Savannah State (67) vs. Coppin State (73) 01/05/19

Game #75 of 353  21% complete

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Coppin State is in a not so nice area of Baltimore. Riots protesting the 2015 Freddie Grey shooting was very near the Coppin State campus. That being said as I drove through run down neighborhoods, I was a little on edge. Having been unsuccessful finding a spot to park on campus, I parked along the street in front of the Physical Education Center. As I walked into the arena, I was greeted by smiles by the staff as I went through security. I found a seat in the center of the court and witnessed a very entertaining basketball game. No worries!

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I tend to make UCONN connections as I continue on my journey. The head coach of Coppin State was Juan Dixon who scored 27 points for Maryland in a win against UCONN in the Eastern Regional final in 2002. The Savannah State coach was Horace Broadnax who played in a few Big East battles against UCONN in the 1980’s and helped Georgetown win the 1984 NCAA championship.

 

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I rooted extra hard for Coppin State because they were winless at this point. Both teams showed so much individual talent that might suffice in a one-on-one battle but lacked the fundamentals needed for a winning ball club. There were many individual highlight plays but there was just too much individual vs. team basketball. Savannah State is dropping to Division 2 next year so I was wondering about the mindset of the players who expected to be playing Division 1 ball.

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It was great to see the excitement of the Coppin State players winning their first game of the season. They had only lost by seven points at Notre Dame the game before so the talent is there. Good luck Eagles!

Next Game: Lafayette at American 01/19/19

 

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Maine (52) vs. UMBC (61) 01/05/19

Game #74 of 353  20% complete

Arriving in Baltimore early morning well before the 1PM UMBC game, I drove to the Inner Harbor to tour the USS Constellation and a submarine the USS Torsk. I highly recommend this diversion because it gives one a true sense of the lack of comfort for sailors on these boats. Besides constantly ducking to avoid beams and the especially tight quarters on the submarine, my destiny back then would not have been in the Navy.

I chatted with a volunteer on the USS Torsk who happened to be fixing a fan but was working in the same area that he worked in back in 1965. He was in charge of some levers that controlled the throttle speed of the submarine. The submarine’s mission back then was to listen in on Russian subs near the Ireland coast. The torpedoes looked impressive and menacing.

I resolved this year to eat more healthy and to being visiting vegan restaurants on my Operation 351 journey.  As I finished touring the boats, the digestive juices did swirl triggering a look for a close by food place. Across the street I saw a Shake Shack calling my name. Another New Year’s resolution goes down the tubes!

So on to basketball….

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Not yet! I like to tour the campus sometimes before a game to get a little exercise. I ran into a dog named True Grit – the mascot of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County Retrievers. Rub his nose and you will get a lifetime of good luck. The model for the statue was a 5 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Nitty Gritty. Although the university chose the name “True Grit” to symbolize the nature of the school, the dog Nitty Gritty did have the honor of pulling off the cloth at the 1987 dedication.

So really on to basketball..

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The UMBC Events Center is a brand new slick arena built last year. As I entered the lobby, I was greeted by a sign proclaiming the event heard around the world. On March 16th, 2018, 16th seeded UMBC defeated #1 Virginia 74-54. It was the first time in history that a sixteen seed defeated a number one seed. In the team fan shop, there are t-shirts and signs proclaiming the win for sale.

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This game was the America East league opener for both teams. UMBC standing overall at 8-7 and Maine at 2-15 were evenly matched in the first half but UMBC pulled away in the second half led by 6′ 10″ UMBC sophomore Brandon Horvath. His combination of three pointers and inside play proved the difference.

The Events Center arena proved to be an ideal place to watch a game. However, I do have one complaint. I am very used to looking at the scoreboard in the center of arena but this new arena did not have one. One has to look over to the side scoreboards or view the televised game up on the side wall. I kept looking up and then looking over to see the score.

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To conclude, I am at the airport in the TSA line. I over hear a gentleman discussing a 20 dollar bill that he found on the belt. The TSA man was reluctant to take it because I am sure there is no procedure on how to handle cash. I looked over and saw a Maine basketball backpack on this gentleman. As I took a closer look, I recognized him to be the head coach of Maine Richard Barron. As we both exited the TSA area, he was walking to the gate with his assistant Edniesha Curry. She is the only women coach for a D-1 men’s basketball program. So I introduced myself to them and told them about my journey. They seemed genuinely interested.  I told them that I was from Connecticut. Barron said that he was good friends with Geno. We said our goodbyes and we went off to our separate gates. I was mad at myself for not asking for a picture. Considering that he just lost a game and some stranger was talking to them while they had a plane to catch, both of them were very nice.

So I had time to catch a bite to eat and headed off to the nearest food place with beer. I am sitting there at the bar but guess who walks in. Yep and this time I was not going to blow it. I went over and asked for a picture. As I gave the camera to Ms. Curry,  Mark Curran said that Edniesha was really the “shining and upcoming star “.  So he asked a bar patron to take  a picture of all three of us.  Mark and Edniesha – I hope you reading this. I really appreciate you taking time to humor this old college basketball nut! Best of luck to you and the Black Bears!

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Next Game: Savannah State at Coppin State 01/05/19

 

 

 

Northwestern (57) vs. Maryland (73) 02/10/2018

#59 of 351  16% complete

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It was amazing to me to see such a large arena on a college campus. The Xfinity Center would rival any big city arena hosting an NBA team. What I don’t understand is how they are able to serve alcohol in the arena giving that it is located on a college campus. I am not complaining but it was a mute point. I’m not paying $12 for a craft beer.

Today’s noon game will be a doubleheader day followed by Georgetown at 4PM.  I try to schedule multiple games on a day or weekend given the fact that I am now flying to destinations or doing very long drives. The low lying fruit has been picked so to speak. My ultimate dream is to do a triple header on one day ideally a noon game, a 4PM game and a 7PM game.

I arrived early and did my 10,000 steps around the campus. This a typical Big 10 sprawling layout. I should have done a better job of researching the parking especially when it started raining. I followed a link on the UMD site for a $15 parking permit. The parking ended up being in a garage next to the football stadium. It was a 10 minute walk to the arena but I am sure that I could have snagged a STUB HUB parking pass for cheaper and closer.

I am reminded about that painful game in 2002 when Juan Dixon and Maryland defeated UCONN in the Elite 8 to go on and win the national championship. Caron Butler scored 26 points in the second half but it was not enough. Congratulations to Caron on his retirement and new book!

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Let me announce that I had my first ever Chick-Fil-A sandwich at the arena.

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Maryland was giving away yellow shirts as part of their “Wear Gold” day. Only certain sections had them draped over the seat even with some in the upper levels. I could not figure any rhyme or reason for the placement of the shirts. So yes I sneaked over and grabbed a shirt off of an unoccupied seat in the second half. I don’t need a shirt and this one is ugly. However, it is the thrill of the chase that compels me.

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Maryland has a neat tradition where they unfurl a Maryland flag in the student section from the top sections to the bottom.  They also repeat the word “oh” during the national anthem.

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Maryland played an outstanding game. This Northwestern club is certainly not the darling team that everyone fell in love with last year during March Madness. Kevin Huerter from Maryland was raining threes. Anthony Cowan was penetrating and hoisting some beautiful floaters. Meanwhile, Northwestern looked very much out of sync.

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Maryland is on the bubble. I am not sure how much noise they will make in March. It is difficult sitting during a game watching enthusiastic fans cheer on their team when back in Connecticut my beloved Huskies are facing dark times.

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Next game : Seton Hall at Georgetown 02/10/18