For years, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City was one of the spiritual homes of college basketball. It hosted 3 of the first 4 Final Fours and, until recently, had hosted more tournament games than any other facility in the country. It also, until recently, was the home, of the UMKC Kangaroo basketball team, a team that has never made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Last season, the team vacated the Auditorium (save for special occasions) and moved back into an on-campus facility more in line with the attendance numbers drawn by the team.
This caused some confusion with the athletic department of the newest member of Division I, the Mavericks from Nebraska-Omaha. I mention this because, as a Kansas City-based alum, I was invited to attend the Mavs' game against UMKC at Municipal Auditorium. Transitions can be tough on a school.
UNO came into tonight's game with a 1-1 record, having lost their opener to future league-mate IPFW and won a game against Concordia (Neb.) from the NAIA. UMKC entered the contest at 0-2, coming off a loss to Bradley and a shocking defeat at the hands of Northwest Missouri State, a Division II school that was a conference mate of UNO during the past few seasons prior to UNO's jump.
The transition theme continued as UNO entered the Swinney Recreation Center ("SRC"). The school redesigned its logo last summer, but sported shooting shirts that displayed a previous version, which looked very similar to the Miami (Fla.) "U" logo.
Although I have lived in the Kansas City metro since 2005, and attended UMKC as a graduate student since 2008, it was my first time attending a Roo game. The SRC was a nice on-campus facility, seating about 1500 snugly, with a jogging track around the perimeter of the gym and a net to divide the court from the rest of the complex. Business fraternity members were selling raffle tickets, and the school game out free schedule magnets, which may be useful to plan future 800GP visits. Although our alumni group had tickets behind the UMKC bench, we were told we could sit as a group behind UNO's bench.
The Mavs started out strong, heading into the first media timeout with an 11-7 lead before the Roos came back with a flurry of shots from outside, grabbing a 23-17 at the second media timeout. I was actually surprised by the media timeouts, as I found out a local station is carrying all of UMKC's home games (thanks, Twitter!!) It seemed like the Roos were shooting at least 60-65% from outside in the first half, although the WWL shows them at 50% for the half. Nevertheless, the hot hand from outside kept them in the game, just as 18 points from UNO's Mitch Albers helped stake the upstart Mavs to a one-point, 44-43 halftime lead.
At halftime, my attention was drawn to another item that symbolized UNO's season of transition. The athletic department rolled out a new logo and graphic design for all uniforms late last spring. However, when the team came out to warm up in the second half, it was pointed out to me that the shooting shirts still displayed the previous stylized "O" worn as recently as last year. I guess we make the upgrades as we can. I hope cash from guarantee games will help move the process along.
The game slowed down considerably in the "3rd quarter", but we were able to witness a couple of fun mid-major timeout events. During the first media timeout, the dance and cheer teams, along with a number of young children, performed the chicken dance out on the court. Considering my wife and I had to sing the chicken dance song to our one-year-old daughter for a couple of months to get her to take a bath, I really enjoyed watching the kids groove and look forward to seeing her out on the court in a few years. The other great stunt was a rubber chicken shootout. Two teams of students used a slingshot to shoot rubber chickens at a team member wearing a laundry basket on his head. The team to catch the most chickens won. This may have been one of the funnier time-out gags I have seen in some time. UNO is first and foremost a hockey school, and I'm hoping the athletic department personnel at the game can find a way to bring this greatness on to the ice.
The teams traded the lead a number of times before UNO stretched a lead to six points at the under-8 timeout, and made it seven with an and-1 free throw from leading scorer Mitch Albers, who had 25 at that point. UNO was also in the bonus, and the hope of a first D-I win leaped in the students and alumni who had come to support the team. However, the game turned quickly as UNO missed the front ends of two 1-and-1s. UMKC then turned to a name known to many in the Omaha community, Korver.
Kirk Korver, the 4th, and presumably last, of the Korver brothers from Pella, Iowa, had played a fairly pedestrian game to this point, scoring 2 points and making many of us believe the talent had not reached this far down the family tree. He hit a three to give the Roos their first lead in six minutes. the Mavs had one more mini-run in them, scoring five straight points, but their offense had dulled considerably. They hit only 2 shots after the sub-4 media timeout, including one to tie the game after Korver hit his second 3-point dagger of the night. UNO gave the ball back to UMKC with 35.6 seconds left in the game. UMKC utilized its last called timeout well. The play put the ball in Reggie Chamberlain's hands, and he hit his fifth three of the night with 1.9 seconds left to give UMKC a 77-74 lead. UNO got a shot off before the buzzer sounded, but it was well off.
I walked out into the cold Kansas City night knowing UNO would probably not have a better chance at a D-I victory this season. Still, if they can play a future Summit league opponent to the last possession on the road in their first transition season, the chances for victories in future seasons look extremely promising. Only four years to tournament eligibility...
at MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 77, NEBRASKA OMAHA 74 11/16/2011
MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 1-2 (0-0) -- R. Chamberlain 10-18 3-4 28; E. Tyler 3-5 1-2 9; T. Hall 4-10 1-2 11; K. Korver 3-7 0-1 8; T. Staton 2-6 2-4 8; D. Dibble 1-3 4-4 6; F. Chatmon 2-3 1-3 5; J. Gholston 0-2 0-0 0; J. Payton 1-2 0-0 2; N. Rogers 0-0 0-0 0; B. Reid 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-56 12-20 77.
Three-point goals: - , UMKC 13-30 (D. Dibble 0-1; R. Chamberlain 5-10; T. Staton 2-4; M. Gholston 0-1; F. Chatmon 0-1; K. Korver 2-5; T. Hall 2-4; E. Tyler 2-4); Rebounds: , UMKC 27 (T. Hall 9); Assists: , UMKC 12 (R. Chamberlain 3); Total Fouls -- , UMKC 20; Fouled Out: -; UMKC-D. Dibble.