Howard (60) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (70) 12/11/2022

Game #109 of 363 30% complete

This was my third and last stop for this trip. I did not get to the arena till 10 minutes left in the first half despite a hurried ride from the Hampton campus. It was poor planning on my start which I will try hard to avoid in the future. I missed my usual tip off picture to start the game. But once again, I was afforded a free parking garage next to the arena.

So I was immediately impressed with the energy of the VCU crowd. Many were dressed in yellow and were very much into this non-conference game. The cheerleaders, dance team and pep band were loud and enthusiastic.

Who could forget VCU’s cinderella run in 2011? The Rams defeated USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on their way to the final four. I was there in 2011 rooting for the UConn Huskies and watched Butler take down VCU in the semifinal. There is a video homage paid in tribute to this team in the arena hallway.

Although Junior guard Ace Baldwin Jr., the Rams’ leading scorer this season, did not play due to a sprained left wrist, the VCU jumped out to a 10-point lead at half time and never looked back. Graduate forward Brandon Johns led the way with 16 points for the Rams.

I try to buy at least one team shirt on each of my trips. I was fortunate to get a yellow VCU T shirt which my wife thinks is ugly for 10 bucks. It will make an appearance in my bowling league this week.

If you are ever in the Norfolk VA area, be sure to check out the USS Wisconsin. This ship was there for the first gulf war firing tomahawk missiles. The lights you may see in the picture were for a nighttime XMAS event. The admission was $15 and well worth it. Next door is the free Naval Museum which was also interesting to tour. I do these museums trip on Operation 351 trips because the rest of my family hates museums and historical stuff.

I also toured the Yorktown Battlefield preserved as a National Park. I was miffed that I forgot my newly acquired senior pass for National Parks and had to pay admission. It was self-guided tour driving through the battlefields. Not quite on the scale of Gettysburg but it is still hallowed ground and served as a turning point of the revolutionary war. Be sure to visit the American Revolutionary Museum in Yorktown. There was an incredible amount of history learned on this trip.

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Bowling Green (86) vs. Hampton (72) 12/11/2022

Game #108 of 363 30% complete

This is the first game of a doubleheader today followed later at Virgina Commonwealth. I am greeted by a free non-garage parking lot next to the arena – my number one choice of parking scenarios.

As I stepped into the arena, there were plenty of open seats for choosing. I sat next to the pep band accompanied by dancing cheerleaders. I was in awe of the music and dancing by the Hampton students. It would be worth the price of admission just watching and listening to them.

Being from Connecticut, I remember Ricky Mahorn who played in the Hartford school system and later became a star for Hampton and the Detroit Pistons.

There could have been no more than 500 fans in the arena although the paid attendance figure was 2103. I am always on the lookout for unique situations in my travels. When a Hampton player is ready to shoot a foul shot, the PA announcer would say “Free throws win ball games”. The crowd would clap and wait the result. It had to be a recording because it sounded the same each about 100 times.

Bowling Green went on a 18-4 run at the beginning of the game. Although Hampton brought it down to single digits in the second half, it was never close.

In front of me, there sat a family with a man in the wheelchair. Incredibly, there was a stand in front of them surely blocking the view of the man and the kids. I wanted to say something, but I said that there has to be a reason for this. No one in the family seemed to complain.

I was impressed by Wilie Lightfoot a freshman guard for Bowling Green. He did make one stupid mistake by silencing the crowd with his hands after hitting a three pointer. The Hampton crowd full of spirit never let up on this poor guy the rest of the way.

I had miscalculated the distance between games. It was an hour and 20 minutes to VCU but the Hampton game ended at 6PM. The VCU game started at 7PM. Not finding my car in the parking lot at the end of the game added another 10 minutes. I sped toward the VCU arena but missed the beginning of the game as you shall see in the next blog post.

Here are pictures on my walk along the Virginia Beach boardwalk adorned with XMAS lights.

Gardner Webb (43) vs. Old Dominion (44) 12/10/2022

Game #107 of 363 29% complete

This is the first of a three-game set in the Norfolk area of Virginia. I flew for the first time on the discount airline Breeze from Hartford. Because of the limited schedule of Breeze, I flew in a day early Friday morning and basically had almost 2 days of touristy stuff till this Saturday night game. I did not fly home till Monday night leaving another whole day to find things to do. More about my travels later!

A multi-level free parking garage is next to the arena which always score points for me. The outside of the arena is very impressive. This a modern arena built for basketball. Although the concessions could provide a little more variety and the gift shop was lean (no large size tee shirt available), I was very happy with the fan experience.

Although the students were away for break, the fans around me were very into their Monarchs. This was defensive struggle to say the least.

The ODU sportswriter Harry Minium had contacted previously before the game. We met at my seat with a much-appreciated media pass. We proceeded to a food room for the media where I was interviewed for the ODU web site. I am looking forward to seeing the end result. To make things even better, I was given a courtside seat to watch the second half. Thanks Harry!

My view from the court side seat.

So how many times have you seen a chill area for the fans in an arena?

The coach for ODU is Jeff Jones. I remember seeing him play for the Virginia Cavaliers many moons ago. Jones took the helm of Old Dominion basketball in 2013. He previously served as head coach of the American Eagles and Virginia.

The hall of fame areas inside the arena were impressive. The women’s basketball program in earlier years were considered one of the top programs in the country and held a prominent place in the exhibits. Do the names Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan ring a bell?

The best-known men’s basketball player is David Twardzik. He was a second-round pick by the Portland Blazers in 1977 but elected to joining the ABA Virginia Squires. He now does color commentary for the ODU basketball network.

The unlikely hero in this game was guard Imo Essien who missed his first nine shots but sunk a three pointer with 41 seconds left for the eventual game winner.

I was able to sit in the presser after the game. Harry said there was mix up and he was the only one asking questions. Still it was cool to be there. Coach Jones did mention that he was not happy with the change of game time from 7PM to 8PM due to high school football games. He made the point that this would not happen again.

I usually post a picture of the scoreboard with the final score here, but I forgot to take a picture because I was wondering when it would be time to go to the presser.

I did many tourist visits on this trip but I will include pictures of just one visit in each of my three game blogs.

As always, zoos are a favorite mine to visit. Here are some pictures from the Virginia Zoo.