Inspired by the peripatetic ways of our host, I often check out the local athletic options when I travel. On past trips to California I've checked the schedules for the likes of St Mary's, San Diego and San Francisco, but it's never quite worked out.Often, as a student, I was too busy with academics to be a serious sports fan. This wascertainly true in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, where I managed two years of classes without once attending a Cal athletic event. In town for a conference, I was already considering making up for this lapse. The 800 Games Project, anopponent from the Other 20-something and, OK, the prospect of a quick trip to the top of the mileage chart by attending a game thousands of miles from my home gym, put me over the top. Austin Peay at California, here I come.
Whether attending an opera or an athletic event, I like to do my homework. This time,I was stymied by the new paywall of a favorite basketball stats site and by my lapsed subscription to ours host's site. So, I was left with vague memories of a contest against my own team in 2007 in an exempt tournament down Mexico way. That was my first introductionto Austin Peay, and we won 61-47. That season Austin Peay went on to first round gloryand defeat in the NCAA tournament at the hands of Texas. We didn't quite manage 20 D1 wins.The memories are distant enough that I would have sooner put Austin Peay in the AmericaEast than in their rightful place in the Ohio Valley.
In Berkeley, in 2011, $18 got me in the door and $5 got me a glossy program. I learnedthat this event was a part of the Progressive CBE Classic (at least they didn't callit a tournament). I made the long walk around the stadium and up to the cheap seats, whereI settled into the program. Just as well that it was the Classic program, perhaps it wouldmean more equitable coverage of the teams. Cal coming off their 7th NIT appearance. A veteran lineup joined by a "highly talented crop of newcomers" who would remain nameless, since the program gave us starting lineups, without complete rosters. Austin Peay coming off a 20 win season, a 2nd place finish in the OVC, and a first round exit in the CBI.
For a "big time" arena seating 11,000, the cheap seats weren't too bad. A little dark upthere, but with a steep enough bowl to afford reasonable views of the action. Possiblya better view than the families of the Austin Peay players, who seemed shoved into a corneron the main floor. A generously sized, floor-level student section was well filledby fans clad in blue and gold. The pep band was sharply dressed, if in "Music Man" style,with blue vests and broad-brimmed straw hats. A large band, fifty strong with a nice,strong, brassy sound. They played arrangements of tunes a bit more modern than the "ProudMary" I might still sometimes hear at home. "Hey now, you're a rockstar." The program informed me, anachronistically, that Cal's second round NIT exit last seasonwas played as a member of the PAC 12. And, they had freshly painted (glued?) logos on the court, to prove it. In Haas Pavilion banners are apparently only hung for Sweet 16 appearances and better. Which meant there were only three. And none in this decade or the last. Yet, the Golden Bears were ranked by many among the 25 finest teams in the land, and the Governors of Austin Peay would have their work cut out for them.
The Cal starting five were welcomed on to the court by a small squad of cheerleaders,reflecting Berkeley's student demographics, and so not Title R compliant. Joiningthe cheerleaders was a mysterious set of representatives from a second, parallel, studentsection clad in blue and gold rugby shirts. Rugby, now there's a Cal athletic programwith a storied tradition!
And, there was some basketball. After a fashion. The score was quickly 14-2 withAustin Peay suffering travel calls. Charge calls. Multiple ill advised three-pointattempts early in the shot clock. But, they weren't doing much better when workingtheir offense deep into the shot clock. Six and a half minutes into the game thescore was 17-2 before the Governors finally made a free throw for their third pointof the contest. There wouldn't be many more in the half. Austin Peay couldn'teven be bothered to hold for a last shot, so Cal got to finish the half with a thunderousdunk, and a 40-13 advantage. Austin Peay had shot 17% from the floor. The Golden Bears 61%.
The bottom bowl had started the game perhaps a third floor against this little known opponent. The attendance would be generously estimated at more than 6000. A certainfraction of the audience, perhaps 20% of the student section, didn't make it back forthe second half. For me, too, the game nearly came to a premature end.
I went looking for a mid-game nutritional supplement only to discover that theconcession stands serving the cheap seats were closed. Signs directed me to the main floor, so, following a sign labeled "Stairs" (I didn't see the related "Exit" sign, honest!)I headed out the door... and outside. The door clicked locked behind me. So, I troopeddown the stairs, through the neighboring student athletic facility, around the arena, and back to the entrance. Where the staff explained, politely enough, that there was no re-entry. This was clearly not the friendly confines of the Athletics-Recreation Center, whereI've come inside during (exhibition) basketball games to warm my hands with nary a glancefrom the ticket takers. The staff at Haas pavilion listed to my story, and directedme to an appellate court. Who introduced himself, friendly enough, explaining the nore-entry policy, and then even plead on my behalf before the supreme court. Who saw fit tolet me back into the game. Not much of a basketball game (nor much of a hot dog!), but I was determined to stay until the end.
Finally, I thought I saw a spark from Austin Peay. A loose ball recovered, a break-away, 3-on-2. A nifty pass to avoid contact, the receiver takes it up, rolls it in... contact comes anyway, and a whistle. The ref waves off the basket. What's the new arc under the basket even for?
But, Austin Peay wasn't ready to throw in the towel. They mustered full-court pressure off a couple of in-bounds plays, but it didn't come to much. With the shot clock winding down, the Governors hoisted up bad shots. When the shot clock was winding down on Cal with 11:00 to play, they knifed into, and spun through, the lane to elegantly lay it in. 54-29.
With Cal emptying their bench, Austin Peay did eventually force a couple of turnoverswith a return to pressure tactics. At 56-38, with 8:15 to play, they forced Cal tocall a time-out and bring some starters back in. This was more of a basketball gamethan my original alma maters rout of NAIA Holy Cross the night before, but not much.
With 2:30 to play, Austin Peay was rolling the ball up the court on an in-bounds play.I guess you have to practice end-of-game scenarios sometime. 70-47. I had to admireAustin Peay's intensity, a spirit that wouldn't allow them to give up, as they made ittwo baskets in a row. And then... a five-second call against Cal! Despite the Governors' tenacity it was, of course, too little too late. Cal couldn'tbe bothered to put up a final shot, and Austin Peay fell 72-55. It was one of the worstexhibitions of three-point shooting I've ever witnessed, with the teams combining for 3-29.
What did Austin Peay get out of all of this? A long trip west the week beforeThanksgiving. A chance to test themselves against the "PAC12". Three games for the price of one, and a crack at formidable, if slightly less invincible, foes like Detroit (who never quite seems to play to the level of their talent... maybe Austin Peay has a chance) and George Washington, on a neutral court. A chance to listen to a quality pep band play Smash Mouth.
That same pep band shifted to something of a chorale, their alma mater perhaps, as ifto wish Austin Peay, and you, dear reader, "Good night, from Berkeley."
at CALIFORNIA 72, AUSTIN PEAY 55 11/15/2011
AUSTIN PEAY 0-2 (0-0) -- T. Edmondson 2-10 0-0 4; W. Triggs 3-7 0-0 6; J. Clyburn 0-3 0-0 0; A. Campbell 1-5 1-2 3; J. Terry 8-13 0-0 16; H. Lawrence 3-7 2-2 10; M. Baker 5-9 2-2 12; M. Hasse 0-2 0-0 0; J. Blake 0-3 0-0 0; T. Greer 0-2 0-0 0; C. Freeman 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 23-62 7-8 55. CALIFORNIA 3-0 (0-0) -- J. Gutierrez 5-8 4-4 14; B. Smith 5-6 1-3 11; A. Crabbe 2-12 0-0 5; H. Kamp 5-7 2-4 12; R. Solomon 2-4 4-4 8; D. Kravish 6-7 0-0 12; J. Cobbs 3-5 1-2 7; E. Murray 0-2 2-2 2; B. Bak 0-0 1-2 1; J. Powers 0-2 0-0 0; R. Filley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-53 15-21 72.
Three-point goals: APSU 2-17 (A. Campbell 0-3; T. Edmondson 0-5; J. Blake 0-3; M. Baker 0-2; H. Lawrence 2-4), CAL 1-12 (J. Cobbs 0-1; B. Smith 0-1; A. Crabbe 1-6; E. Murray 0-2; J. Powers 0-1; R. Solomon 0-1); Rebounds: APSU 27 (M. Baker 5), CAL 35 (H. Kamp 9); Assists: APSU 13 (J. Clyburn 3), CAL 14 (J. Cobbs 4); Total Fouls -- APSU 19, CAL 12; Fouled Out: APSU-None; CAL-None.