Game #9-003: Rochester (MI) at Eastern Michigan EaglesNovember 9, 2012 12:00 pm
On a day featuring aircraft carriers, Germany, new Brooklyn arenas, and 15 of the AP Top 25, college basketball threw open the gym doors right here in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I arrived at the Convocation Center at 11:45am Eastern Standard Time, primed and ready for the official start to the 2012-13 season.
Yesterday, I spoke with EMU Media Relations Grad Assistant Sean Hostetter over e-mail about the unusual start time. Differentiation in a crowded southeastern Michigan sports market can often be a sizable challenge, and it was my assumption that the noon tip was established to be the first game in the country, or perhaps to avoid tonight's 7pm Michigan game a little over five miles down the road. Instead, the answer was much simpler than that. "We will be hosting Education 'First' Day which will give elementary and middle school students a chance to experience the benefits of being on a college campus..." Sean explained. "We are able to provide young people from the surrounding area a chance to see a Division I college basketball game." Using Our Game as the centerpiece to the "college experience"? Definitely Mid-Majority approved.
Yellow buses lined the parking lot with color as hordes of children streamed into the Convocation Center. Kids are always energetic, but field trip energy is something else entirely. I entered the arena bowl and was surprised to see around 2,000 kids occupying the entirety of the lower sections on three sides, with even a few stragglers in the upper sideline sections. Field trip energy filled the room, and I began to appreciate the genius of this promotion. After hosting the kids all morning, the university would let them express their newfound Eagle pride and unleash that field trip energy on an unsuspecting NAIA school from nearby Rochester. The handful of us in attendance older than twelve couldn't help but smile at their pure giddiness. These kids were genuinely excited to be here, thrilled to see their hosts vanquish an unknown foe.
As the Eagles took the floor for the first time, a high-pitched screech of glee filled the Convo with considerable volume. Even the players seemed impressed by the instant atmosphere. The noise didn't stop at tip-off. Each Eagles basket was met with a Bieber-style wail of delight. In the early going, it seemed as if there would be no match for childlike enthusiasm. The Eagles led by 11 with just under nine minutes to go in the first half, bolstered by some of the loudest supporters EMU athletics has ever had.
It took some field trip energy from Rochester senior big man Drew Maynard to counteract EMU's young army of fans. Maynard poured in the points, celebrating each make like it was his One Shining Moment. Layups got fist pumps. Dunks got roars. Gritty plays got grins and slaps from teammates. Maynard played as though EMU was the giant to be slain, and it was strange to see this bit of role reversal. He put his team on his back, and carried them to an excellent first half showing. Scoring 12 of his team's final 18 of the half, Drew and the Warriors trailed by only three at the break, 31-28.
But in the second half, the athleticism of the Eagles proved to be too much. Eastern kept getting good looks and continued to get to the line with relative ease. The Warriors trailed by seven with 5:51 to go, but they would never sniff the lead again. A four-minute drought ensued, and the lead ballooned to an insurmountable 18 by the time Rochester scored again. Less than two minutes later, the first game of year went into the books as a 66-52 Eastern Michigan victory. A legion of children went home happy and hopefully exhausted. Maynard scored a moral victory and the knowledge that (for at least a few hours) he's the leading scorer in Division I basketball. I gained the joy that comes with being one with Our Game once again. "Personally, I think it's a great honor to be kicking off the season." Agreed, Sean. Agreed. at EASTERN MICHIGAN 66, ROCHESTER (MI) 52
EASTERN MICHIGAN 1-0 (0-0) -- G. Bryant 3-9 0-0 6; M. Balkema 3-5 1-2 7; J. Still 3-6 0-0 6; D. Harrison 4-6 4-5 12; D. Thompson 5-8 0-0 14; J. Harris 2-6 3-4 7; R. Lee 4-5 4-6 12; J. Ross 0-4 0-0 0; D. Riley 0-0 0-2 0; J. Sims 0-0 0-0 0; A. Harper 0-1 0-0 0; A. Strickland 1-1 0-0 2; A. Chandler 0-0 0-0 0; J. Lyle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-51 12-19 66.
Three-point goals: - , EMU 4-12 (D. Harrison 0-1; A. Harper 0-1; G. Bryant 0-2; D. Thompson 4-6; J. Ross 0-2); Rebounds: , EMU 34 (J. Harris 8); Assists: , EMU 12 (R. Lee 7); Total Fouls -- , EMU 11; Fouled Out: -; EMU-None.