Sunday, March 5, 2023

Long Beach State Beach 92 at UC Davis Aggies 93 (2OT, NCAA Basketball, Big West) - March 4, 2023

The final AHL game on this whirlwind west coast trip was in San Jose, where the Barracuda had a 6 p.m. start. That left the afternoon open and a check of the surrounding area showed that UC Davis basketball had their final game of the regular season at 1. With the two venues about 100 minutes apart, I could drive to Davis, see the game, and return to San Jose with time to spare. Even better, UC Davis had a softball game at 10:45, so I could add another venue to the list. But as they say, "The best laid plans...".

I was staying at fellow sports traveler Tike's place and he kindly lent me one of his cars. I zoomed up the freeway and arrived at Davis, a small city just west of Sacramento in Yolo County (famous for its YOLO meme) at 10:30. It was clear and cold, but rain was imminent and the softball game had been postponed for a few hours. No worries, I went over to the nearby In-N-Out and enjoyed a Double Double Animal Style, simply the best fast-food burger out there. Don't Whataburger or Five Guys me, I've had them all. Suitably sated, I returned the University Credit Union Center (referred to as UCU because UCUC is too funny I guess), home of the Aggies. The name was changed in 2021 from The Pavilion, but the old moniker is still commonly used. Parking is free on weekends in the huge lot behind the venue; it is next to the Activity and Recreation Center so many students are using the facilities as well and the lot can be quite busy. On other days, you will have to download the ParkMobile app to check the parking charge.

Tickets were $15 for general admission, so I bought one and walked in and down to the floor, picking up a scorecard along the way. There is a sign asking you to be cautious as the court is slightly raised off the floor and inattentive fans could fall. You might laugh but in the litigious United States, you have to CYA at all times.

This is a relatively large venue that opened in 1977 and seats 6,003 for basketball, with two levels of seating. However, the second level was folded up on this day, yielding a wide concourse that encircled the entire seating bowl and allowed for a lot of standing room. The lower level of seats is split, with the top part consisting of six rows all around the court, while the lower level is a horseshoe shape, with one end open for a pizza concession and some group seating that includes a sofa for some reason. Note the banners for the other Big West schools, nine of which are in Southern California. UC Davis is the only one in Northern California, while the other school is Hawaii.

The sideline seats also go well beyond the court at one end as you can see below. It seems like the court is not placed in the middle of the floor as it should be, perhaps to give those in the group area a closer view than the students and band.

The men won the Division II championship in 1998 and moved to Division I in 2007, where they have won three Big West regular season titles. They won the conference tournament in 2017, going on to defeat North Carolina A&T in the First Four before losing to Kansas. 

There is a single scoreboard hanging above the student section, and a small concession stand in one corner of the concourse and that is about it.

Overall, the Pavilion is a typical college gym that probably doesn't see as many sports travelers as it should. Sadly for me, I might have to return. Read on to find out why.

The Game

It was Senior Day and the two seniors on the team were honoured before the game. Christian Angiwe was finishing his third year at Davis after two at San Jose State, while Patrick Lambey seemed to be a bench player with only 11 minutes in his only season in college hoops. The good thing is that the ceremony ended before tip time as I wanted the game to be over in two hours or less so I could relax on the way back to San Jose.

As the Big West is a mid-major conference, I did not expect that TV would be a problem. I was wrong. As the referee got ready to toss the ball to get things started, the TV guy at the scorers' table stood up and stopped the proceedings. They were still on commercial. Thus began the clown show.

The first half dragged on, helped by those insane media timeouts that exceed three minutes along with the clock operators screwing up on a couple of occasions. When it finished, Davis had a 39-29 lead over the visiting Long Beach State Beach. Yes, the team is named Beach, which is rather amusing when they are awarded possession after an out of bounds play and the announcer says "Beach ball".  

Halftime should be 15 minutes, but the jokers at the scorers' table forgot to start the clock, adding another couple of minutes. By the time the second half started, it was already 2:07. Still, as long as the Aggies maintained their advantage, I still had plenty of time. Of course, that did not happen, as Long Beach went on a 26-7 run over 12 minutes to take a 61-51 lead with just 3:50 to go. Well, a 10-point lead was the same either way. After Aboubacar Traore made a layup, the Beach had an 11-point bulge with 1:04 to go while the clock struck three. I relaxed, a bit too early as it turned out.

On the Aggies next possession, Robby Beasley was fouled on a three-point shot, made his first two freebies, missed the third but an offensive rebound followed by two quick passes allowed Beasley another shot from downtown and he made it. That's 5 points in 6 seconds and that began the insanity. Davis pressed and although Traore found his brother Lassina at the other end of the court for an easy layup, it only took two seconds off the clock. After Angiwe missed a three, Aboubacar turned the ball over on the press and then fouled Ty Johnson, who made both. 69-63 with 38 seconds left. Davis pressed again, Aboubacar panicked and turned it over to Elijah Pepper (#40 above), who quickly sank a layup to make it 69-65 with 34 seconds left. I should mention that this last minute of play was taking forever, with timeouts and reviews (the officials will take three minutes to decide if there is 9.8 or 9.9 seconds left) and I was getting very annoyed. Anyway, another Beach turnover was followed by a couple of missed Pepper threes before Beasley grabbed an offensive board and put it home, being fouled by Lassina in the process. Beasley completed the three-point play and it was 69-68 with 19 seconds left. The rest of regulation was fouls and freebies that just kept things going and going. Up 73-71, Tone Hunter missed his second shot for Beach and Pepper grabbed the board, drove the floor and was fouled by A.J. George (driving below) with two seconds left. Pepper made both and it was overtime. Normally this would be exciting, except the last minute of play took 20 minutes of real time. For a neutral, it was excruciating, but since Davis had tied it, home fans did not mind. 

The first overtime decided nothing as the Beach again blew a lead through stupid fouling and just a complete lack of basketball intelligence and we went to the second extra period. Davis took an 86-82 lead and then the shot clock died. Yes, it just stopped working and I just threw up my hands in disgust. By now, it was 3:40 and I could not wait around to see how long it took to fix the issue. So I left. 

Davis held on to win 93-92 but as they don't track game times, I have no idea how long it took. Regardless, it was the worst game I've seen in terms of game administration on my college hoops quest. Both the officials on the floor and at the table seemed barely competent, and when you add in the TV producers who seem to think that games at this level require more commercial time than game time, well, you get an unwatchable product. It should not take 20 minutes to play the final minute of a game, especially when a team has a double-digit lead. There has been talk of the Elam Ending where teams play to a target score in the final quarter, and after this debacle, I think it may be closer than we think. 


I finished the season with 137 of the 393 Division I college hoops venues I am chasing, so there are 256 left to go. A couple of more games like this, however, and I will probably abandon the quest.

This was also the first time I left one of those games early, so if I do end up completing the quest and this ends up being the only one I left early, I will return. It is always a risk scheduling two games on the same day and I will be doing so a few more times, so unless college hoops figures out a way to fix these interminable endings, I will probably be leaving early again.



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