For the longest time, I had never managed seen a game at the hallowed Palestra, the Cathedral of College Basketball.
It's always been a matter of finding the right situation to see a game -- Philadelphia is just far enough outside of my home base in Washington, D.C. that I can't just make a quick trip up without a compelling reason.
I was aware that Maryland was going to be playing at Temple this season, a return game for Temple's trip down to Washington for the BB&T Classic last season, but I reasonably assumed that the game would be played at the Liacouras Center, or maybe at the Wells Fargo Center, home to the NBA's 76ers.
Imagine my surprise and joy to find that instead, the Terps would be playing the game at the legendary Palestra. Finally, I had my reason to make my trip.
So there I was this morning, trudging through the leftover snow and sleet in freezing temperatures, getting my chance to see a game in one of the greatest college basketball venues in the country. Best of all, I'd be able to root for my team while doing it.
I truly had no idea what to expect coming into the game today. I've mentioned Maryland's struggles many times in this space, but in case you haven't been following, allow me to summarize: the Terps aren't very good. Meanwhile, Temple upset Duke a couple of weeks back, but followed it up immediately with a couple of losses to Dayton and Richmond. Which Temple team was going to show up?
The first half was possibly one of the worst halves of basketball I've seen Maryland play, but despite the sloppy first 20 minutes, the Terps were only down three at the break. Temple flipped a switch to start the second half, and ran out to a 12-point lead five minutes in. Things looked bleak to say the least.
Maryland would get back into it, cutting the lead all the way down to one with about five minutes to go. The energy in the building from the Maryland fans (roughly 40 percent of the crowd) was absolutely amazing, and nearly matched the intensity of some of the biggest ACC games I've seen at Comcast Center. If the building had been exclusively rooting for Maryland (or any one team, I suppose), I might have been afraid the roof was going to collapse. It was truly a memorable moment.
What was not so memorable was the finish. Temple pulled back away, and kept Maryland's offense at bay in the last four minutes. Temple ended up with a 73-60 victory, and their second Red Line Upset in as many opportunities.
For me, it was certainly disappointing to have my first Palestra memory end this way. All was not lost, however, because the trip was far from over. This was merely leg one of a tripleheader, including a return trip to the Palestra that night.
TEMPLE 73, MARYLAND 60 01/21/2012
MARYLAND 12-6 (2-2) -- P. Howard 7-12 0-1 15; T. Stoglin 6-13 5-6 20; J. Padgett 5-6 0-0 10; S. Mosley 0-5 3-5 3; N. Faust 1-7 3-6 5; M. Parker 3-5 1-3 7; A. Pankey 0-0 0-0 0; A. Len 0-0 0-0 0; B. Weijs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 12-21 60. TEMPLE 13-5 (2-2) -- K. Wyatt 8-16 2-2 20; R. Moore 7-16 4-4 20; J. Fernandez 5-8 1-2 14; A. Brown 5-10 0-0 12; A. Lee 2-2 3-5 7; R. Hollis-Jefferson 0-1 0-0 0; M. Eric 0-1 0-0 0; T. DiLeo 0-0 0-0 0; W. Cummings 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 10-13 73.
Three-point goals: UMD 4-16 (S. Mosley 0-1; T. Stoglin 3-8; P. Howard 1-5; N. Faust 0-2), TU 9-22 (R. Moore 2-6; J. Fernandez 3-3; K. Wyatt 2-7; A. Brown 2-6); Rebounds: UMD 28 (S. Mosley 10), TU 27 (A. Brown 8); Assists: UMD 8 (N. Faust 4), TU 20 (K. Wyatt 7); Total Fouls -- UMD 14, TU 16; Fouled Out: UMD-None; TU-None.