Lafayette (84) vs. American (79) OT 01/19/19

Game #76 of 351 21% complete

This game is the first of a three game swing through our nation’s nation’s capital. Should you ever find yourself near the American University campus, do yourself a favor and walk along Nebraska Avenue towards the center of Tenleytown. A good 20 minute walk from Bender Arena past the Department of Homeland Security and beautiful historic homes through Tenley Circle is an excellent pregame warmup.

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As I stated in an earlier post, I am resolved to eat healthier on my journey. I searched for vegan food near American University and found a plethora of choices. The one that piqued my interest was Beefsteak subtitled “Vegetables Unleashed” – an oxymoron to say the least. The menu had burgers, salads and warm veggie bowls. I chose the Souper Stew with the ingredients as follows: spinach,  onion blend, rice, spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, corn nuts, sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and pimento. Here is the problem. This dish was excellent and would do it all over again but I was hungry a half hour later. How do you get filled if you do not eat a burger, milkshake and fries? Fortunately, a box of popcorn at the game saved the day. One more challenge to work on on my journey!

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As I sat down in my chair back seat eagerly awaiting the start of the game, I was jolted by the arrival of a large man sitting down in my row at the opposite end. It was one of those seat constructions where a movement by anyone in the row is felt by everyone else in the row. My annoyance with each jostle in these kind of seats builds towards all humans as the game goes on.

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I have peculiar ways about judging an arena. At halftime, I like to get up and walk around the arena and view any historic crap hanging on the walls. If I can`t get to the other side of the arena because there are curtains blocking my way and I have to actually cross to the other side by going down to court level to cross, it is a black check mark against the venue. Enough said!

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This is the second time seeing the Lafayette club this year watching them host an overtime loss to Sacred Heart in December. Despite their 4-12 record, I love how this team plays. Their leading scorer is Justin Jaworski a 6 foot 1 inch guard from Pennsylvania who is fun to watch. You can tell that he is a gym rat spending hours in the gym honing his game. He is quick and shifty using head fakes and misdirections to keep his defenders off balance. I expect him to be on the Patriot first team all league at the end of the season. The Leopards are missing a big muscle guy underneath to do any real damage in the league but they still are fun to watch. Perhaps the overtime win today will turn around the season.

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If you ever have a chance to see comedienne Heather Macdonald, you will see a funny lady. My daughter and I traveled to Arlington to take in her show after the game. Her routine about her husband taking the emergency aisle seats to get more leg room is priceless. She does not want the responsibility that goes with it mentioning that she would the first one out the door waving to her fellow passengers shouting “Goodbye bitches!”. We laughed the whole night long.

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New game: Duquense at George Washington 01/20/19

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Sacred Heart (64) vs Lafayette (62) 12/02/18

Game #71 of 353   20% complete

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The rain continued to fall in the Lehigh Valley as we headed over Sunday to Easton to see the Lafayette Leopards. As we drove up to the Kirby Sports Center, the building looked historically old as we drove around looking for parking. Going around to the other side, we encountered a morphed building with a modern look. A little WIKI research found the following explaining the dual look : “Dedicated on June 2, 2000, the $35 million Allan P. Kirby Sports Center includes a new, 110,000-square-foot  intramural and recreational sports facility attached to the previously existing Kirby Field House. The field house itself received a $2.5 million face lift and interior renovations.”

The campus reminded me so much of the Holy Cross campus. The school buildings are situated on a hill side mixed in with older style residential houses.

Here are a couple of pictures of the cool looking football arena adjacent to the field house.

I had to call the ticket office last week to inquire about courtside seats. I always tell my Operation 351 story to anyone who might be interested. As I was picking up the tickets, I met the women manning the ticket office who immediately started asking questions about the mission. They thought it was pretty cool which always gives me that added dose of adrenaline to keep this this quest going.

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The halls were filled with displays of Lafayette sports history. The red uniform above was an 1890 football uniform. Another case had a basketball from the early 1900’s.  I  believe that every campus arena should have these displays with the Palestra being the model.

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Being from Connecticut, it is always a treat to see a local club (Sacred Heart) come in as a visitor far away from Connecticut. However, my rule is to always root for the home school with the sole exception when I see UCONN as the visitor.

So I have been asked, “If you are such a die hard UCONN fan, how can you miss games like the Arizona/UCONN game Sunday to see a game in Pennsylvania?” My answer is that it getting increasingly difficult to schedule back to back games that minimize the cost and time traveling from Connecticut. I also have to insure that the games fit into my personal schedule given that I do have a life outside of Operation 351 and also with other Operation 351 games previously scheduled. When the opportunity presents itself, I grab it knowing that I can always watch UCONN delayed afterwards. I did die a slow death watching the end of the Airzona/ UCONN game live on the TV in the arena hall at halftime.

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This was a very entertaining back and forth game to watch. I am always concerned about an overtime game when it is the last game to see before heading home. With the score tied at 62, a missed three pointer by Sacred Heart was tipped in with three seconds to go by Jare’l Spelman to give the Pioneers the win. The 6’10” Spelman had a long reach and frequently out rebounded the smaller Lafayette team. Hard to imaging that Spelman was a transfer from Division 2 school Florida Southern. He must have truly dominated down there.

                                                  Happy Holidays to everyone!

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Next game : Depaul at Villanova 1/2/19

 

 

Lafayette (80) vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology (96) 11/14/17

#49 of 351 14% complete

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I am pleased to begin my fourth year of journeying through college basketball arenas heading towards that elusive goals of visiting all 351 Division 1 teams on their home court.  I will be making trips to Mississippi, D.C., Philly, Delaware and Buffalo with some oddballs thrown in, God willing barring any life-changing events and weather, I hope to attend 17 games this year.

For all the newbies (if any are reading), I do not count big off campus arenas unless that is their primary home. For example, I would include UCONN’s Gampel Arena as a visit but not the XL Center. Conversely, Georgetown only plays their home games in the Verizon Center. If I have visited a college and they build a new arena, I do not plan to go back and do it again, This mission is school-based not arena-based.

I attended my first game of this year traveling to Newark, New Jersey to see the NJIT Highlanders. As I have answered many times, they are a Division 1 basketball team. I am glad I waited till this year because the game was held in the new Health and Wellness Center. I was happy to park for FREE in an adjacent parking garage owned by the school. I think all schools should provide free parking as an incentive to come out in the cold especially in cities like Newark.

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The new arena is a multi purpose building that supports many sports at the school. It is huge. I am sure that it saves the school money combining facilities like this but give me the old small smelly gym any day.  So here is one complaint which is true for many schools. If you reside in an area that has not good cell reception, please provide WiFi for the crowd. I like to tweet and Facebook during the game but it was difficult with no WiFi and a ‘1X’ signal strength for Verizon.

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This was another case where the size of the arena is waiting for the crowd to catch up. The place was mostly empty but I give the fans credit for providing some spirited noise. I paid $15 for a near court-side seat with a back rest.

The NJIT Highlanders was a fun team to watch. You can tell that many of the players were schooled on the playgrounds. The suburban kids from Lafayette did not stand a chance. They were out quicked, out run and and out played. NJIT put on a show with impressive whiry dirly moves driving the basket and long threes raining from the arc. Many shots drew a gasp from the crowd.

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Wagner beat NJIT 60-49 in the first game of the season for NJIT. Either Wagner is very good or Lafayette is really bad. I find it hard to believe that NJIT was held to 49 points based on their talent and style of play. I will be following NJIT the rest of the year hoping that they find success this year. It would not surprise me to see them pull a few upsets along the way.

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I usually name players of interest from the game but the NJIT players all played the same style. They were interchangeable pieces in a fast paced game that Lafayette tried to slow down but to no avail.

Goodbye Newark. Unless I am taking off in a plane, I am done with this part of New Jersey. It has been the longest ride for me without staying overnight.

 

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Next up:  UMASS Lowell at Wagner    12/05/17