After watching a pretty good game between Hofstra and Northeastern, my friend Jim and I were ready for the next game of the day. We had taken the train to Northeastern, but Jim's wife Abbe picked us up outside the arena and we headed to Bryant University in Rhode Island.
It was just over an hour and the traffic wasn't too bad getting out of Boston since it was a Saturday. I had never been to Rhode Island before and I'm pretty sure that I've been to every state east of Texas after marking that one off the list.
Jim had mentioned how small Rhode Island is and he may have been exaggerating a bit, but it wasn't long before crossing the border that we neared Smithfield. We found the Bryant campus just fine and it is rather small, but finding the Chace Athletic Center was a chore. We took a tour of the campus perimeter but still couldn't find anything that resembled a gymnasium. We eventually ended up parking and continued our search on foot. It wasn't long before we found where we needed to go.
The Chace Athletic Center has all the amenities of your local high school, but I'm used to it going to so many Big South games. This would be the first school I had been to that had nothing but wooden bleachers. It did provide us general admission seating, so we found a good spot center court about 10 rows up. Across from us was a sizeable student section that was forming. I was surprised the students were still showing up to watch a team that was 2-19.
This wasn't exactly a marquee game of the NEC as Bryant would be hosting the Monmouth Hawks. The two teams were a combined 6-36 although the Hawks had just won 2 of their last 3. I wasn't sure what to expect with teams that had such poor records, but what I got out of the gate was an offensive explosion.
Defense may be the reason these teams have the poor records that they do, that and the fact that they play so many guarantee games, but both were playing well offensively in the early going. There was some great offensive basketball being played as each team were making the extra pass and finding the open man. The shooters were converting and Monmouth was up 21-20 at the under 12 timeout. This was the polar opposite of some of the defensive struggles I'd seen of late in the CAA, SoCon, and Big South.
While I was into the game, the sizable student section wasn't. There were no kids standing and no chants on the defensive side of the ball. The worst was when Monmouth was shooting free throws there was no noise from any of the fans. It sounded like we were in New Britain, Connecticut.
This lack of home atmosphere may have led to Monmouth's being able to build a bigger lead. The hot shooting of Bryant turned into what seemed like endless offensive fouls on the Bulldogs. Jesse Steele and Dion Nesmith were burying 3's for the Hawks and took a 44-33 lead into the half.
The whole game reminded me of when I used to play NBA Live 96 on the SNES. When you turned fatigue on you could make any shot you wanted at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the half since all the players were at 100 energy, but after a few minutes, the bricks started coming. Bryant and Monmouth were playing the same way as they were scoring at will at the start only to see the shooting fail them. While Bryant was back to being more efficient they couldn't reel the Hawks in. Monmouth's coach King Rice still wasn't pleased with his team as the whole arena could hear him yell at his team during timeouts. "Don't look at me like I'm crazy!" he shouted as he was trying to get his point across.
As time wore down Bryant needed to make a run and they eventually did. Free throws started the rally, but a 3 by Frankie Dobbs got the lead down to 55-51. Chants of "Defense" finally started up from the student section and the team responded with a stand. The Bulldogs then cut the lead to two after an Erick Smith jumper. The Bulldogs were almost there with the comeback, but the Hawks would have none of it. Monmouth scored the next seven points to quiet the finally lively crowd much to the delight of sparsely used Monmouth reserve Max Dileo who was yelling from the bench the entire game.
Bryant did have a chance to make it a game when they were down 6 with a minute to go. Dobbs drove the lane and made a driving layup, but was called for the charge negating the bucket. Monmouth would finish the game from the line and take the road win back to Connecticut.
Some have questioned why I was going so far to see teams that, as they have said, "suck." Well neither Bryant nor Monmouth "sucks." If you're a D-1 athlete you can pretty obviously school any of the people that accuse you of "sucking." The records may not show it, but they put on a great show and I got to watch the game with some good friends. It was well worth the trip, but we were in a bit of a hurry since we had one more game to catch.
MONMOUTH 78, at BRYANT 68 01/28/2012
MONMOUTH 6-17 (4-6) -- C. Colvin 5-13 3-4 16; J. Steele 7-17 5-6 22; A. Tillotson 5-5 1-2 11; D. Nesmith 2-4 5-6 11; M. Ware 3-7 1-3 7; A. Nicholas 4-7 0-0 8; E. Waite 4-5 0-0 8; P. Wait 3-6 0-0 6; W. Campbell 2-3 0-0 5; M. Myers Keitt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 12-17 78. BRYANT 2-20 (1-9) -- F. Dobbs 5-14 9-11 23; C. Maynard 3-9 0-0 8; A. Francis 5-7 8-8 19; T. Robinson 1-4 3-3 5; B. Altit 1-4 0-0 2; D. Calandrillo 0-1 2-2 2; R. Jordan 0-4 2-2 2; C. McMath 2-2 1-3 5; E. Smith 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 18-47 25-29 68.
Three-point goals: MON 6-12 (W. Campbell 1-1; J. Steele 3-6; E. Waite 0-1; D. Nesmith 2-3; A. Nicholas 0-1), BRY 7-23 (F. Dobbs 4-9; D. Calandrillo 0-1; R. Jordan 0-2; A. Francis 1-1; C. Maynard 2-7; T. Robinson 0-2; B. Altit 0-1); Rebounds: MON 28 (D. Nesmith 6), BRY 26 (T. Robinson 7); Assists: MON 15 (J. Steele 4), BRY 14 (F. Dobbs 6); Total Fouls -- MON 23, BRY 22; Fouled Out: MON-E. Waite; BRY-T. Robinson.