It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was in Durham, NC visiting family. My relatives would go out and hit up the bars in the area, and since I don't drink I wanted something else to do. I was considering finding a local High School American-style Football game, but then saw that North Carolina State in nearby Raleigh would host Elon. As a college basketball fan, this was something I could not pass up. When I was at High Point, I saw most of the area's college basketball teams play, but never NC State.
Friday night was Retro Night at NC State. Unlike other teams who might celebrate by wearing uniform designs from 40 years ago, NC State plays the game at a retro venue, Reynolds Coliseum. When Raleigh received a NHL franchise in the late 1990s, a new modern corporate arena would house both the hockey team and Wolfpack basketball. But every year NC State honors its tradition and history by playing a few guarantee games at its old on-campus facility (NCSU will also host Campbell and NC Central in December during Winter Break). Tonight NC State would host Elon, which got a Red Line Upset at home against South Carolina recently. Shortly after I graduated from High Point, HPU played at Reynolds Coliseum as well three years ago.
Reynolds Coliseum is a trip back in time full of college basketball history. The arena opened in 1949 and has hosted prominent players such as David Thompson and notable coaches such as Jim Valvano. It dates back to when the Red Line did not exist, and when college basketball facilities were built to serve as a campus center rather than to serve as an entertainment venue for the wealthy and corporate sponsors. The vast majority of seats are on a balcony just above the floor that extends well past the court before wrapping around the ends of the building, as the arena was designed to be a multi-purpose venue (a minor league hockey team played at Reynolds before the NHL Hurricanes came to town). The walkways and concourse areas were very tightly constructed and very narrow around the perimeter of the building, not well designed to accommodate large crowds. Reynolds Coliseum reminds me a lot of Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke where I have seen women's basketball. While most of us here have a strong dislike for Duke and their program, at least they try to preserve their history and an old school arena.
Unlike most former college basketball arenas that stand dormant such as the Carolina Coliseum of South Carolina, Reynolds sees use all year long. The men's basketball team plays a few retro games a year at Reynolds, and once recently hosted a NIT game due to a scheduling conflict with the Hurricanes. The women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling teams at NC State still call Reynolds their permanent home. NC State does not seem to care to display the history of the men's basketball team at Reynolds despite playing at it tonight, with all of the championship banners moved to its current home RBC Center about five miles west of campus. All of the banners and displays are meant to honor the current primary tenant in the Wolfpack women.
I left Durham at 4 PM to stop and eat in Raleigh before arriving on campus at 5 PM for the 7 PM tip-off. While some would find this laughably early, there were already fans lining up to buy tickets or enter the arena when I got there. With season ticket locations being valid only for RBC Center games, seats at Reynolds Coliseum would be taken on a first come, first serve basis. I was able once doors opened slightly ahead of schedule to take a seat on the first row of the balcony halfway between midcourt and the baseline. While the game did not sell out, those who came late had to sit in the balcony behind the basket above the students with a very distant view of the court due to the structure of the old building.
NC State seemed fired up after beating Texas in an early season tournament Monday. The crowd was very enthusiastic and the low roof of Reynolds Coliseum amplified the noise. Despite having beaten the South Carolina Gamecocks of the SEC, Elon seemed to be rattled. The Phoenix jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but NC State responded with an 18-2 run from which Elon would never fully recover. Elon closed the gap to 7 points late in the first half, but NC State would go up by 11 at halftime and maintain a double digit lead throughout the second half, leading by as much as 25. The Wolfpack would then try to showboat like too many team teams above the Red Line do against weaker opposition. C.J. Leslie would try to pull off different dunks to thrill the crowd, and was eventually benched for trying to throw an alley oop to himself. Elon went on to score the final eight points to bring the final score to a somewhat respectable 82-67 loss.
The game itself seemed like just another guarantee game. But the event provided fans with a more traditional venue for college basketball than we usually see for our guarantee games these days.
ELON 3-2 (0-0) -- M. Jennings 7-12 8-11 22; L. Troutman 9-17 4-5 22; S. Koch 3-6 3-5 12; A. Hamilton 3-9 0-2 6; D. Spradlin 3-6 2-3 9; R. Beaumont 1-6 0-0 2; J. Isenbarger 3-9 2-2 11; B. Ervin 2-3 0-1 4; K. Blake 0-2 1-2 1; E. Edomwonyi 0-0 0-0 0; R. Winters 0-0 0-0 0; R. Dugas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 12-20 67. NORTH CAROLINA STATE 5-1 (0-0) -- C. Williams 4-9 2-2 10; L. Brown 9-16 3-6 21; S. Wood 5-8 0-0 15; C. Leslie 6-10 1-3 13; D. Painter 3-10 2-2 8; R. Howell 4-7 1-2 9; A. Johnson 0-2 2-2 2; T. de Thaey 1-6 1-2 3; T. Harris 0-2 1-2 1; J. Raymond 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-70 13-21 82.
Three-point goals: ELON 7-22 (D. Spradlin 1-2; B. Ervin 0-1; R. Beaumont 0-3; J. Isenbarger 3-7; S. Koch 3-5; A. Hamilton 0-3; K. Blake 0-1), NCST 5-11 (C. Williams 0-1; S. Wood 5-6; A. Johnson 0-1; T. de Thaey 0-3); Rebounds: ELON 29 (S. Koch 8), NCST 46 (D. Painter 10); Assists: ELON 11 (S. Koch 4), NCST 14 (L. Brown 6); Total Fouls -- ELON 18, NCST 17; Fouled Out: ELON-None; NCST-None.