For the sixth and final game of the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, I saw the host Oregon Ducks play for the second time this season. The first was a loss last Sunday to Virginia, a team well above the Red Line, so there would be no recap for that one. Tonight's opponent, Stephen F. Austin, was most definitely below the Line, giving me an opportunity to write about the experience of a game at Matthew Knight Arena (a.k.a. Matt Court or MKA), which is in its second year as the replacement for the venerable MacArthur Court (nicknamed Mac Court or The Pit -- New Mexico fans will be happy there's no more confusion). I only went to one men's and two women's games at Mac Court but I could see why so many Duck fans loved the place. I fell in love too. They really, truly don't make them like this anymore. Old wooden chairs. Four levels of stands stacked one on top of the other. Baskets that shook (I really saw this on TV once). Two dot matrix reader boards were the most high-tech thing in the place. I only wish I could have been there when school was in session to hear it with a full house.
With MKA, all that changed. I'll put up these photos and let the readers compare and contrast.
If you follow college football, you'll know Oregon does not go for subtlety or understatement. The new arena is no exception. The first time I walked into it my impression was the university had built itself a scaled-down version of the Rose Garden, home of the Trail Blazers. The games I've seen there confirmed my thoughts.
Matt Court, named after Phil Knight's late son, is full of the modern conveniences sports fans will be familiar with. The concourses are nice and wide. There are pictures of great athletes in Oregon basketball and volleyball, a nice nod to history (though the lack of any championship banners is puzzling). There is a variety of items at the concession stands. The seats are much more comfortable and have excellent sightlines. There are helpful stat boards in the corners and, of course, "Knight Vision," those giant HD screens. It's a venue the university and city can be proud of.
When the game tipped off, the similarities to the Rose Garden continued. I know the games I've seen have been over winter break, so the arena was not full, but there was a distinct lack of atmosphere. There were two rows of students who stood in the middle of the student section. The rest of it was filled with regular Duck fans who took the opportunity to sit up close. I think if you turned off the sound effects at most NBA arenas, the result would be a similarly quiet crowd. I don't mean to disrespect Blazer fans, I think this is just a trend around the NBA as a whole and a reason the pro game just doesn't excite me anymore. This lack of energy in the building has also been noticed by UO student and 800GP contributor Kenny Ocker, who told me it's not as loud even when the students are there.
Much of the gameday presentation reminded me of the Blazer games I went to last season. There was the noise meter on the video board. The "Kiss Cam" during one timeout. An announcer on the court leading contests during other timeouts. This is not to say I didn't have a good time. I'm a Portland alum, and still play in their band. From the Portland band I had a connection who got me into the Oregon Alumni Band, which occasionally fills in for the students when they're away. They have lots of fun songs, very talented musicians, and I always enjoy going down to play. Plus, we get the occasional guest artist to sit in for a song or two.
As for the game itself: The accuracy of this event's title has already been called into question by Kenny. In keeping with the trend of the first two days the final game of the night was not one I would "showcase." SFA was not winning for much of the first half so much as they were just not playing as poorly as Oregon was. The teams were finding every possible way to end a possession -- offensive foul, travel, ball thrown away between a teammate's legs -- that did not involve attempting a field goal.
Finally, after seven minutes, the Ducks' point total matched the amount of time that had been played. The Lumberjacks to this point had scored 12. Oregon then went on a run to take a 25-20 lead at halftime.
SFA continued to hang around well into the second half. Oregon only shot superhoops at a 5-for-18 rate, but they hit enough of them to maintain the lead and as bad as that stat was, SFA was 1-for-12 from long range. Center Jereal Scott had a good game for the Lumberjacks, scoring 16 points, but had little help from his teammates. With 6:36 to play the Oregon lead was one, at 38-37. From there, the Ducks outscored the Lumberjacks 17-8, aided in part by SFA fouling to stop the clock late. The final score was 55-45, but it certainly did not reflect how diffcult the game win was for the Ducks.
This game closed out the nonconference part of my 800GP season. I've seen all four D-I teams in Oregon, gone on the road to see what life is like above the Red Line, and seen how Portland measures up against some tough opponents. Now comes the hard part, where every opponent knows everyone else. For Portland, I think this is also the part where the tough losses of the early season pay off. They may not win many more games, but they will compete with everyone, every night, and I'll be there to see it and write about it.
at OREGON 55, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 45 12/22/2011
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 5-7 (0-0) -- A. Bostic 3-10 0-0 6; D. Haymon 1-9 0-0 2; J. Scott 7-13 2-2 16; H. Bateman 3-6 2-3 8; J. Parker 2-4 2-2 7; D. Gardner 0-5 0-0 0; J. King 1-1 0-0 2; J. Bright 1-1 0-0 2; T. Smith 1-3 0-2 2; K. Broussard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-52 6-9 45. OREGON 9-3 (0-0) -- G. Sim 2-5 4-6 8; D. Joseph 4-7 0-0 10; J. Loyd 2-6 3-4 9; E. Singler 4-11 3-3 12; T. Woods 2-5 1-2 5; O. Ashaolu 3-4 3-6 9; J. Jacob 1-1 0-0 2; C. Emory 0-3 0-2 0; B. Kingma 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-43 14-23 55.
Three-point goals: SFA 1-12 (A. Bostic 0-4; D. Gardner 0-2; D. Haymon 0-4; J. Parker 1-2), ORE 5-18 (D. Joseph 2-4; G. Sim 0-2; E. Singler 1-4; J. Loyd 2-5; C. Emory 0-2; B. Kingma 0-1); Rebounds: SFA 27 (J. Scott 6), ORE 30 (D. Joseph 8); Assists: SFA 10 (A. Bostic 4), ORE 6 (D. Joseph 3); Total Fouls -- SFA 20, ORE 12; Fouled Out: SFA-J. King; ORE-None.