"Just like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen."
- Benjamin Disraeli
The patterns of games get monotonous over time, teams do the same things, games play out the same ways, coaches yell the same way at their players.
But you always hold out for that moment that you see something completely different or unprecedented. And I have no idea if what happened near the end of the first half of Wednesday's Robert Morris-Fairfield CIT quarterfinal has occurred before, I'm sure it has. But I hadn't seen it.
With the Stags holding a 33-23 lead, the Colonials worked the ball around looking for a good shot. It was like any of the thousands of possessions I've seen this season. The Fairfield student section (which was minimal) and the band started the pointless countdown of "5, 4, 3..." to try to trick them into thinking the shot clock was running down.
Of course, while attempted at virtually every game I've attended in the last 30 years, that has never worked in the history of college basketball.
The ball got tapped toward midcourt, Colonials sophomore Coron Williams was disheveled, just heaved the ball at the basket from 40 feet away even though there was still nine on the shot clock, and it went straight out of bounds. Well, there's a first for everything, I thought.
Like a second encore, this game was an extra for me, long after I thought my season was done, and it was another entertaining one, although very sloppy.
In the end, Fairfield held on for dear life thanks to some poor shooting by Robert Morris (both from the field and free throw line). The Colonials had 22 offensive rebounds, and it seemed like 102.
There was a scene with 90 seconds to go that about sums up the current Fairfield CIT run. The Stags once double-digit lead cut to just three. Guards Derek Needham (who was at least out of his boot and walking around to pump up his teammates) and Sean Crawford were out, and about a minute before, new starting point guard Desmond Wade had taken a nasty fall on his wrist and - as it had to be obvious to Robert Morris by this point, too - Fairfield had no real guards on the floor.
Robert Morris was one of the teams in the NEC I missed this season, although I did see them on television a couple of times. Although I admire their success (and they have been the best team in the league in the last few seasons), their defense can turn games ugly, and I never cared for former coach Mike Rice (now struggling a bit at Rutgers) and new guy Andrew Toole seems in the same mold, a lot of whining for me. But I'm a tough critic.
(Seeing that Toole's 21st birthday was on the day of the September 11 attacks made me feel both old and sad for Toole simultaneously. His name has already been mentioned with some high-profile jobs, but we'll see.)
Velton Jones was one of the (if not the) best players in the NEC, but it wasn't his night. He was in foul trouble, couldn't hit a shot, got frustrated, but did save his best for last in leading the comeback.
So, back to Fairfield and the game at hand. Sydney Johnson put Wade back in the game, although you could see he was still favoring his wrist, and sure enough, he was just a 5-foot-8 decoy. Somehow, Rakim Sanders (who had 11 assists in the two CIT games I saw) executed two of the ugliest successful press breaks I've ever seen, but they worked nonetheless, the Stags were able to convert and hold on for a 67-61 and advance to play Mercer in the semifinals Saturday night.
Alas, prior commitments will keep me away from Saturday's game, so this is it for me and the 800 Games Project.
Unfortunately, I have no speech planned, and after two encores, you probably just want me to get off the stage, but I wanted to thank everyone at the site for making the last few months so enjoyable for me.
I've seen more than I will remember, and will surely remember more than I've seen, but it's been a great ride.
Uh oh, just like when they raised the baskets after the game so Johnson's kids couldn't shoot anymore, I hear them playing the music trying to get me off the stage.
I'll see you in a few months.
at FAIRFIELD 67, ROBERT MORRIS 61 03/21/2012
ROBERT MORRIS 26-11 (13-5) -- M. McFadden 8-12 4-10 20; C. Williams 3-8 0-0 8; V. Jones 4-13 4-5 12; R. Johnson 3-7 0-1 6; A. Myers 2-6 0-0 6; L. Jones 0-5 0-2 0; L. Thompson 1-3 3-4 5; L. Bridges 0-0 0-0 0; B. Herman 1-4 1-2 4; K. Armstrong 0-3 0-0 0; S. Sweigart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-62 12-24 61. FAIRFIELD 22-14 (12-6) -- C. Nickerson 6-8 1-2 14; M. Barrow 7-14 5-8 19; R. Sanders 5-11 4-6 14; D. Wade 2-6 2-2 7; J. Fields 0-3 0-0 0; K. Matthews 2-3 0-0 4; R. Olander 4-6 0-1 9; G. Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 12-19 67.
Three-point goals: RMU 5-17 (V. Jones 0-2; C. Williams 2-7; A. Myers 2-4; B. Herman 1-2; L. Jones 0-2), FAIR 3-12 (R. Sanders 0-3; D. Wade 1-3; R. Olander 1-2; C. Nickerson 1-1; J. Fields 0-3); Rebounds: RMU 38 (L. Jones 8), FAIR 29 (R. Sanders 10); Assists: RMU 11 (V. Jones 5), FAIR 16 (D. Wade 6); Total Fouls -- RMU 17, FAIR 17; Fouled Out: RMU-R. Johnson; FAIR-None.