When I heard that Temple's game Saturday night was going to be a white-out, I was even more excited than I thought possible for the game, which already had everything going for it. Saturday night. 9pm (a recipe for disaster on any college campus). ESPN2. First place in the Atlantic 10 on the line. The opponent was Xavier, a matchup where the winner has been dictated by home court since 2006. Xavier had obviously come into the season with a lot of pre-season hype, including a top 10 ranking before running into a right hook (literally) at the hands of cross-town rival Cincinnati that resulted in suspensions and knocked their season off-course. Still, they entered the Liacouras Center half a game out of first place in the conference, a position solely occupied by the Owls.
The reason a white-out excited me so much is because I knew it only strengthened our home-court advantage in a series where home court mattered so much. A white-out represents togetherness. In a way, it embodies all of us, each of us. It shows the players that the whole fan base is invested in their success rather than just the student section, or scattered fans throughout the building. While a fan's presence alone is great, it's the participation of that fan that makes the atmosphere at a college basketball game so special. A white-out, or any other form of t-shirt participation at a pro game, just feels forced. Once you get past the four or five corporate logos plastered on the shirt, you look around in the building and you see blotches of fans that refuse to put on the shirt for whatever reason. Some of them are more interested in looking cool than supporting their team, others aren't at the game for the game, but rather the status symbol of attending the latest big game. Most people aren't attending Atlantic 10 basketball games for the cool factor.
The white-out was the first of a kind at the Liacouras Center. When I arrived at the tail-end of the first game of a doubleheader, a Temple women's blowout of Massachusetts, I saw half the lower bowl with shirts draped over chairs waiting for the seat's owner to claim them, and immediately following the women's game's conclusion, a small army of Cherry Crusade volunteers got to work decking out the rest of the lower bowl with shirts, as well as passing out the remaining stock to upper level ticketholders. I feel like I praise the Cherry Crusade group in every article I write, but they deserve it. Every year, they do as much as possible to get the Temple student body interested in and excited about supporting the athletic program, not always the easiest task here in past years. You'll see them in the front row for any televised game, and they deserve as much face time as possible. They put the white-out together with financial help from various alumni groups in a very short amount of time.
By game time, the Liacouras Center was a stunning sea of white. Most fans had indeed capitulated and put the shirts on, and the student section self-policed the few stragglers who for whatever reason had decided that their black shirt was fine for the occasion. They even brought top 2012 recruit Daniel Dingle into the section to support the team for this game. The home team responded pretty well, opening up a 24-7 lead on the Musketeers and never looking back, never trailing at any point during the game. Senior guard Ramone Moore scored 30 points, burying 5 3-point shots, and graduate student Micheal Eric had his best game since returning from injury, scoring 11 points while pulling down 16 rebounds, a career high. The Owls picked up an 85-72 win to maintain sole possession of first place in the conference.
I believe that we have won. It's the best part of every home win. Students don't leave the Liacouras Center until they get to celebrate the win. Some of the less patient members of the student section began to call for the chant early. "YO, I'M TRYIN' TO LEAVE, DO THE I BELIEVE CHANT!" However, the students (and the "I Believe" guy) know when it's time (and quite honestly, when it's safe) to do the chant. What was special about this chant, however, was that in a rare change, it was broadcast to the masses on national television. The visual of the student section going nuts doing the chant on national television all decked out in white is the image I'll always take away from this game. It was another night to remember in a season full of good times and great memories at the Liacouras Center. Our game has the power to bring people together, and on this night, it did just that.
at TEMPLE 85, XAVIER 72 02/11/2012
XAVIER 16-9 (7-4) -- T. Holloway 7-15 7-9 23; A. Walker 3-5 0-0 6; M. Lyons 4-15 6-6 15; D. Wells 4-9 1-2 11; B. Redford 2-2 0-0 5; T. Taylor 2-3 0-0 4; K. Frease 1-6 0-0 2; J. Martin 2-2 0-0 4; J. Robinson 1-2 0-0 2; D. Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 14-17 72. TEMPLE 19-5 (8-2) -- R. Moore 9-16 7-9 30; K. Wyatt 5-12 6-8 18; M. Eric 4-13 3-4 11; R. Hollis-Jefferson 2-3 3-8 7; J. Fernandez 3-7 0-0 6; T. DiLeo 3-5 0-0 7; A. Lee 0-1 1-3 1; A. Brown 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 28-60 20-32 85.
Three-point goals: XU 6-14 (T. Holloway 2-4; M. Lyons 1-6; B. Redford 1-1; D. Wells 2-3), TU 9-20 (R. Moore 5-8; T. DiLeo 1-3; J. Fernandez 0-1; K. Wyatt 2-6; A. Brown 1-2); Rebounds: XU 27 (M. Lyons 6), TU 38 (M. Eric 16); Assists: XU 12 (M. Lyons 4), TU 11 (K. Wyatt 4); Total Fouls -- XU 21, TU 20; Fouled Out: XU-None; TU-M. Eric.