Friday, November 25, 2011

The Rhode Island Less Traveled

A few months ago, when I first started planning  to see four basketball games in two days in Rhode Island, it was supposed to be my first ever road trip with just my older son, Matthew, and me.   Matthew loves basketball, especially Hofstra basketball.  So he was very excited about the prospect of seeing two Hofstra games in two days.

Then about three weeks ago, we adopted a new dog.  Walter is a pug that was a rescue dog from a puppy mill.  We saw him at a Halloween dog parade and noticed he was up for adoption.   He might be the calmest dog I have ever met and quite friendly.  Matthew and my younger son, Jonathan, were smitten.

So about ten days ago, shortly before I was going to make reservations to stay at a hotel, I asked Matthew "Are you still going with me to Rhode Island for the basketball trip?"  Matthew's response was "No, I want to stay home and be with Walter."

Needless to say I was stunned.  Then I decided to follow up with a question that turned out to very much humble me.   I asked, "So, you would rather be at home with Walter than be with your dad on a basketball trip?"

His response was a soft, yet very short and to the point.  "Yes."  I realized right there that my six year old son definitely had a lot of my wife in him.  He's very sweet, but very honest and direct. I couldn't blame him.  Our dog is pretty cute.

So I alone went out this morning on my trip to the Ticket City Legends Classic Subregional at the Ryan Center on the campus of the University of Rhode Island.  The trip was actually a quick one, about three hours. Apparently too many people were at the mall early today to be out on I-95.

Since I was saving my trip to Newport for tomorrow morning, I hung around Kingston before the game. Kingston is your typical sleepy New England town that you would find in a Stephen King novel.  Speaking of novels, I went into a new/used Kingston bookstore.  The owner greeted me as I walked in to the place.  They were having a 50% off sale due to their landlord forcing them to downsize their bookstore.  I found a good children's book for $3.25.

As I got to the Ryan Center, it's located in the back of URI.  You have to drive down Plains Road, which is aptly named, and loop around to the back of the campus.   It's a very nice facility that seats about 7,700.  Unfortunately, Cleveland State and Boston University are not much of a draw.  From my vantage point, there are maybe about one hundred spectators in the building at the tipoff of their game..

The Ticket City Legends Classic "Tournament"  is run by the Gazelle Group, the same folks that bring you the 2K Sports Classic "Tournament".  As I wrote in an article on my College Hardwood site last year, these so-called tournaments are not real tournaments. The top four Power Six conference teams that were chosen are guaranteed to play in Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands.  They play a "regional" on their home court, which guarantees them two home games against mid major foes.  Then they play the last two rounds of "the tournament" at either MSG (2K Sports Classic) or in this case,. the Meadowlands.

Meanwhile the mid major teams that played in the TicketCity Legends Classic regionals play round robin in subregionals.  One is in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on the home court of Bucknell.   The other is here in Kingston, Rhode Island, home of URI.  Four teams in each subregional and each team plays three games.

If this had been a real tournament, one of the two teams I saw in the first game, Cleveland State, would have been at the Meadowlands.  Cleveland State upset Vanderbilt 71-58 on the Commodores home court in the "regional".   Instead of the opportunity to play in New Jersey, the Vikings got to play in Rhode Island.  All things considered, I'd rather be near Newport myself.

The Vikings have had a terrific start to their season.  They are 4-0 and have the win over Vanderbilt, plus another impressive road win over Kent State, who had defeated West Virginia on the road prior to that contest.  Cleveland State is an experienced team.  Their four leading scorers are seniors who went to the NIT last season.  Now minus Norris Cole, who was taken in the second round of the NBA draft, the Vikings were looking to sweep the subregional and enhance their non-conference resume for a potential NCAA at large bid.

Cleveland State's opponent, Boston University, made the NCAA tournament last season.  Their best player from last season, John Holland, also graduated.  But unlike the Vikings, the Terriers have struggled, losing their first three games of the season.  They were hoping to leave Rhode Island with at least one win and they would have three chances this weekend.

The first half saw Cleveland State jump out to an early 9-4 lead.  But the Vikings quickly got into foul trouble as their two leading scorers on the season, D' Aundray Brown and  Trevon Harmon, each picked up two fouls.  Meanwhile, Darryl Partin was leading the way for Boston University.  He scored ten first half points as the Terriers went into the locker room up 24-21 at halftime as both teams had a hard time finding the basket.

Cleveland State scored the first two baskets of the second half and went up 25-24.  But just as it appeared the Vikings were going to gain control of the game, the Terriers responded.   For most of the second half, BU controlled the action.  The Terriers were up by as much as eleven, 45-34 with nine and half minutes left.

Partin continued terrorizing Cleveland State, as he would actually score more points in the second half than he did in the first.  Hardin had help in the second half as Patrick Hazel and D.J. Irving contributed from the field.  BU was playing really hard and maintained a nine point lead, 52-43 with six and a half minutes left.

However, the Terriers had numerous opportunities to put the Vikings away, especially from the free throw line.  But BU wasted a lot of those charity stripe opportunities, missing sixteen of forty four free throw attempts on the game.  Partin scored twenty four points on the night, but missed half of his twelve free throw attempts.  If you were watching the game, you had the feeling in the pit of your stomach that this might come back to haunt the Terriers.

And sure enough, Cleveland State's Brown caught fire and scored ten straight points for the Vikings, including a three pointer to cut the lead to one, 54-53.  After BU went up by four again, again Cleveland State got a three pointer, this time by Harmon, to cut the lead to one, 57-56.   Again, the Terriers went up by four 62-58, but again, Harmon buried another three, and again the lead was one, 62-61 with 5.6 seconds left.

What happened in the last few seconds of the game was simply unreal.  BU's Matt Griffin struggled to inbound the ball, but appeared to finally do so when the whistle blew.  The game clock was started before the Terriers could inbound the ball.  The referee ruled that the play had to be done over.  And sure enough Griffin again had problems inbounding the ball.  This time he lost the ball and fouled Cleveland State's Jeremy Montgomery during the scramble for the ball.  Montgomery calmly nailed both free throws with three seconds left.  The Vikings won 62-61 and absolutely broke the heart of the Terriers.

In large part due to a mismanaged clock, one team, Cleveland State, remained undefeated, while another team, Boston University, remained winless. The outcome truly seemed unfair to the Terriers. This was proof positive that this game will hurt you.

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