not bother to have a look. Outside food is not allowed, but nobody checks, so you can sneak in a bottle of Coke as I did.

Women's Game

As mentioned, it was a doubleheader, with the women playing first. End zone tickets were $8, while those on the sideline were $10, a bargain for two games. I bought a sideline seat but was surprised at how crowded it was for the women's game. Turns out that the Marist ladies are quite successful, having represented the conference at the NCAA tournament from 2006-14, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2007, where they lost to eventual champion Tennessee.



As the crowd was predominantly older (5:00 starts will do that), the chair back seats were in high demand (above), so I decided to sit in one of the end zones and watched the game from there (view below).



When I arrived, Siena was down 24-16 with about five minutes to go in the second quarter (the women play four 10-minute periods) and they did not score a point the rest of the half, while Marist added 8 points to make it 32-16. Nothing changed in the second half as Siena continued to throw up brick after brick, with a few air balls in between. At one point they were 5/37 from the floor; it was brutal to watch. The final was 66-37, a surprising rout for a game between two teams tied for first place. It was Marist's 25th straight win over Siena, so there is some psychological barrier that prevents the Saints from competing against the Red Foxes.

In general, not enough young women play basketball competitively to make mid-major women's hoops interesting. There are a few good teams in the power conferences but they seem to be the same year after year, with UConn the prime example. If you are a talented basketball player, you are going to go to be recruited by one of the top schools, and there isn't enough talent to filter down to the lesser-known colleges. The result is games like this one, a blowout that was very tough to watch.

Men's Game

Many fans left after the women's game and I moved to my seat during the break. Those fans that remained seemed to have little interest in the game at hand, moving around during play and generally socializing more than observing. With Marist coming in at 1-8 while Niagara was not much better at 3-9, perhaps ignoring the game was a good strategy, but in the end, this battle was much more entertaining than the one that preceded it.



Marist used some hot shooting from beyond the arc (7/13) to take a 40-29 lead at halftime. They continued to shoot well in the second half, taking a 58-43 lead with 12 minutes to go. Then the wheels came off. Over the next 8 minutes, the Red Foxes missed all but one jumper and turned the ball over three times to allow the Purple Eagles back into the game, down 62-58. Matt Scott then drained a three, only the second of the game for Niagara, and the lead was down to one. Another Marist turnover was followed by a Scott layup and the visitors had their first lead of the contest at 63-62 with just over three minutes to play. Marist fought back to tie the game at 66 with 16 seconds left and overtime loomed. I should mention at this point that the train back to New York was scheduled for 9:54, and it was about 9:20 at this point. It is a 20-minute walk to the station, so I had plenty of time, but if the game was extended, then I would be waiting an extra hour for the 10:54 train, so I hoped for a winner from either team. Niagara called timeout and ran a play for Karonn Davis, who was 0/8 from the field so far. Amazingly, he hit a three from the corner with 2.7 seconds left, and the Purple Eagles celebrated by calling timeout, while I celebrated silently.



Marist then called timeout, and my celebration turned to concern as I began to wonder if I would make the train. When Marist couldn't inbound the ball, they called their final timeout and I had a minor conniption. It was 9:30 by now and I couldn't wait much longer, but both teams were thankfully out of timeouts. On the next play, Marist's Kristinn Palsson took the inbounds pass and heaved a desperation attempt but it hit a speaker on the roof (the shot was ruled a turnover) to end the game. As the buzzer sounded, I turned and ran out the door, jogging part way to the station. I shouldn't have worried, the train didn't even leave on time, but at least I made it and was back home just after midnight, happy to have seen a pretty entertaining basketball game.

Stats

Scott led all scorers with 32 points and 13 boards. Despite shooting 10/21 from three-point range (compared to 3/15 for Niagara), Marist lost due to poor rebounding and free throw shooting. In particular, there were 37 rebounds on the Marist end and Niagara took 14 of those, leading to several second chances. At the other end, the Red Foxes only grabbed 5 of 28 boards. As well, Marist went 6/14 from the charity stripe, compared to 12/18 for Niagara. The point of this paragraph is that basketball requires several skills and success at one or two does not guarantee a win, you need to play a complete game and sometimes it takes a look at the stats to really understand why one team prevailed.

Best,

Sean

Friday, January 22, 2016

AHL Trip to California Planned


When the AHL decided to create a Western Division for the 2015-16 season, I knew that I would be making a journey to California to check out the five rinks as part of my quest to complete the league. Three of them (Stockton, Bakersfield, Ontario) had been in use during the previous season as ECHL venues, while San Diego's Valley View Casino Center has rejoined the active hockey rink list after nearly ten years hosting a variety of indoor soccer and football teams. The San Jose Barracuda took the easy way out, using the SAP Center, home of their parent Sharks.

The AHL schedule is weekend heavy, so it was a bit tough to determine a stretch where I could see five games in a reasonable amount of time, but I eventually found a two-weekend jaunt where I could see all five teams, thanks to a Saturday doubleheader. Of course, every empty day has to be filled up with another sporting event, even Super Bowl Sunday, the dullest day for live sports on the calendar. I really enjoy college hoops and the NBA D-League, so I'll be checking out several games in those leagues too. The entire schedule:

Wed, Feb  3 Fresno State Bulldogs at San Jose State Spartans (NCAA Basketball, Mountain West) 7:00
Thu, Feb  4 Rio Grande Valley Vipers at Bakersfield Jam (NBA D-League) 7:00
Fri, Feb  5 San Jose Barracuda at Ontario Reign (AHL) 7:00
Sat, Feb  6 New Mexico Lobos at San Diego State Aztecs (NCAA Basketball, Mountain West) 1:00
Sat, Feb  6 Milwaukee Admirals at San Diego Gulls (AHL) 7:00
Sun, Feb  7 UC Davis Aggies at UCSD Tritons (NCAA Women's Tennis, Division II) 11:00
Tue, Feb  9 Stockton Heat at Bakersfield Condors (AHL) 7:00
Wed, Feb 10 San Diego State Aztecs at Fresno State Bulldogs (NCAA Basketball, Mountain West) 8:00
Thu, Feb 11 San Diego Toreros at Santa Clara Broncos (NCAA Basketball, WCC) 7:00
Fri, Feb 12 Western Oregon Wolves at CSU East Bay Pioneers (NCAA Baseball, Division II) 14:00
Sat, Feb 13 San Antonio Rampage at San Jose Barracuda (AHL) 1:15
Sat, Feb 13 Ontario Reign at Stockton Heat (AHL) 7:30
Sun, Feb 14 UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils (NCAA Basketball, Pac 12) 6:30 
Mon, Feb 15 Montreal Canadiens at Arizona Coyotes 7:00

Note that the trip finishes in Phoenix. This is because rental cars are extremely expensive out of SFO during Super Bowl week, unless you drive them one-way to Arizona, in which case the price is about $12/day including all taxes. So I'll be racing from Stockton to Tempe (about 700 miles) to try to make the Arizona State game before finishing off watching the Habs and Coyotes, the only major league game on the slate. If you are in the area and will be at a game or want to meet up, just let me know.

This will be one of three trips to the Golden State this year. I also plan to see the Blue Jays at the Giants in late May and of course, I'll be paying a visit in the fall to see the LA Rams and Sacramento Kings in their new facilities to keep my Club 122 membership current. As always, recaps will be posted here regularly, so keep checking back!

Best,

Sean

Thursday, January 21, 2016

George Mason Patriots 62 at Fordham Rams 73 (NCAA Basketball, A10) - January 20, 2016


The oldest on-campus Division I basketball venue is Rose Hill Gym at Fordham University in the Bronx. Rose Hill was opened on January 16, 1925, making it 91 years old. The building is located right next to Jack Coffey Field, where Fordham football takes place in the fall. It was the last of the 14 NYC-area Division I gyms I had yet to visit, so I headed up there on a chilly Wednesday evening to see the Rams take on the Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI.



The front of the gym is quite nice, fitting in with the rest of the Collegiate Gothic architectural style that prevails on campus, though it is difficult to capture in the dark with a crappy, broken camera. Note that this is not the entrance for visitors, rather you must enter via the McGinley Center to the left to actually get in the gym. They even have a security guard out front to tell you this, though the doors here lead to the same area.



Inside the lobby of the McGinley Center, the entrance to the gym proper is on the right, up a small set of stairs. The lobby is also where you buy tickets. There are three price levels: $25 for balcony loge seats (above the main seating bowl and really not worth it) and reserved chair backs (right side of the photo below), $20 for reserved benches (left side, behind the player benches) and $15 for unreserved end zone seats. A small concession stand can be found here, with pretzels, candy, and bottles of soda for $2.50. There are vending machines down a set of stairs that charge $1.75 for the same bottle of soda, so if you are particularly thrifty, wander downstairs before entering the gym. There is another concession stand inside selling the same things, and you can pick up a simple roster sheet that lets you keep score for $1.



The photos below provide slightly more detail. Note the other A10 banners in the photo below; Fordham does not include itself in the display so there are only 13 hanging there. I really wish these numeric conferences would update their names to be more accurate.



There are only seven rows in the chair back section, but ten in the benches. My advice is to get the top row and rest your back against the wall as a few people are doing in the photo below.



One unreserved end zone is actually reserved for students and the pep band. It is clearly labelled as the Fordham Fanatics Student Section; if you do buy the $15 seats, better to sit at the other end which will not be as crowded.



I ended up splurging on the $20 seats and sat in the top row behind the George Mason bench. Fordham fans generally sit behind the Rams bench, so you will get more space in Section 111 and 112. The view from my spot is below; there really isn't a bad seat in the place.



As you might expect from an institution so old, there is a lot of history here, but it is somewhat hidden. You will notice an extensive Hall of Fame as you enter the gym, but this is the only display that is inside the actual venue. There are 357 inductees from as far back as the Class of 1869, including Vin Scully and Frankie Frisch.



Of course, Vince Lombardi played and coached here, and is honoured with a bust. However, it is not in the gym itself, but in part of the McGinley Center. Take the far right door when leaving the gym (not the door that leads back to the lobby) and you will find yourself in a hallway lined with memorabilia.



One one wall, they have photos and captions detailing the timeline of Fordham sports. Take the time to read these; so much has happened here but as Fordham is no longer a power school, you won't hear about it on ESPN.



There are also display cases with various trophies and other historical items. Quite fascinating and a shame that more fans don't know about this little treasure trove.



Most surprising to me was the 1942 Sugar Bowl Trophy (below). The game was played on January 1st, 1942, just 25 days after Pearl Harbor. Fordham was ranked sixth in the country and played #7 Missouri, with the final score being 2-0 in the Rams favour. It remains the lowest-scoring untied bowl game in history (there have been four 0-0 ties) and the trophy resides in this unassuming hallway on Fordham's campus. Get there early and take a few minutes to explore, it isn't all that big. You can also look around after the game.



Speaking of the game, George Mason came to town for this midweek A10 battle. Both teams were 1-4 in conference play, though Fordham had enjoyed a successful non-conference slate, running off nine straight against luminaries such as Fairleigh Dickinson and Coppin State.



The game started with a bang with Antwoine Anderson (#0 above) completing a thunderous alley-oop with Mandell Thomas getting the assist. When Christian Sengfelder (below) added a layup, the Rams were ahead 4-0 and they never looked back, leading from wire-to-wire. GMU only sank eight field goals in the first half, and stayed close thanks to 10/10 shooting from the charity stripe as Fordham went into the break up 37-28 despite nary a trip to the line themselves.



The Rams widened the lead early in the second half as the Patriots continued to struggle, missing their first four shots while Anderson and Sengfelder added six points between them. With the score 47-33, GMU went on a 13-5 run to narrow the deficit to six. The teams traded a few baskets as the Pats hung around. With just over two minutes left, poor shot selection from Fordham's Joseph Chartouny (from Quebec), who chucked a couple of ridiculously long-range threes on consecutive possessions, allowed GMU to get within 4 at 62-58. But Anderson drained a critical three on the next trip down and when GMU missed their ensuing shot, they were forced to foul. The Rams sank 5 of 6 from the line in the final minute and change to win 73-62 in a game that was closer than it should have been.



There is the final below on one of the very nice end zone scoreboards that likely was not around when the gym first opened. Anderson led all scorers with 23, including 9 of 10 from the floor.



Fordham was outrebounded 41-27, including yielding 11 of 33 boards on their own glass, but they won because of superb ball control, turning the ball over only five times, compared to 17 Patriot miscues.

There are two other players worth mentioning. Ryan Canty played one minute for Fordham and managed three fouls in that time, along with a block. That's impressive. For George Mason, freshman Otis Livingston II, a Jersey native, had friends and family in the stands and he was definitely trying to impress. Speedy and with good hand, Livingston was a whirling dervish, dribbling in and around Ram players all night long. His energy was entertaining to watch but not particularly effective in the end, as he finished with just 7 points and 2 assists in 30 minutes. It is worth checking out the rosters at these games to see if any visiting players are local products and to focus on them as they will let nerves get the best of them or have a game to remember.

Notes

The oldest Division I venue is Matthews Arena, where the Northeastern Huskies play both hoops and hockey. Based on what I can tell, it is just a block from campus. I'll be going there next season to see both teams play.

Next Up

Did you know that there is NCAA men's volleyball? There are only 22 Division I schools, but one of them is NJIT, who have a game tomorrow against Division III Marymount. With a winter storm coming in this weekend, though, that game has been cancelled, so I will probably go next week instead. That storm has also led me to postpone my trip to Poughkeepsie, home of Marist basketball, until next week. Check back for updates as New York overreacts to a few inches of snow. Or a lot of snow as it turns out. Over two feet worth!

Best,

Sean

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!

Best,

Sean