Thursday, March 24, 2011
College Basketball is the Tie That Binds
But on February 15, 2011, my birthday, as a birthday present to me, my older son went with me to the William and Mary vs Hofstra game at the Mack Center. It turned out if there was any game that I could have picked to bring Matthew that was the game. A high scoring affair with Quinn McDowell dueling with Charles Jenkins. And as most people know, Jenkins forced overtime with a long three, then won the game in overtime with an even longer three.
Due to the excitement of the game, the raucous Lions Den section (who gets a big assist here), Matthew was hooked. Long before Jenkins had tied the game with that three pointer at the end of regulation, Matthew turned to me and said "I want to go to another basketball game." For someone who truly loves college basketball, to hear that, especially on my birthday, it was one of the most special moments so far of being his dad. And I didn't realize how much he was hooked.
For all of his five plus years on this planet, Matthew Patrick Moore when he likes something gets completely involved. I remember when he was just two years old, we took him to a Mets game. And there he was in his seat, completely focused on the pitcher and the catcher. And he would mimic how the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher. It was impressive.
When Matthew got home that night on February 15, he told my wife how much he loved the basketball game he saw. He immediately grabbed one of his basketballs in the house and started dribbling. And dribbling and dribbling. When he was outside, all he wanted to do was play basketball. On Monday, I saw him do a normal crossover dribble. When I asked Chelle where did that come from, my wife says "he really studies how they play."
Matthew went with me to the final Hofstra home season game vs. Delaware, Senior Day where Charles Jenkins had his number retired. After he got home from that impressive win, everything was Hofstra. He played as "Hofstra" and he would shoot baskets saying "Hofstra is up 8-2". Basketball was now in his blood.
During the NCAA Tournament, I had Matthew rooting for Richmond, Butler and VCU. On Friday night, he stayed up with me for the first half of Georgetown-VCU. My wife had to shoo him off to bed with him protesting that he wanted to stay up and watch the game with me. I told him I would leave him a note of who won since I had to work early Saturday morning. Sure enough on our little whiteboard on the refrigerator I wrote "Matthew, VCU Won!!!!!"
Meanwhile Iona had lost in the MAAC finals to St Peter's, a team that I had seen get crushed by the Gaels in New Rochelle. Iona then accepted a bid to the College Insider Tournament, otherwise known as the CIT, or as Kyle Whelliston calls it "Bracketbusters From Hell". Iona had a first round bye, then smoked Valpo in the second round. My friend Tony Bozzella informed me that if Buffalo won at Western Michigan, Iona would get a home game vs. Buffalo. Sure enough, Buffalo upset Western Michigan and Iona had a home game last night.
So after my wife got home, Matthew and I headed off to New Rochelle. It was the fourth time this season I would see the men's basketball team play. And each time I saw them, they had won convincingly. In late December, I saw Iona soundly defeat Hofstra. Then in early January, I saw the Gaels defeat the Peacocks of St Peter's by eighteen (but as noted, St Peter's would gain revenge in the MAAC Championship game). Finally, I saw Iona defeat Siena in a sold out doubleheader game at the Hynes Center in mid February. Would Matthew and I see another Gael win?
From the start of the game, Iona pressed Buffalo and the Bills struggled with it from the outset. The Gaels forced three turnovers in about a minute and went up 6-0. But Buffalo hung in there and outscored Iona 10-2 to go up 10-8. Matthew tried his best by hexing the Bulls when they were on offense, but his jinx attempts were to no avail.
The two teams changed leads several times in the first half. Iona went back ahead 13-10. Then Buffalo rallied and were up by as many as four, 21-17. The Gaels came back with a 9-0 run to go up 26-21. But the Bulls came back with a 10-1 run to go up 31-27. Finally Iona came back again and went into the half up 41-36. Javon McCrea, a freshman forward, put on a show the first half going 7 of 10 from the field for 16 points. But Sean Armand had 11 of his own for Iona.
Led Zeppelin's Immigrant song. But they also do a terrific version of Steely Dan's Peg, which Mr. Beach can attest to as well. And the pep band also plays the I Dream of Jeannie theme song, as well as the Wild Wild West television show theme song. Old School, gotta love it.
For the first eleven minutes of the second half, the teams played even as Iona still had only a five point lead, 54-49 as McCrea did his best to keep the Bulls in the game. During those first eleven minutes, McCrea had eight of the Bulls thirteen second half points to keep the deficit within five with nine minutes left in the game.
Buffalo did go on a 5-0 mini spurt to cut the lead to nine, 67-58 with 3:30 left. But inexplicably, Buffalo did not foul over the next minute and a half, then started fouling with 1:50 left. Iona would hit four three throws and a monster dunk by Glover and the Gaels were up fifteen 75-60 with 57 seconds. Yet the Bulls, who didn't want to foul when the game was within nine, started fouling the rest of the way with the outcome already decided. So instead of letting the clock run out, Buffalo prolonged the fans agony over the final few seconds.
Matthew and I said our goodbyes to Jerry and headed home. Along the way, Matthew asked when our next basketball game was going to be. I told him that it may have been the last live game of the season unless Iona got another home game in the championship of the CIT. He was disappointed but he understood
When I heard that, I just smiled. I don't know what he will be when he grows up. But I know right now he is enjoying himself and he loves college basketball, just like his dad. And to me, that's the coolest thing on the planet.