UMASS Lowell (80) vs. Wagner (96) 12/05/2017

#50 of 351   14% complete

I am excited to begin my fourth year of Operation 351. I have 15 games scheduled for the year pending bad weather and life changing events. They are listed below:

Lafayette at NJIT (Newark)                          11/14/17

UMASS Lowell at Wagner                             12/05/17

William Mary at Delaware                           01/05/18

South Carolina State at Delaware State     01/06/18

Southern at Mississippi Valley State          01/15/18

Vanderbilt at Mississippi State                    01/16/18

Gardner Webb vs. UNC Asheville               01/23/18

UNCW at Northeastern                                 02/03/18

Northwestern at Maryland                          02/10/18

Seton Hall at Georgetown                            02/10/18

George Mason at Lasalle                              02/17/18

 Duquesne at St. Joseph’s (PA)                      02/17/18

Houston at Temple                                        02/18/18

Dartmouth at Princeton                               02/24/18

 Iona at Rider                                                   02/25/18

Last night’s game at Wagner had two special milestones in my journey. I hit the fifty mark and completed the “NYC” challenge seeing every Division 1 school in the five boroughs. To make it extra special, I took my first trip ever on the Staten Island Ferry.  I have a childhood memory of watching an “I Love Lucy” episode where Fred and Lucy get seasick on the ferry. There was nothing spectacular about the free 25 minute ride from the tip of Manhattan to Staten Island but it was cool to ride on such a historic vessel. I was also pleased to be joined by new son-law John who loves all sports with a passion.

 

 

Wagner provides a convenient shuttle from the ferry to the school. After a short walk in the rain, we were at the Spiro Athletic Center.  Upon entering the arena, we were greeted with ear-splitting rap music while the players warmed up. I guess that my favorite genre country music  will never make its way to a college basketball gym.

The General Admission tickets were $10 which provided us with very close to the court bleacher seats. I was still stinging from Wagner’s upset of UCONN last year so I was curious how the Seahawks would do tonight.

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Wagner does not go out of its way to provide a Division 1 experience at the game. The scoreboards were plain. I have a pet peeve in that I declare a scoreboard deficient if it does not show the total points for a player at some point during the night. The student crowd was sparse and quiet. The pep band tried to draw up some energy but to no avail. Perhaps Tuesday nights are not the best night to see excitement.

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Wagner was clearly the superior club. UMASS Lowell tried to hold on but were not strong or quick enough to keep up with the Seahawks. As I journey my way through Division 1 basketball games, I try to identify freshman who are playing under the radar but show something intangible to me. Most times, I don’t find such an individual but tonight I did.

Keep a lookout for freshman Chase Freeman of Wagner. This kid from Tennessee has not seen much playing time but he is talented despite his small stature. I was watching his ball handling skills and shooting during the warm ups and made a point to key on him during the game. He played well for the few minutes he was in tonight. As a point of reference, I had seen a kid named Makai Mason from Yale who you made have heard of. He has blossomed into a potential draft choice although he has been sidelined by injuries the past two years.  I had the same feeling about him when I saw him as a freshman at Yale.

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The player of the game was Blake Francis from Wagner. He and the rest of his teammates went on an incredible 3 point barrage in the first 5 minutes of the game. He likes to shoot but he is deadly accurate.

Tonight also set a couple of other records. Number one – John and I were commenting how many times the referees were cleaning up wet spots on the floor. I get the injury liability but I was looking at a long ride home which did end up with a bedtime of 1:36AM.  Number 2 – This ride to get to the game involved a drive to the Bridgeport train station, a trip on Metro North to Grand Central, a subway ride to the tip of Manhattan, a ferry ride over to Staten Island and finally a shuttle to the gym. This trip wins the “Can’t I just take a helicopter to the game?” award.

 

 

So goodbye New York. I will visit you again but under the guise of sight seeing or play watching.

Next Game: William Mary at Delaware                           01/05/18

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Maine (95) Vs. UMass-Lowell (81) 01/13/2016

#26 of 351

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I had the pleasure of watching both these clubs on TV because they had UCONN as a common opponent this year. It is true that the level of play rises to the level of competition because both clubs played much better against UCONN than against each other today.

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One big advantage of watching games at smaller schools and smaller gyms is that you can sit anywhere. Sitting three rows from the court, you can see the play develop and watch like a basketball coach would. These teams play just as hard as the big boys. You can see the effort and pain on their faces being this close.

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As this was an 11AM start, I expected to see very little folks in the stands. As it turns out, the place had a lot of fans being the recipient of multiple high school groups coming into to watch them. It must have been a school holiday in the Boston area.

I was very impressed with Maine freshman Devine Eke a 6’7″ forward from Plainfield, NJ. He seemed to elevate above all others and had the paint to himself. He played well against UCONN and would probably do very well at a higher level.

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Kudos to the pep band who actually sounded like a band! They were into the game cheering to the end. UMass-Lowell came back and brought it down to 1 point deficit before Maine went crazy with a barrage of three pointers to put the game away.

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So for an off topic moment. I do not like the plush recliner seats that all the theaters are installing for two reasons. One is that they now force the attendee to get there earlier because there are less seats. More importantly, I can NOT stay awake watching a movie in one of these chairs. I went to Chili’s for lunch after the game and had 3 hours to kill before meeting my daughter Kristie ( a grad student at Merrimack) for supper. I spied a Showcase Cinema next door and went into to catch the next available movie. I paid for “The Forest” and went to my reserved seat. I reclined back and before you know it, I  was in never never land. The movie was one of those where stuff pops out at unsuspecting characters eliciting a scream. I would wake up at each of these screams with a “where the hell am I” spasm and would end up scaring the couple next to me more so than the movie scream. After a couple episodes like this, the couple apologized and decided to move elsewhere.  Call me old fashioned but I want the uncomfortable hard theater seats to keep me awake.

Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/costello-athletic-center-s1861

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