Friday, March 5, 2010

The Road to Richmond and the Day Session of Day 1 of the CAA Tournament

So after my work function last night, I got home, changed and waited for the Tieff and the Big Red Machine. We left at about 10:00 PM. Finally, the Road to Richmond 2010 had begun.

As we traveled the various highways, I peppered Tieff with the CAA Basketball Stats printout I brought with me. Unfortunately, Tieff had an off day, and had as many misfires yesterday as Drexel had today vs. James Madison.

Tieff though had a great final response. Since the Mets signed Kiko Calero yesterday, the Wizard of Woodbury asked "Who has more wins - Hofstra this season or Kiko Calero in his career?" Answer - Hofstra. Hofstra has now 19 wins this season, after the one point win over Georgia State tonight. Kiko has 14 career wins. The 3.24 ERA for the career reliever isn't bad though.

Neither one of us really had much to eat for dinner, so when we hit Maryland, we took exit 100A off I95 and followed our way to a familiar Waffle House. It just so happens we went to this Waffle House after one of our trips to Towson to see the Flying Dutchmen defeat the Tigers.

When we got there, we didn't know if the place was open. Sure enough, the two waitresses popped out from hiding and the 1:00 am dinner was on (and I made that my status line on Facebook). After I got my orange juice, I looked around the otherwise empty garden of waffle eden. That's when I saw the jukebox. It's been so long since I heard tunes from a jukebox. Six for a dollar. The selections were lacking but I did the best I could. Alas, Mr. Whelliston, no Tom Petty.

So after we each downed our All Star breakfasts with "Werewolves of London" and "Wasted Away in Margaritaville" playing in the background, we went back out on the road for the end of the journey. The trip went smoothly minus some detours near where George Mason is located. Beach would find that ironic. So we ended up getting to our hotel room at 4:45 this morning.

We slept in till about 9:45 and then headed out the arena. We figured the food court at the Marriott would be open and we would grab something there. Alas, as you can tell from the picture, the food court was closed for renovation. Stunned from having been denied breakfast like a guard who had his shot rejected by Larry Sanders, we went into the Coliseum. Our breakfast consisted of a soft pretzel for me, peanuts for Tieff.

The first game of the day session pitted the eighth seed Towson vs. the ninth seed UNCW. Before we entered the Coliseum, we had another of our several surreal moments for the day. Former UNCW coach Benny Moss, who had been "reassigned" several weeks ago was outside talking to several Seahawks fans. Tieff and I look at each other perplexed, and then we wondered aloud whether we would be there in his shoes. Give him credit, he is loyal to his team.

Though the Seahawks were actually favored in this game, I had a strong feeling Towson was going to channel its 2009 CAA tournament run and win handily. And the Tigers set out to prove me right. Troy Franklin started the game with a three pointer and Towson never trailed. The last time UNCW was as close as nine points was 24-15 with 10:46 left in the first half. Towson put 52 points on Wilmington in the first half as the Tigers were up 52-30 at the half.

The second half was more of the same. Towson's lead swelled to 30, 82-52 on Brian Morris' three pointer with 10:56 left. The game was over and the only question was, would the Tigers score 100? Answer, no, as Towson coasted to a 91-74 win. The Tigers shot 55 percent from the field as Rashawn Polk scored 20 points and Troy Franklin had 18 for the Tigers who now face #1 seed ODU Saturday at noon.

As for UNCW, the search now begins in earnest for a new head coach. My guess is that after this performance, Brooks Lee will not be that man. The UNCW fans still somewhat showed up in earnest but not in the numbers that they used to have, as the student section was quite empty.

Tieff and I expected a similar outcome in the second game as fifth seed and basically the tournament host, VCU took on the twelve seed, Delaware. And apparently the Delaware students expected the outcome as well as only ONE LONE FAN (pictured here) sat in the Blue Hens student section. The lone fan is a symbol of how far the Delaware basketball program has fallen.

Meanwhile, the Rams faithful came out in force as the student section was completely full. And their team came out to reward the faithful. The Rams went out to a 17-8 lead as Joey Rodriguez nailed two threes with 10:41 left.

The Rams did a wonderful job clamping down on the Blue Hens' leading scorer, Jawan Carter. He was hounded and pounded by VCU's defense and went scoreless until he nailed a three with 2:33 left in the first half to cut the Rams lead to 31-19. But those were the only points in the half for Carter as VCU extended the lead to 37-21 in the half.

Burgess had ten points in the first half for VCU, while Joey Rodriguez had nine points, all on threes. Larry Sanders had only five points for the Rams at the half. But that probably was due in large part to coach Shaka Smart shuttling players in left and right in preparation for a possible four games in four days run.

The second half started out more of the same for the Blue Hens as the Rams got Sanders going. Sanders scored eight of VCU's first ten points to put them up 47-25 with 15:29 left. The lead swelled to 23, 50-27 with 13:23 left on a Brandon Rozzell jumper.

Delaware responded with one final run, a 14-3 spurt to cut the lead to 53-41 with 7:52 left. But Sanders emphatically put back one of his own misses and before the Blue Hen mascot could blink, the lead was back to 20, 62-42 with 5:15 left. We left shortly thereafter to go get dinner before the evening session.

The Rams would eventually win 66-49. Sanders was his usual dominant self with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. Rodriguez had 12 points and VCU forced 18 Blue Hens turnovers. Carter, the second leading scorer in the CAA was held to eight points on eight field goal attempts. Smart was exactly that, smart, in how he used his players. Ten Rams' players played ten or more minutes in the game as VCU now plays Mason in the quarterfinals.

So as the game's end was winding near, we headed out to the road, reuniting with an old friend, the Italian restaurant Pasta Luna for dinner. As we got into the parking lot, we were met with another surreal moment. The restaurant had closed its windows and the space was up for rent. First the food court, now Pasta Luna. How things change in two years.

So we headed back towards the Coliseum and stopped and ate at an Outlook Steakhouse. It was a good quick dinner and we basically got over the loss of our old friend Pasta Luna. Then we headed back on Broad Street to the Coliseum. We would end up being slightly late for the start of the Hofstra- Georgia State game due to all the traffic on Broad Street (and we had to take Broad Street due to a traffic jam on I-64).

But it was worth it. As you can see above, as we were driving we saw someone driving a Ford Pinto. So of course, I had to take a picture of it. Surreal moment number four. The food court and Pasta Luna were both closed but this nearly forty year old car, known for exploding gas tanks, was still kicking strong. Go figure.

Tomorrow Morning - Night Session of Day 1 of the CAA Tournament

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