Monday, February 27, 2023

UTSA Roadrunners 95 at FIU Panthers 91 (NCAA Basketball, Conference USA) - February 25, 2023

This past Saturday, there were three college hoops games in the Miami area: Florida Atlantic at 2, Miami at 4, and Florida International at 7. Unfortunately, the start times meant that a true tripleheader was not possible, while family obligations and Miami traffic precluded even a doubleheader. I decided to simplify and attend the last game, which was relatively close to our hotel. I even brought my family along; it was my daughter's fourth game of the season after trips to Air Force, Lipscomb, and UMKC. Not too many kids can say they have seen four college basketball games in four states in just over a month, so I must be doing something right. Right?

Florida International (usually referred to as FIU) plays basketball out of Ocean Bank Convocation Center; from the name you can tell it is used more for graduation ceremonies than sports. Still, there is an impressive panther statue in front. The venue opened in 1986 and is on its sixth name, starting with Sunblazer Arena after the school's nickname at the time. They became the Golden Panthers in 1987 and dropped the colour in 2011.

I bought three tickets at the box office for $24, so either GA seats are $8 or kids are free and adults are $12. I had badly informed my wife that bags might be allowed, a rather stupid assumption give my experience at Fairfield a week earlier. Sure enough, her bag was not allowed and she sheepishly returned to the car, where she spent most of the first half enjoying some childless peace.

Meanwhile, I managed to tour the arena with my daughter. The concourse is very spacious given how few fans were in attendance, although it doesn't wrap around as it does in most venues. Instead, there are two entrances, one for reserved seats and one for GA. The single concession stand was offering pretty good hot dogs for $5, and you could combo up with a bag of chips and a drink for an additional fiver. You can see a bobblehead of Roary the mascot to the left in the photo above.

Inside is a very basic gym, with just a single level of seats open for basketball. There are two more levels that are folded up; capacity is listed at 5,000 and the attendance record is 4,710, but on this night there were only 1,119 on hand.

The side facing the logo is for reserved seats, while general admission is the entire opposite side. Not sure why they sell reserved seats as you can sit in the same spot for less money across the way. I particularly liked the court design, with waves on the far side and palm trees in the corners on the near side. However, it was not possible to get high enough to get a good shot. There are banners for each school in Conference USA hanging, as well as some for team accomplishments. FIU has one appearance in the NCAA tournament, coming in 1995 when they lost in the first round to eventual champion UCLA in Boise. I attended the second round game that UCLA won on the legendary Tyus Edney shot

The band sits on benches on one end, while a cheer squad and a dance team perform on occasion during timeouts. There are retired numbers for both women (in gold) and men above one end of the court. Raja Bell and Carlos Arroyo both enjoyed long careers in the NBA, while Dwight Stewart finished in college career with 2,101 points. 

In the second half, the cheerleaders set up an optical illusion wheel and a couple of inflatables to distract free throw shooters; it might have helped a bit as the visitors went 13-17 in that half compared to 12-14 in the first.

There is not much else here and probably only those on an OCD tour of all the hoops venues would make a trip to see OBCC. Still, it was a fun experience, with a rather wild game.

The Game

The University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners were in town with a terrible 2-16 conference record, while FIU, wearing North Carolina blue, was 7-10. Both teams play a fast-paced game, and there were a lot of shots, with most coming inside, leading to a lot of fouls from the zealous zebras. UTSA coach Steven Henson did not agree with a lot of the calls and received a technical for going ballistic late in the half. The Panthers were dominating the period, sinking 20 of 34, including 8 of 12 from downtown. Despite being down 56-42 at the break, I felt like the Roadrunners had a shot, partially because of the way the game was being called.

Sure enough, UTSA fought back, and got within 7 just over three minutes in. FIU coach Jeremy Ballard (seen standing next to the ref below) substituted three starters for three bench players and this strategy failed miserably as UTSA climbed even closer, getting within a pair at the under-12 media timeout. Coming out of the break, FIU put their starters back in and the game became very interesting, with several ties and lead changes. A Petar Krivokapic (watching his man below) layup for FIU knotted the game at 88-88 with 88 seconds left (yes, this was a high-scoring affair) to send up a great endgame.

The Roadrunners took the entire shot clock before John Buggs III (shooting above) drained a three. Henson called time, and he must not have said, "Don't foul the three point shot" because that is exactly what they did. Krivokapic sank all three from the stripe and it was 91-91 with 39 seconds left. As my wife prayed for no overtime, Krivokapic fouled Florida native Japhet Medor on a drive, and Medor, who seemed to have a lot of family in the crowd, nailed both his shots. The Panthers called timeout, and had a chance to tie or take the lead coming out of it, but Arturo Dean's shot just missed, and Medor grabbed the rebound, getting fouled immediately. He made both shots and the game ended 95-91 for the Roadrunners in a mild upset.

Look at the balanced scoring from UTSA below. The key was offensive rebounding, of the 41 chances off their misses, the Roadrunners grabbed 20, leading to 24 second chance points, three times as many as FIU scored. Jacob Germany had 18 boards, including 7 on the glass, to go with his 16 points.

This was the highest-scoring non-overtime game I have seen in college hoops. In fact, each team had exactly one point more than the triple overtime game at Central Connecticut a week prior.


This was my 225th basketball venue, over 50% more than hockey venues. I fear I shall be forced to relinquish my Canadian passport the next time I visit.

Next Up

I'm heading out west to start to rectify this shameful situtation, adding three AHL rinks and only two college basketball venues to my list. As always, recaps will be posted here.



Sunday, February 26, 2023

Austin Peay Governors 71 at Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 89 (NCAA Basketball, ASUN) - February 24, 2023

After leaving JetBlue Park, I made my way south and stopped at Twin Peaks to meet up with my friend Oliver, who was visiting family in the area. We caught up over a couple of cheap beers and then I headed farther south to the campus of Florida Gulf State University to resume my college hoops quest.

The Eagles play out of Alico Arena, which needs another A as you can see above. My daughter's nickname is Aliko, so I had wanted to visit here for some time. Parking is free in one of many lots out front.

There are two box offices here and I went to the wrong one, which was selling tickets for baseball, being played nearby. Once I got to the basketball box office, I was able to pick up a single for $12. As an aside, could schools avoid playing games from different sports at the same time, it would assist me in increasing my venue count? Thanks in advance.

Inside, you will immediately see a lot of trophies and basketball nets. It is hard to believe, but it has been a decade since the Eagles made it to the Sweet Sixteen and were dubbed Dunk City. They beat Georgetown and San Diego State that year and it shows how winning just two games can alter your program for a long, long time. Andy Enfield was the coach then and he moved to USC immediately; I saw the Eagles visit the Trojans in 2019. 

Before entering the gym proper, have a look at the artwork above...

...and the display honouring those who have made it to the bigs. The Coleman jersey belongs to Casey, who appeared in 58 major league games; his father and grandfather also pitched in the bigs and thus they are the answer to the trivia question: name the first family to have three generations pitch in The Show. The #41 Red Sox jersey is for Chris Sale, whose FGCU jersey is just above.

Inside, I arrived at the corner of the gym and was overwhelmed by the colour green. This was because it was Green Out night and once again, I was unprepared, wearing a sky blue shirt. 

As it was near game time, I grabbed a seat in the fourth row and managed to sit there for most of the game, only moving near the end to take a few more pictures. I loved how on either side there are three sections between the baselines and two smaller sections right at the baselines. An ideal setup for college hoops.

The view from the interior concourse at the baseline is below. The green shirts and blue seats go very well together.

Along one side, there is a Wall of Champions that honours those teams that have won silverware. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't matter what trophy you win, you must celebrate the victory and the school does that here for ASUN titles in sports that few follow. Still, the photo I took celebrates that Sweet Sixteen team.

Overall, Alico Arena was a sensory overload, no doubt helped by sunstroke and a couple of beers. It is so compact and the fans are so into it that you cannot help but get caught up in the action. It also helps to sit so close to the floor. Fort Myers has spring training and the Florida Everblades, so a doubleheader is quite possible if you have yet to visit Alico Arena.

The Game

The Austin Peay Governors were in town with a conference worst 3-14 record while the Eagles weren't much better at 6-11. But as this was their last home game of the season, they came out on fire, scoring 33 points in the first 10 minutes, a 132-point pace. There were six treys during that time, so the fans were feeling it too. They slowed down somewhat in the second part of the half, netting a mere 29 points to take a 62-37 lead into the break.

The second stanza was merely academic as the Eagles continued to dominate, and I was hoping for 100 points, but up 85-52 with 8:45 left, they took their foot off the gas and cruised to an 89-71 win.

The Eagles won every statistical category and went 13-26 from three-point land. Not a competitive game, but still a great experience.


The Eagles lost their first ASUN tournament game, which was played on the Monday after I returned home. So no Sweet Sixteen for them this year. Austin Peay was so bad as to not make the conference tournament, one of 13 teams to be so embarrassed. Update: Austin Peay fired coach Nate James after the season. A bit unfair as the move to ASUN was not his idea.



Saturday, February 25, 2023

Northeastern Huskies 3 at Boston Red Sox 5 (Exhibition, Grapefruit League) - February 24, 2023

With my daughter off on midwinter break, I used some leftover Southwest credit to book a family trip to Florida. Apparently, we are not the only ones doing so as hotel prices in the Sunshine State are ridiculous, but I was able to find a good option on points in Miami. This did cause some minor inconvenience on Friday, as I had two games to see in Fort Myers, about two hours away along Florida highways populated by some of the worst drivers in the nation. But it was well worth the trip to see the first baseball game of spring training, even if it was an exhibition contest.

The home team was the Boston Red Sox, who play their Grapefruit League games at JetBlue Park (I refuse to follow the stylized lower j that you see above). Located just north of Southwest Florida International Airport (airport code RSW), the ballpark was opened in 2012, and is part of the larger Fenway South training complex that includes six other fields and is used year-round by the Red Sox.

Parking here is $12 (credit card only) and there is no free parking within walking distance. Getting in is pretty quick and well organized, but getting out is very painful, because Daniels Parkway, the only road that leads to the stadium, gets congested very quickly and it could take ten minutes to go just a mile or so to the next intersection where you can turn left. It would probably take another ten minutes to get to the I-75, which is just two miles away. Plan accordingly.

The ticket window is at the far side of the stadium if you are walking from the parking lot, but if you are running late, you can grab a ride with one of the many golf carts. The main problem is that there is a fence surrounding the exterior concourse and it would take some time to walk around, particularly in the afternoon heat. I gladly accepted a ride, which drops you off right by the box office; you have to walk back to see the statue of Ted Williams and a kid. 

Retired numbers are displayed nearby; I found the sequence of Yaz, Pesky, and Pedro to be rather interesting, as 8-6-45 also happens to be the date of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. I believe this is just a coincidence, but who knows these days. 

As an aviation enthusiast, I appreciated seeing an airplane tail on a baseball platform. Sports travel in one picture above.

There are many things to see here, certainly more than any other spring training park I have been to. Wally can be found in a few photo op spots, for example, though as a solo traveler, I did not have anyone to op with.

A life-sized Lego statue of David Ortiz is quite cool as well.

Less appealing for this Blue Jay fan are two World Series trophies (2004 and 2018) and a collection of photos from successful Sox seasons.

All of these highlights can be found on the exterior concourse, which is shaded by the seating bowl above. A lot of space here, and several concessions, including many that are outside in the sun. I arrived just a few minutes before first pitch and did not have time to explore, but most of the stands seemed to be offering typical stadium fare.

Tickets for this matchup featuring Northeastern University as the opponent started at $2.50 for lawn seating, which is obviously what I bought, because I figured that you could probably sit anywhere. And I was right. I spent the game moving after every half-inning, and got the full experience. I should mention that for other games, tickets start at $5, still a bargain compared to some other venues in the Grapefruit League. For me, this was a record with the parking costing 4.8 times as much as the ticket: never had I paid such a differential (excluding those times where I might have been given a freebie).

There is a walkway between two seating levels, and it was from this path that I took the above photo. As you can see below, the upper level is mostly shaded and this leaves open many seats in the lower level.. After a winter mostly in NYC, I am desperate for sun, and was happy to soak up some rays for a few minutes at a time.

JetBlue Park even has its own Green Monster, with three rows of stools in the shade and a standing area that also has a row of stools. You need a ticket to get in here during the first five innings, but after that, anyone can walk in.

There is netting covering the shaded part, which is a bit annoying but necessary as that area is below the home run line.

Up top, a single row of stools runs along the entire length of the Monster, though there is a large standing area behind, which seems ideal for groups.

Below is the view from the farthest stool, pretty incredible for a spring training ballpark.

If you walk the other way past the right field corner, there is a small set of bleachers and the aforementioned lawn, both of which were mostly empty. Both bullpens are also here (that's Chase Shugart warming up below).

The videoboard is directly above the bleachers and it showed replays along with the lineups.

I spent the first inning with the view below and was elated that baseball is back. 

Overall, JetBlue Park is a fantastic spring training venue, once you accept the parking situation. If you do go, get there early and take your time after the game to really appreciate everything that is available to see, and let the other cars sort themselves out.

The game started with Oddanier Mosqueda throwing a called strike to Spenser Smith (above). There it is, the first pitch of 2023. I have seen the first pitch of the regular season a few times, but never the first pitch of spring training. Anyway Smith singled, but was caught stealing to end the inning. Mosqueda, who has pitched a total of 270.2 innings in 6 minor league seasons, left after one inning, the first of seven Boston hurlers to pitch in this 7-inning exhibition.

The Red Sox started a mostly major league lineup, much to the chagrin of James Quinlivan, who gave up two hits, two wild pitches, and four walks before mercifully being relieved. The only out he recorded was a sacrifice fly from Masataka Yoshida (above), who joined the Red Sox after winning the NPB title with Orix last year. His reliever, Patrick Harrington, gave up a double to Emmanuel Valdez and that was it for Boston, who soon replaced their entire lineup with prospects.

The Huskies did score a couple off Shugart in the fourth, and an unearned run in the fifth but could not overcome that first inning fivespot, as you can see in the manual scoreboard above. The game took 2:08 and might have been one of the last to be played without a pitch clock.


The first day of the regular season sees two games scheduled for 1:05, with the Nationals and Yankees the home teams. I hope to get to the Yankee game and have it start before the Nationals so I will have seen the first pitch of both spring training and the regular season. Unfortunately, the Yankees start all their games at eight minutes after the hour, so it probably won't happen.

All of the Huskies players now have their own pages on, despite most of them likely never playing in the minors or the majors. Pretty cool thing to brag about in a few years.



Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Manhattan Jaspers 73 at Fairfield Stags 72 (NCAA Basketball, MAAC) - February 19, 2023

The Fairfield Stags basketball team started playing at Webster Bank Arena (now Total Mortgage Arena) in Bridgeport in 2002, but still played the occasional game at Alumni Hall on campus. In 2019, the university announced plans for a new on-campus venue that would serve as the permanent home for both basketball and volleyball, and so the team played a full season to say goodbye to Alumni Hall. Last year, they went back to WBA while Alumni Hall was torn down and replaced by the new facility, which opened last fall. It is named in honour on Leo D. Mahoney, a former trustee whose daughter made the largest donation by an alumna in school history. As an aside, I learned that alumni refers to a male graduate and alumna to a female. Guess that will change soon enough.

Anyway, after returning the rental car in New Haven, I took Metro North back to Fairfield, stopping in at Colony Grill for lunch. From there, it is about a 35-minute walk to campus, but I took a rideshare so I could get there on time. If you do drive, there is parking in a garage across the street. 

From the outside, this is a very impressive building, retaining some elements of the old while bringing in the new. I wandered over to the box office (you can see the small line above), and while queuing, a gentleman offered me a single ticket for slightly less than at the window. As it was a hard ticket, I accepted and tried to make my way in. Unfortunately, there is an idiotic bag policy here, and as I was traveling without a car, I had no choice but to toss my bag despite removing everything from it. Fortunately, this was a bag that I was planning to get rid of, so no big loss, but the fact that small venues like this are instituting policies that force women to return to their vehicles to drop off purses is crazy. Don't believe all that stuff about safety either; there are no metal detectors; this is about keeping food and drink out. I understand when a pro venue that holds 60,000+ wants to streamline the entry process, but with capacity at 3,500 here, no need to do so. Just like that baseball team in North Dakota, it is small time operators trying to pretend they are in the big time.

OK, rant over. Any animosity I was feeling was quickly forgotten when I got a look at this place. It cost $51 million (entirely funded by donations) and it sure seems like they got their money's worth. A beautiful look with red everywhere, open concourses above intimate seating bowls on two levels. This is an ideal design for mid-major basketball, with no bad seats.

Banners at both ends celebrate accomplishments for basketball and volleyball, which seems to be the more successful sport here as the men have not reached the tournament since 1997.

There are just eight rows of seats in the lower bowl and no club seats. Instead, the club is on the second level (you can see it in the photo below), which does prevent you from doing a full tour on that concourse, but that is not a big deal. There is also a lot of natural light due to windows on all sides, which I found quite pleasant on this warm day.

Alumni Hall was famous for its roof design, and that has been replicated here, although now the roof is perpendicular to the court.

There is also a bit of history along the lower concourse, including a tribute to Alumni Hall, where you can see how the roof was set up in comparison. The history of the mascot, Lucas the Stag, is also detailed here; Lucas is probably the only mascot named for a financial controller.

A Hall of Fame can also be found here; it is quite simple in design and includes many past players in all sports. 

From the second level, you get a unique view because the footprint of the building is so compact. The band sits in the corner wedge to the left of the photo below, while students take up most of the baseline benches. I was quite early when these photos were taken, but by game time there were few empty seats down below.

There are concession stands in the corners on both levels, but lines were long both before the game and at halftime. Beer and wine are served here, but at $10, most fans abstained. Having eaten in town earlier, I did not try any of the food here.

The center-hung scoreboard has four sides and a ring below that displayed team stats during the game. 

Overall, Mahoney Arena is one of the best mid-major venues around and one that other small schools can aspire to without breaking the bank. Fairfield is less than two hours from NYC and this is certainly worth the trip if you are a stadium chaser. Just leave the bag at home.

The Game

The Manhattan Jaspers were visiting with rookie coach RaShawn Stores at the helm after Steve Masiello was fired just before the season started. Stores is only 30, but not the youngest coach in D1, as Loyola Chicago's Drew Valentine was born a couple of months later. Stores was a walk-on at Manhattan under Masiello and it is pretty incredible how far he has come since then. The Jaspers were 7-8 in MAAC play, while the Stags were just a half-game better at 8-8.

The first half saw zealous zebras calling way too many fouls, but the game still moved fairly quickly. There were several lead changes early, but a 15-4 Jasper run gave them a 25-18 lead and they maintained that until the break, leading 35-27.

I moved down to the lower bowl for the second half and really enjoyed sitting behind the Manhattan bench, where you could hear the players and coaches. They were rather annoyed as Fairfield completed a 15-4 surge of their own to get within a point at 47-46 with 12:39 to go. But it took another 10 minutes for them to tie it up as a TJ Long (#33 above) three knotted things at 66, setting up an interesting endgame.

After Ant Nelson gave Manhattan a 2-point lead, Fairfield's Supreme Cook (best name in college hoops) missed a couple of layups before being fouled. But he missed both freebies and Nelson followed by making both of his charity shots after Cook fouled him. After several more fouls and timeouts that extended the game well past the 2-hour mark, that four-point advantage was still active after Nelson made one of two with 11 seconds left. A missed trey from Fairfield should have ended things, but the ball went out of bounds off Manhattan and the Stags had one last chance, which saw Jalen Leach stupidly fouled on a desperation three with less than a second left. The refs spent five minutes determining that there was 0.9 seconds left. Leach then made the first two to get within a pair, and missed the last intentionally, hoping for a miracle. Cook grabbed the rebound and the ball was cleanly stripped by Nelson, only for a terrible foul call to keep things going. Yet again the refs had to decide how much time was left, taking another five minutes before concluding that 0.3 seconds was the appropriate setting on the clock. These crazy clock reviews suck any excitement out of the game and left poor Cook waiting with the game on the line. To his credit, he sank the first but Stores called timeout in the basketball equivalent of icing the kicker. It worked as Cook missed the second free throw coming out of the timeout and Manhattan held on for a 73-72 win.

The Jaspers went only 3-14 from long range, but were an incredible 24-34 from inside the arc, including 44 points in the paint. Nice to see some old-school basketball for a change.


This completes the eight Division I gyms in Connecticut, which is the 8th state I have completed. 

Next Up

It's winter recess for my daughter, so like 95% of New Yorkers, we are heading to Florida. There are games all around, but I am not sure which ones I will get to. Check back next week for recaps.