Lamar (61) vs. Depaul (80) 12/06/16

#39 of 351

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This game wraps up my stay in Chicago. Three games in four nights!

So this is one of those games held in a beautiful large arena with a very small number of fans occupying the seats. The entire upper level was empty. This despite a little known fact that Depaul is the largest catholic university  in the nation although I would have said Notre Dame. The hey days of Mark Aquirre and George Mikan are but ghosts in this empty arena.

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It was sort of a UCONN reunion night for me. The Depaul head coach is Dave Leitao who was Jim Calhoun’s assistant coach at Northeastern and UCONN in the mid 80’s. Leitao left for an unsuccessful stint at Virginia before returning to Depaul.

The Depaul assistant coach Patrick Sellers was also an assistant at UCONN under Calhoun. Sellers left under suspicion for playing a major part in the Nate Miles scandal that rocked UCONN in 2010. He had to hide for a year in China before attempting to make his way back into the coaching ranks in the states.

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The Depaul fans have a ritual when there is a two shot foul. When the announcer says “shooting two shots”, the fans slap their hands on the the chair two times. I almost dropped my beer the first time when my seat neighbor did this. I feel it is my call to document the strange habits of college basketball fans as I come across them.

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Lamar from Beaumont, Texas (in case you were wondering) played hard but could not keep up with the more talented Demons. These small schools lack the size and quickness to keep with a team from the Big East. As the score became more and more in Depaul’s favor, both teams abandoned defense. “Jack up the stats” became the motto in the second half.

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The player of the game was Depaul Eli Cain. The 6’6″ sophomore forward is a break out star in the Big East. He was on the Big East All-Freshman team last year. He scored 21 points tonight in all different ways highlighting his versatility. He will be the lone bright spot for Depaul this year in what may be a long year for the Demons.

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I need to see Chicago State and Northwestern to compete the city circuit. Goodbye Chicago for now but I will be back.

 

 

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Eastern Illinois (90) vs University of Illinois at Chicago (76) 12-4-16

#38 of 351

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On a snowy day, today was the second game on my Windy City tour. The snow kept down the crowd to minimum. I would bet that the total number of players, cheerleaders and pep band members outnumbered the fans. Both teams are 4-3 and not much is expected this year from either team. The UIC staff should put curtains around the upper level since it was completely empty.

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I felt sorry for the mascot seen above. There was nothing for him to do except wander around and high five the few kids that were there. The cheerleaders and dance team were trying their best to ignite a non-existent crowd. Kudos to the few fathers who brought out their little girls to watch this game. I tried very hard to get a thrown T-shirt from the cheerleaders but I would have given it to this little girl who cheered unashamedly despite her beloved Flames losing throughout the game.

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The display underneath the scorer’s table had a cool effect. The UIC are named the Flames. Occasionally  flames would come up from the floor on the screen. I have a picture below to illustrate this. It looks like the player is sitting in a fire.

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As far as the game goes, Eastern Illinois led most of the way before the quiet crowd. I was very impressed with Panther (EIU) Cornell Johnston. He is listed at 5’7″ and 150 pounds. That is being very generous. Johnston was the player of the game by far. He drove by his defenders with ease. His dribbling skills were amazing to watch. This St.Louis product is a junior who will make some noise in the Ohio Valley Conference.

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UIC plays Valparaiso late this year. It was publicized as a national broadcast game on ESPNU something that the big programs take for advantage. If you ever feel jaded  or take for granted the success of your P5 team, come down and watch one of these games. It will do you wonders.

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San Diego State (59) Vs. Loyola Chicago (65) 12-03-16

#37 of 351

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This game begins my stretch of 3 games in Chicago in four nights. My Southwest Airlines points were used for a free flight. I am sleeping at my daughter’s apartment and using her car when needed. Not a bad gig!

I checked the start time in Connecticut and saw a 4 PM start time. I left early enough because of my unfamiliarity with driving the Chicago streets. I arrived a little after 3PM assuming I would have time to hang out and survey the surroundings. As I bought the ticket, the student informed me that I only missed the first 5 minutes. As I figured out later, the 4PM time was for Eastern Standard time which equates to 3PM Central time here in Chicago. Another lesson learned on the journey to 351!

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It was cool to see San Diego State coach Steve Fisher (pictured below). Astute college BB fans will remember Steve as the coach of the Michigan Fab Five. It is amazing that he is still in coaching and doing a great job with the Aztecs.

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This game was part of the Missouri Valley Conference vs. Mountain West Challenge in case you were wondering why these two teams would meet. It was the first meeting ever between them. I was sitting in a very large contingent of San Diego state fans wondering why anyone would want to leave beautiful San Diego for cold Chicago.

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A little know fact is that Loyola won the NCAA national championship in 1963 defeating Cincinnati in the title game. But what was more interesting was the semi final game vs. Mississippi State. The state of Mississippi had a state law prohibiting a college team from playing any school with a black player. Loyola actually had four black players. The game was played in violation of a court order.

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Player of the game goes to Aundre Jackson of Loyola. The JUCO transfer from McLennan CC was a whirling machine outquicking and overpowering all Aztec defenders. He finished with 24 points hitting 11 out of 12 shots. He started in place of their injured star player Donte Ingram and became the star himself tonight.

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So not to be confused with Loyola Maryland, Loyola New Orleans or Loyola Marymount, the Loyola Ramblers pulled off a mighty upset tonight to the delight of the small but loud fans in the Gentile arena.

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