Friday, January 11, 2008


This year I've gone to all of Georgetown's home games, watched the Illini fall to the Terps at Comcast, and attended two other area college basketball games that I had no rooting interest in: American University visiting the University of Maryland on December 22nd and the Rick Majerus-led St. Louis Billikens traveling to Foggy Bottom last night. Both of the latter games marked historic feats. American's win over the Terps was the school's first victory over Maryland since 1926 - 1927. And it was not a fluke win for American -- Terps fans had so little faith in their squad that people began filing out of Comcast with 3:30 left and Maryland ten points down.

I assumed that the American-Maryland game was going to be the most bizarre college hoops match I witnessed this year. American after all had been drilled by the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (and started this month off by losing to Brown . . . although I did not think that they kept score at Brown sporting events) before handily beating the University of Maryland at College Park. Now, however, I think I need to make a little more time to take in the college game at area schools.

A colleague invited me to watch a George Washington game largely to try and understand what Rick Majerus was thinking when he came out of retirement to take the reins of the Billikens. Neither George Washington nor St. Louis seemed to be very good -- GW had already, like American, been fallen by the mighty UMBC Retrievers (the current home of Crystal Palace FC USA, leading me to become a Charlton supporter and Crystal Palace season ticket holder), while St. Louis had managed to beat a weakened Southern Illinois but got doubled up by Kent State.

Nevertheless, watching a team score seven points in a twenty minute half is, well, a thoroughly confusing experience. It would be nearly impossible to replicate how bad the basketball played in the first half of that game was. The refereeing of the game was horrid: players were routinely hammered after often openly traveling on their way to the basket, but the refs ate their whistles. The Billikens scored their first point, on a free throw, after 5 minutes and 45 seconds had elapsed. St. Louis closed out the first half by not scoring for 8 minutes and 30 seconds. There were two three minute stretches in that half where neither team scored: GW's Wilmore hit a three with 17:36 left and no one scored until St. Louis scored its first point with 14:16 on the clock; GW's Green hit a three with 7:55 to go in the half and the scoreboard didn't move again until Diggs scored with 4:03 in the half. The game was so bad that even though St. Louis had only scored seven points in the first half, they still had a reasonable chance to win. That is, of course, until the Billikens followed up their futility in the first half with an almost nine minute stretch where they failed to score anything in the second half.

Unfortunately, not many GW students saw the spectacle. The Smith Center was fairly empty for the historic occasion -- the lowest point total scored by a D1 team since the imposition of the shot clock. Steven Goff, my favorite DC sports reporter, was, however, amongst the few people with me at the game and his article for the Washington Post (registration required) accurately captures the atmosphere. Nevertheless, what goes unmentioned in Goff's piece is that the surreal night got even more absurd when one of the scores of St. Louis fans in the stands stood up around the 15 minute mark of the second half to berate the kids on the court, pleading that they "wake up" and begging that the Billikens "do something." His screaming seemed to unnerve some of the St. Louis players and was certainly unexpected, given how horrible the game had been going for a solid twenty-five minutes at that point. The preppie GW alums around us tried to shout down the fan, but eventually (correctly) decided that it was best to let him vent in peace.

Outside of the entertainment value of the two hours (which was virtually nil, despite the rarity of the event), I left the Smith Center with an even greater appreciation for what JTIII has done with Georgetown and look forward to a much more entertaining Hoyas-Huskies matchup this afternoon.

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