Saturday, February 28, 2015

San Antonio Rampage 4 at Oklahoma City Barons 2 (AHL) - February 27, 2015

If you missed the news, the AHL is moving 5 teams to the west coast for the 2015-16 season. One of these will be the Edmonton Oilers' farm team, currently playing in Oklahoma City. They are on their way to Bakersfield, where the ECHL's Condors are currently competing. When I first heard that the Barons would be moving, I decided to pay a visit as it would be nice to get out of the New York winter. Well, Mother Nature had other ideas. I had a nice road trip planned to Dallas and OKC, but a small winter storm hit the area on Friday, causing me some minor difficulties, including having the Oklahoma Sooner baseball game I planned to attend moved to Las Vegas. I spent Thursday night near DFW airport and awoke to a dusting of snow (a couple of inches of snow with temps around 20F), but the radio referred to it as a major winter blast. If only they knew what a winter blast really is.

Driving from DFW to OKC took just over 5 hours (a 200-mile trek) because Texans don't know how to drive in this sort of weather (i.e. slow down, don't brake when you hit some ice, minimize lane changes). There were dozens of accidents reported on the radio and I passed at least ten spinouts along the way. Word of advice: if you've never driven in snow and don't have snow tires, don't risk it. Also, don't drive 20 MPH on an interstate without your lights on and blowing snow. You are a danger to yourself and everyone else. Stay home and be safe. This advice should have been heeded by about half the drivers in the DFW Metroplex today.

Anyway, I finally made it to Oklahoma City, where the snow was just flurries and traffic was moving OK. The chill certainly fits hockey well and the Barons were not cancelling their two-game weekend set, so I bundled up and headed over to Cox Convention Center to see them host the San Antonio Rampage.

Cox Convention Center Arena

Located across the street from the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Cox Convention Center is a nondescript building that houses what is actually a pretty good minor hockey rink. Too bad it is about to go into mothballs, at least in this capacity.

The team has really adopted the Oilers as their parent club, with their logo (above), oil derricks around the concourse (below), a mascot named Derrick, and uniforms that match.

There's art on the doors to the seating bowl which adds a lot to an otherwise dreary concourse. Whoever is running this club really put a lot of thought into making the arena more than just another stop on the minor-league circuit.

Inside the seating bowl, the concourse has more signage that is worth a second look. There are several "Built in OKC panels" that list players that played here, including with the old Blazers of the CHL, who were Toronto's farm team for a few seasons in the mid-1970s. Tiger Williams played 39 games (and earned 202 penalty minutes) here before being called up to the Maple Leafs in 1974.

The only other thing worth noting is that the Barons have a nice special on Fridays, with $2 Buds and $1 hot dogs. Even then, only 2,560 fans showed up.

As the CCCA won't be used a pro rink next season, there is not much point in describing it any further. I expect that an ECHL team will eventually move here as there seems to be a good fan base and a rink that will be ready to use.

The Game

The Barons led the Western Division with 72 points, while the visiting San Antonio Rampage (Florida's affiliate) were 2nd, seven points back. It didn't take long for San Antonio to get on the board as Mark Mancari (#26 above, played junior in Ottawa) ripped a shot that beat Baron keeper Laurent Broissoit up high just 89 seconds in. OKC tied it at 4:44 when Brad Hunt (who enjoyed 11 games with Edmonton this season) joined the rush, took the puck after crossing the blue line, faked a slap shot, moved to his left and slid a perfect shot along the ice to surprise Michael Houser (stretching out below).

The Rampage scored the only goal of the second when a loose puck bounced to NHL veteran John McFarland (who had a brief spell with the Ottawa 67s) alone in front of a helpless Broissoit. A minute into the third, another lucky bounce saw the puck land on the stick of NHL veteran Shane O'Brien, who snapped one home. The Barons got that one back on a power play marker from Bogdan Yakimov but they could not get any closer, giving up an empty netter in the last minute to lose 4-2.

This was a pretty entertaining matchup, with a lot of back and forth play. Compared to some of the snoozers I've seen in the NHL this year, this might have been the best value for the money, with tickets just $10 and the aforementioned special limiting my food budget to $6.


The bench is too small to allow the backup goalie (Tyler Bunz in this case) to sit there, so he has to sit behind the glass and chat with the staff. Not a bad gig.

I have plans to visit Manchester, Worcester, and Glens Falls in March. All three will be losing their team to the west coast. Norfolk is also heading to California, but I don't know if I'll be able to squeeze a visit there before the end of the season, but I'll try.

Next Up

I have a college basketball doubleheader today (Oklahoma at 1, UT-Arlington at 7:15), but with a 3 hour drive between them and the weather still a bit wonky, I don't think I will make the second game. Check back Sunday to see if I did.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 2015 CFL Road Trip

The 2015 CFL schedule was released last week and I immediately began planning a road trip to take in all nine teams. However, this year is rather odd as the stadiums in both Toronto and Hamilton have other engagements (notably the Pan Am Games) that mean that neither club will play a game at home in the first five weeks of the season. The Argos do have a home game in that time though, but it will be played in Fort McMurray against the Eskimos. So much for eastern bias.

A perfect CFL road trip should take no more than 5 weeks. Ideally, Montreal and Ottawa would be home in the first week, then Toronto and Hamilton the next. Winnipeg and Saskatchewan would take the third week of your journey, with Calgary and Edmonton occupying the fourth before finishing with a single game in Vancouver. If you preferred to start in the West, simply reverse that list. Assuming a return to your starting point, the ideal trip would take about 10,200 km (this is the CFL road trip, thus kilometres are used to measure distance), assuming that you stay in Canada the whole way.

No such perfect lineup exists this season, but you can still get a trip done in just under five weeks with only a bit of extra driving. The scheduling quirk means that you can't really start a trip until July 18 with Winnipeg at Calgary, and then follow up with games on the following in three consecutive days in BC, Edmonton, and Saskatchewan (that's a lot of driving) before heading to Winnipeg on July 30. You could again see three games in three days between August 7-9 in Ottawa, Toronto, and Hamilton before finishing in Montreal on August 13. Return to Calgary over three days, making the trip 30 days long and taking about 10,500 km.

However, this is not the trip that I would take, because I would use hometown Ottawa as a starting and finishing point. Starting with those three consecutive eastern games listed above, you could then move west, hitting Winnipeg and Calgary on back-to-back days, checking out BC (and the minor league Vancouver Canadians) from Aug 18-20, and then start back east to Regina. Since you skipped Edmonton, you'll have to backtrack there before making the long trek to finish up in Montreal. The backtrack is not really necessary, as Edmonton is also home on August 21 but that would limit your time there; I'd rather see the Argos on my birthday. The full schedule is below:

Fri, Aug 7  Montreal at Ottawa 7:30
Sat, Aug 8  Saskatchewan at Toronto 7:00
Sun, Aug 9  Winnipeg at Hamilton 7:00
Fri, Aug 14 Toronto at Winnipeg 7:00
Sat, Aug 15 Ottawa at Calgary 8:00
Thu, Aug 20 Montreal at BC 7:00
Sat, Aug 22 Calgary at Saskatchewan 6:00
Fri, Aug 28 Toronto at Edmonton 7:00
Thu, Sep 3  BC at Montreal 7:30

That is exactly 28 days (well, 29 if you party in Montreal on the last night and return to Ottawa on the Friday), taking 11,500 km (just under 7,200 miles), quite a bit of driving for just 9 games. Obviously a CFL trip is not nearly as difficult as the NFL trip I took in 2013 in terms of total time, but with teams in Canada so spread out, you end up driving 800 miles (1280 km) for each game (that was 625 miles per game for the NFL trip). One thing I like about this plan is that you see every team but Edmonton and Hamilton on the road, and the Argos twice.

So will I take it? It is tempting, but there is a lot of downtime between games and few other sports to see in the Canadian summer. I'll decide in July, so stay tuned.

Update: No trip this year, I'll be doing minor league baseball for two weeks in August instead. Check back for a schedule next month.



Monday, February 23, 2015

NCAA Hoops Weekend - February 20-21, 2015

The college hoops regular season is nearing completion, with just one more week before tournament play starts. As I expect to be in Oklahoma this coming weekend, this past one was my last chance to add some local venues to my list. Thanks to a little help from my friend Eddie, I was able to see three games in three venues in three conferences in the two days, bringing my venue count to 529 (only 27 of those are NCAA basketball courts though, still 324 to go).

Saint Peter's Peacocks at Fairfield Stags 

The first stop was Bridgeport, CT, where the Fairfield Stags were hosting Saint Peter's in a MAAC battle. Getting to Bridgeport is pretty easy via the Metro North out of Grand Central, but getting to Grand Central requires a ride on the subway. As has been the case over the past few weeks, that was the hard part. Trains in my area of town leave every 5 minutes on the weekend. As I was walking to the station, one train passed by, so I figured I have a couple of minutes to wait by the time I got to the platform. Hahaha, what was I thinking? The next train appeared 17 minutes later as passengers shivered and fumed. Actually most New Yorkers are used to the abysmal service and seem to accept it with good grace, but I have yet to achieve such inner peace. Anyway, I was sure I would miss the Metro North connection, but I arrived at Grand Central four minutes before the scheduled departure, raced to buy a ticket and then ran to the train, boarding with about 30 seconds to spare. If you are in New York City and you need to be somewhere on time, allow for 30 minutes extra when travelling on the weekend in the winter.

Anyway, I disembarked from the train 90 minutes later and walked the 5 minutes to Webster Bank Arena, where the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers also play. It seems like a good venue for hockey, but it is not well-suited for basketball. All tickets are $15, with only 3 sections on each side of the court made available for seating, while a black curtain hangs over one end of the court and displays the team's rather limited achievements.

Even with a relatively small turnout (2,867), the seating area seems very crowded, yet the large size of the building prevents any real atmosphere from forming during the game. Concessions are minimal with the best option perhaps the Limerick Pub (below), which had some TVs and draft beer, which is not allowed in the seating area. I'll return for an AHL game this season and look forward to seeing the venue when it is fully operational.

The Stags came in at 4-13 and were on a ten-game losing streak, while Saint Peter's was 7-10 in MAAC play. I saw this matchup last year at Jersey City, when Desi Washington hit a last-second three to give the Peacocks the win. Washington also beat Fairfield with similar last second shots in Bridgeport as well as their tournament game, getting him some national exposure.

The game was scheduled to start at 2 pm, but a ladies game before that went long, and then they had a ceremony for senior day (the Stags only have one senior, Steve Johnston, so it was a quick ceremony). By the time we tipped off, it was 2:30 and I was concerned about making the 4:45 ferry. Fortunately, the game moved along quickly, with both teams holding the ball for long periods of time before shooting or running a play. Just before halftime, however, the ball went out of bounds with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. There was a question as to which team touched it last so the officials decided to take five minutes to do a replay review to see which team would inbound the ball before the buzzer. I found this silly as it is impossible to do anything with one-tenth of a second on the clock, and in the end Fairfield inbounded without running a play, taking a 27-26 lead into the half.

Fairfield showed poor scheduling during the halftime as well. They had a long ceremony honouring past athletes, and when that finished, the little kids came out to play. But they had only a couple of minutes before being shooed off the court as the teams returned from the break, leading their coach to question the guy organizing the whole thing. The coach eventually explained to the kids that sometimes grownups are idiots, and I guess everyone understood, but I hope the kids got to play after the game or are invited back.

Anyway, the the Stags maintained their small advantage as both teams missed shot after shot throughout the second half. With the score 41-36 and 8 minutes left, Fairfield went on an 11-1 run over the next seven minutes, mostly because Saint Peter's couldn't make a bucket to save their lives, and won handily 57-43.

The star was Tyler Nelson (far left below), who finished with 26 points on 8/15 shooting including four from beyond the arc. Washington led Saint Peters with 10 points as the team went 9/41 (22%) in 2-point shooting (they were 7/13 from long distance, bizarrely). This wasn't a bad game; it was close until the final few minutes, and it was entertaining to listen to the Fairfield fans, who are definitely not fair-weather this season, cheer on their team to a well-deserved win. Still, Webster Bank Arena has earned its place as my least favourite college basketball venue, as it is just too big to capture the atmosphere that makes the college game more entertaining than the NBA.

The game finished around 4:25, giving me just enough time to walk over to the ferry, which runs between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson 365 days a year, and is very useful for those traveling to Boston from the Hamptons or other parts of eastern Long Island. The pedestrian fare is $18, which you pay at the purser's desk, getting a ticket which you hand in when you alight. The ride takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and as I looked for a seat, I saw a door in the distance with those magic words: Cocktail Lounge. A small bar with several tables waited inside (draft beer for $6.50), and with TVs showing replays of that afternoon's Islanders-Capitals game, I settled down and enjoyed a couple of pints to pass the time.

Binghamton Bearcats at Stony Brook Seawolves

Despite the weather, the ferry arrived at Port Jefferson on schedule, and Eddie was there to pick me up. Port Jeff is very close to Stony Brook, who were hosting a night game in their shiny new gym, the Island Federal Credit Union (IFCU) Arena. I came out to Stony Brook last year to see one of their final games in their temporary home. The new one is in the same building as their old gym and uses the same main entrance, but is on the other side of the lobby. It is very impressive, with red seats on all four sides and a wide concourse all the way around. Two concession windows were doing a brisk business, while those with season tickets could enjoy a free buffet downstairs.

There was a surprisingly large crowd (3,724) who had braved the elements to see this one. The visitors were the Binghamton Bearcats (4-10) and they were no match for the Seawolves (9-4), who took a 9-2 lead early and never relinquished the advantage, although Binghamton did get within a basket a couple of times.

Roland Nyama (in white below) led all scorers with 22, including 6 of 7 treys, while Willie Rodriguez (in dark green below) managed a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards in the loss.

Stony Brook won 64-52 in a game that wasn't particularly compelling. The America East tournament will be held at the higher seeded schools this season, so Stony Brook will have at least one playoff game here, which is worth attending if you happen to be in the area.

William & Mary Tribe at Hofstra Pride

On Sunday, it was a return to Long Island, this time for some Colonial Athletic action at Hofstra. With game time at 4:30 and Google Maps suggesting a trip would take just under two hours, I followed my own advice and gave myself 30 extra minutes. Good thing I did, as I needed every second. Yet again MTA was randomly running trains, so I waited far longer than usual. There were also no express routes on the weekend due to construction, so it took over an hour to get to Jamaica, normally a 45-minute trek. Then the NICE bus from Jamaica took nearly an hour instead of its scheduled 40 minutes. Thankfully, the bus from Hempstead Terminal was on time, and I walked into the Mack Sports Complex at 4:30 on the dot.

There was a small line for tickets, with the gentleman in front of me taking ages to buy a pair. He didn't want to sit by the band, and didn't want to sit on the aisle, and on and on and on. Just buy a freaking ticket, it's a 2-hour game for God's sake! There were two ticket windows, so some thoughtful fans at the other one, seeing me boiling over at yet another senseless delay, allowed me in front of them to pick up the cheapest single ($12). I walked into the court with 15 seconds having been played and settled in to my seat, finally able to relax. Turns out that I was one row in front of Gary and the King in a nice coincidence and we chatted throughout the contest, mostly to complain about the horrid transit (little did we know that the ride home would take nearly 3 hours!)

The visitors were the William and Mary Tribe (10-5) so it was a Tribe vs. Pride day, with Hofstra coming in just a game back. Marcus Thornton (no relation to the NBA player of the same name) was the guy to watch for the visitors, his 19.3 PPG ranked 25th in the country.

This turned out to be a great game. The Tribe scored first on a hoop-and-harm and took the early 3-0 lead. Amazingly, they never trailed from that point, although Hofstra would tie the game on a few occasions. With W&M up 73-63 and 4:31 to go, Hofstra's Juan'ya Green made back-to-back threes to get the home team back in it. They were Green's fourth and fifth treys of the half, and he followed that up with a couple of layups and two foul shots as Hofstra fought back to tie the game at 78 with 34 seconds left.

Overtime loomed as the Tribe advanced the ball. The Pride had a foul to give and used it, leaving William & Mary with ten seconds to run a play. Thornton dribbled and then drove to the basket, where he was fouled (controversially) by Malik Nichols. That is Thornton flying through the air below while Nichols falls out of the frame.

The home fans were not happy as Thornton drained the first foul shot. Hofstra called their final timeout, perhaps in an attempt to ice Thornton, but he sank the second as  well, and Hofstra had only three seconds to go for the win. Dion Nesmith dribbled and as he went to shoot, the ball flew out of his hands. Surely a foul! Nope, the horn sounded and the game was over, with the Tribe taking an 80-78 decision. Thornton finished with 23, while Green's 21 led the losers.

A very well-played game, with both teams shooting over 45% from the field and only 29 fouls.  Hofstra committed 13 turnovers compared to just 7 for the Tribe, but the difference in the game came at the free throw line, where W&M went 17/20 while the Pride were only 7/10. With the win, William & Mary are in a four-way tie atop the CAA, which promises to hold an interesting tournament in Baltimore during the second weekend in March.


I much prefer conference games, where rivalries exist and the teams know each other. Too many teams schedule non-conference patsies, which makes overall records meaningless. All team records referred to in this post are conference only.

Next Up

I'm supposed to fly to Dallas this weekend and head up to Oklahoma City for some college baseball, but the weather forecast tells me that the game will be snowed out. I still hope to see AHL hockey in OKC, along with Sooner basketball before returning to the Dallas area for UT-Arlington hoops and Dallas Baptist baseball. Check back to see if I made it!



Friday, February 20, 2015

Bryant Bulldogs 66 at Wagner Seahawks 65 (NCAA Basketball, NEC) - February 19, 2015

My time in the United States is quite limited and this might be the only college basketball season where I am here in its entirety. So I'm going to try to see as many venues as possible in the next couple of weeks, before the tournaments get under way. As of last weekend, there were still six gyms in the New York area that I had yet to visit, including one on Staten Island, home of Wagner College. The Seahawks play out of the Spiro Sports Center, about 20 minutes from the Staten Island ferry terminal by the S66 bus (there are also free campus shuttles from the terminal). This makes weekday evening games tough to get to unless you can sneak out right at 5, as you'll want to catch the 6 pm ferry and good luck with MTA actually running trains on time in the winter.

Alighting from the bus at the Wagner College entrance, you walk up the hill to the gym, which also includes a weight room and swimming pool. Tickets are $10 but I arrived a bit late after catching the 6:15 ferry and did not see anyone selling, so I just walked into the gym without a problem. I stood in the corner for a bit and took some pictures like the one below before moving to the seating area to join Gary and the King of Royalty Tours.

The gym is pretty basic, with benches along one side. The top row has a space between you and the wall where you can put your coat, very useful in the winter. The student sections are generally behind the baskets. There is a single concession stand where a slice of pizza is only $2.50; hot dogs and other typical fare are also available.

The atmosphere was pretty good, with over 1,400 fans on hand, many of them families with children who had perfect school attendance records in January (are we that desperate to build up self-esteem in youngsters?) but the amenities are sorely lacking. Two old scoreboards, a muffled sound system, and a single electronic board in front of the scorers table are all that will keep you informed. That doesn't mean it isn't worth a trip, though I would recommend going on a weekend afternoon when you can see the campus, which is quite beautiful and offers views of Manhattan.

The Game

Bryant came in at 9-5, two games up on Wagner as the season nears its end. Both teams have pretty much clinched spots in the eight-team tournament with FDU and Central Connecticut essentially eliminated, but there was still seeding to be considered. Bryant features Curtis Oakley (nephew of Charles, #34 above) and Dyami Starks (no relation to John, but 37th in the country with 18.4 PPG), while Wagner could brag about Mike Aaman (first in the nation alphabetically, #34 below) and Marcus Burton, whose 18.6 PPG put him one spot in front of Starks.

The first 15 minutes were fairly even, with both teams jacking up bricks and generally playing poor basketball, but Wagner ended the half on a 10-2 run to take a 35-26 lead into the locker room.

Aaman scored 6 of his team-high 22 early in the second half as Wagner built a 51-38 lead with 12 minutes to go, but over the next 6 minutes, Starks dropped 8 points in leading the Bulldogs back as they tied the game at 53. A short time later, with the game knotted at 57, Starks hit a three as the final media timeout was called, and Wagner again tied it up on an Aaman layup and a free throw from JoJo Cooper (#5 below).

With 85 seconds left, Bryant called timeout and Starks hit a jumper on the ensuing play, but Wagner could not get the tying basket on their next two possessions, leading them to foul Starks with 22 seconds left. Starks hit both freebies, but Corey Hansen replied with a three for the Seahawks with 15 seconds left. The game was not over, and after Starks was again fouled and again hit both free throws (giving him a game-high 28), Cooper drove down for an easy layup to pull Wagner within 1, 66-65 and only 6 seconds to go. A foul was in order, but Bryant's Joe O'Shea lost control of the ball and it rolled helplessly down the court as the few remaining seconds ticked away. Burton picked it up and launched a futile three point attempt as the buzzer sounded and Bryant escaped with an entertaining 66-65 win.

The game was not well-played with both teams taking too many poor shots (36% combined shooting, only 6/36 from beyond the arc) but it was still fun to be there. The game took under two hours and we were able to make the 9:06 bus back to the 9:30 ferry. Only then did we encounter the MTA's lovely winter random schedule, where trains may or may not show up on time or at all. A 17-minute wait for the R train was our reward for venturing out on this very cold evening. After 15 years in Tokyo (where trains run on a schedule and meet that schedule 99% of the time) I am really having difficulty dealing with such a terrible transit system.

Next Up

My weekend will see me visit three more college basketball venues, starting with Fairfield in Bridgeport, then taking a ferry to Long Island where I will see Stony Brook's new sports center. On Sunday, I go back to Long Island for Hofstra. Check back next week for some recaps.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beautiful Bermuda

I'm just back from a weekend in Bermuda, where the only sports were on TV. They had a great selection at the resort I stayed at (Grotto Bay) though, with most of the big US sports channels and league networks, along with ESPN Europe showing the Cricket World Cup, and even CBC for a bit of Hockey Night in Canada on Valentine's Day. Seeing the Leafs lose yet again is the best way to express my love for them, wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, flights are around two hours from New York (or Boston, Atlanta and Toronto) and booking in advance during the off-season can see you getting fares in the low $200s, while hotels during this time usually have discounts too. They take US dollars at par (Bermuda dollars are not exchangeable off the island so don't take any back with you), but it is not a destination known for cheap eats, with prices for pub food about 20% higher than what you would typically pay in New York. There are some very good restaurants in Hamilton, the main city, including Coconut Rock, an Asian fusion spot with sushi that looks rather odd at first glance but is staffed by a very talented chef.

Bermuda was hit hard by Hurricane Gonzalo late last year and there are still signs of damage, but for the most part life has returned to normal, although the economy is clearly suffering and tourism is not what it once was. Despite that, those involved in the hospitality industry are extremely friendly, even at immigration, where the officer chatted with us and gave us several recommendations. All in all, a worthwhile destination for a short weekend stay when the winter blahs have got you down, and in season (June-November) probably worth a few more days when the islands are busier and quite a bit warmer.

Below are a few pictures:

Empty Beach - weather was cool and windy, with temps around 15 C, so no sunbathers yet

Front Street in Hamilton

City Hall which includes the Bermuda Art Gallery

View of Grotto Bay which is right next to the airport

The eastern portion of the islands. To the left is the Causeway that leads from the airport



Monday, February 16, 2015

DePaul Blue Demons 78 at St. John's Red Storm 86 (NCAA Basketball, Big East) - February 11, 2015

New York City and its nearby suburbs play host to 14 Division I college basketball teams: Columbia, Fairleigh Dickinson, Fordham, Hofstra, Iona, LIU Brooklyn, Manhattan, NJIT, St. Francis, St. Johns, Saint Peter's, Seton Hall, Stony Brook, and Wagner.  You could include Rutgers, Princeton, and Rider too I suppose, or even Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Yale, and Quinnipiac, depending on how wide you draw the circle. Of all these teams, St. John's is probably the most famous, simply because they play a number of their Big East contests in Madison Square Garden. Red Storm alumni include Chris Mullin, Dick McGuire, and Malik Sealy among others, and their current head coach is Steve Lavin, former bench boss at UCLA. St. John' first played in 1908 and ranks 8th in total wins among NCAA schools.

St. John's usually plays non-conference games on campus at Carnesecca Arena, but moves to MSG when conference play begins. However, there are a couple of contests every season where the Garden cannot accommodate, and the Queens campus becomes the site of a Big East battle. Such was the case last week when the DePaul Blue Demons visited St. John's in a 9:00 pm start at Carnesecca. The late tip-off meant that I could easily get there after work and add another venue to my count, now at 525. Carnesecca Arena was opened in 1961 and renamed after legendary coach Lou Carnesecca in 2004.  His signature now adorns the floor, a nice touch.

The arena is easily accessible from the Q46 bus from Kew Gardens that runs along Union Turnpike. You can alight at 175th Street if you are on the local or Utopia Parkway is you catch the limited (express in other words). The entrance is around the back of the building. You pass through a metal detector and enter the crowded arena lobby, where sponsor tables line one wall making it difficult to see the trophies on display.

There are 5,602 seats here, with most just simple benches, even down low on one side. Tickets for games here can be found on StubHub for less than $10 (I paid $6 and others paid $4) so don't even think about checking the box office, where the cheapest is $30. The two end sections are reserved for students, who turn their back when the visiting team is introduced.

Inside the seating bowl, there is a wide concourse that encircles the court, with the main concession
stand behind sections 2-4. Food here is limited and expensive for college hoops, although the Jamaican Beef Patty is your best bet at $3.50 if you are looking for something different.

The upper sections have a walkway cutting through them, with Row M the first in the topmost section. I sat here and had an unobstructed view of the proceedings (view below).

The attendance came in at just over 5,000, a surprisingly strong showing for a late weekday game. Compared to some of the smaller venues though, I found the energy to be somewhat muted as the crowd is more spaced out here. Having the game televised on CBS Sports didn't help, with way too many TV timeouts killing the flow. Overall though, Carnesecca deserves a pilgrimage from any college hoops fan; though the team has lost much of its past glory, its campus home is still a bright spot in the relatively mundane New York stadium scene.

The Game

This was similar to a great American political battle with the Red Storm taking on the Blue Demons. DePaul was 6-6 in conference including a home overtime win over St. John's (4-6) back in January. Interestingly, neither team wore its signature colour, with DePaul dressed in home white while St. John sported an alternate grey uniform.

The first half saw both teams start quickly as St. John's took a 20-18 lead into the second media timeout. Over the next three minutes though, neither club could make a basket and the frantic pace slowed. The Red Storm scored the only 5 points between the two timeouts and built a 30-21 lead before the officials got involved. One called a ridiculously late foul on St. John's, leading Felix Balamou (#10 below) to say something untoward for which he was given a technical. DePaul sank all four free throws and used the momentum shift to pull within 36-33 at halftime.

The second half saw St. John's regain their advantage and when D'Angelo Harrison (#11 below) sank back-to-back threes, the Red Storm had a 57-44 lead with just under 14 minutes left. Yet again though, they let their temper get the best of them. After DePaul scored five quick points, Harrison was busted for another technical, strangely called after DePaul's had committed a foul. The Blue Demons made the free throws and again St. John's seemed to lose their focus, allowing the Blue Demons to climb all the way back, knotting the game at 62.

Lavin didn't call timeout though, and his charges responded with a jumper from Sir'Dominic Pointer (a great basketball name) and a layup from Phil Greene IV (confusingly a senior). After a couple more timeouts, the team's traded treys before DePaul went cold, missing three shots and turning the ball over twice as St. John's went on a 9-0 run to make it 78-67. The Blue Demons would get no closer than six as the home team escaped with the win, 86-78. Harrison was on fire, sinking 10 of 14 (including 6/8 from three territory) for 33 points and adding 10 boards, an assist, a steal, and a block, playing in all 40 minutes. In fact, the St. John's starters played 182 of 200 possible minutes, a stat you rarely see these days in substitution-happy college hoops.


Felipe Lopez, who played a few seasons for the Vancouver Grizzlies, was honoured during a break in the action and presented with his diploma, which he had earned back in 1998. I wish I had known this in advance, I would have worn my 20-year-old Grizzly t-shirt.

Next Up

Wagner basketball on Staten Island on Thursday, then Canucks at Devils on Friday, followed by a weekend with many options, including Bridgeport (Fairfield basketball Saturday and Sound Tiger hockey Sunday) or perhaps a trip to Long Island to see Stony Brook and Hofstra. Check back regularly as my sports road trips are starting up again!