I've never been a fan of the game immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday, assuming it's played on campus. Yeah, I enjoy having the sports diversion as I'm still digesting the ungodly amounts of turkey, stuffing and potatoes from the night before, but it always feels like you're getting half of the experience.
Take tonight's matchup at Comcast Center. With the University of Maryland's students still on break, the student section was a quarter full (at best), and the band and cheerleaders were operating at half-strength. Those who paid to be in attendance seemed distracted. Maybe it was a lingering turkey hangover from the day prior? A need to figure out that they spent how much on Black Friday purchases? I'll never know.
Yes, this Friday night was thin on atmosphere. A team coming off of a 26-point beatdown at the hands of Iona was playing host to Florida Gulf Coast, a team in their first year of full Division I membership. The Terps were looking ahead to a date with a Big Ten school as part of a made-for-TV "competition" early next week. If Maryland could have paid the Eagles to go away while still maintaining the gate revenue, on this day, they very well might have.
To FGCU's credit, they managed to seize the opportunity and jumped out to an early lead. It was short-lived, with Maryland taking the lead for good about eight minutes into the game, but the Eagles never laid down. Even when the Terp lead ballooned to 16 in the second half, Florida Gulf Coast would turn up the pressure, often forcing a Maryland turnover.
The already disenchanted crowd was certainly not happy with seeing this small upstart play the home team so close. Add to that, however, the rapid-fire whistles from the officials in the second half, and the tension rose. Add to THAT Maryland's ineptitude at the line in the second half, and you're left wondering why anybody stuck around through the frustration until the end of the game.
I managed to hold out myself until the very end, readying to leave as Maryland dribbled it out up five with four seconds to go. Until, of course, another whistle for a foul. With 0.1 second on the clock. Only at that point, through their collective boos and groans, did the announced "crowd" of 12,080 truly make themselves known.
Between the play on the court and the atmosphere that usually elevates it to another level, the beautiful game had its fair share of imperfections tonight.
Throughout this season, I'm sure I'll learn my fair share of lessons. Tonight's lesson? The day after Thanksgiving can still be for basketball, so long as it's spent in front of a television.
at MARYLAND 73, FLORIDA GULF COAST 67 11/25/2011
FLORIDA GULF COAST 2-4 (0-0) -- B. Comer 7-12 2-4 16; S. Brown 4-10 3-4 11; B. Thompson 3-7 6-9 12; D. Holmes 3-9 2-4 8; C. Fieler 2-7 0-0 4; C. Varidel 2-4 0-0 5; K. Cantinol 1-4 0-2 2; E. Murray 3-3 0-0 6; F. Cvjeticanin 1-7 0-0 3. Totals 26-63 13-23 67. MARYLAND 3-2 (0-0) -- S. Mosley 3-6 0-0 6; T. Stoglin 5-13 12-21 24; N. Faust 3-12 2-2 8; J. Auslander 3-5 0-1 6; M. Parker 1-1 2-5 5; B. Weijs 3-6 1-2 7; A. Pankey 0-3 3-4 3; J. Padgett 4-5 3-4 11; J. Thomas 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 23-52 23-39 73.
Three-point goals: FGCU 2-19 (S. Brown 0-4; C. Varidel 1-1; C. Fieler 0-4; D. Holmes 0-2; B. Thompson 0-1; B. Comer 0-1; F. Cvjeticanin 1-6), UMD 4-13 (S. Mosley 0-1; M. Parker 1-1; T. Stoglin 2-7; N. Faust 0-3; J. Thomas 1-1); Rebounds: FGCU 36 (C. Fieler 8), UMD 33 (S. Mosley 7); Assists: FGCU 9 (B. Comer 3), UMD 13 (N. Faust 4); Total Fouls -- FGCU 25, UMD 18; Fouled Out: FGCU-E. Murray; UMD-None.