Game #9-033: Maine at Holy Cross CrusadersNovember 14, 2012 7:00 pm
Hart Recreation Center
WORCESTER, Mass. - Even though he went to a couple of prep schools and now plies his trade pretty darn close to the Terrestrial Middle of Nowhere, surely Maine sophomore Xavier Pollard heard his share of trash talk on the basketball court growing up in the Bronx.
After all, it was modern philosopher Bobby Bonilla who told us all, "I'll show you the Bronx
The Holy Cross student section took the time to check everyone's Facebook accounts and media guide bios, and figured out that Maine has nine foreign players on its roster. So they brought some American flags. But while it's fun to waste a couple of hours of time at college putting together a heckling "cheat sheet", real trash talk has to be organic.
They were a little late for tip-off, but at the opposite end of the Hart Center - which like most small arenas has the stands behind the basket only a few feet from the stands - the Holy Cross football team, which a few other athletes in tow, took their seats and watched fairly quietly. At least at first.
From my seat at midcourt, I couldn't hear what a couple of them said to Pollard to rile him up or vice versa, but they certainly got each other's attention. Many athletes, from Michael Jordan on down, like to pick a fight, to have a source of anger to focus on. Perhaps that's what Pollard was doing. At the time, Maine was seeing an early double-digit lead crumble behind alternating shots from Holy Cross seniors Jordan Stevens and Phil Beans.
As Maine warmed up for the second half, the Holy Cross athletes roared at Pollard's misses, getting a glare in return.
The Crusaders, who were looking for the third win in four games to start the season, had the lead by then and just five minutes after the break, appeared to be pulling away at 41-30 (Stevens couldn't seem to miss, but only ended up shooting seven times in the game, going 5-for-7).
By this point, Maine was shooting toward the Holy Cross football team, and the banter between them and Pollard continued, mostly one-sided toward Pollard, who obviously had little to crow about.
Pollard wasn't done, though, and by proxy, neither was his team. Trailing 41-32, he picked up a rebound, drove the length of the floor, scored, and was fouled right in front of his antagonists. He didn't say a word.
But he did blow them a kiss.
Pollard, along with Scotland's own Alasdair Fraser, led the Black Bears back, with four Fraser free throws tying the game at 50 with 4:06 left. (The best the student section could come up with for Fraser was "William Wallace").
This was my first time ever seeing Maine play in person. I've talked about how hard it is to recruit in some places, and have brought up St. Francis of Pennsylvania as perhaps the furthest off the beaten path in the east. But Orono, Maine can certainly give Loretto, Pa. a run for its money. For kicks, I Googled directions and Worcester is five hours away by car (so a little less than four from Boston). I've been to Portland, Maine, that's not too bad a drive, but Orono (near Bangor) is another story.
Therefore, scheduling is a nightmare, too, especially on a tight sub-Red Line budget. Maine has all of three Division I non-conference home games (one against Florida-Gulf Coast?). I'd love to get up there to see them sometime, but it's probably not going to happen.
And yet Maine coach Ted Woodward
has done a decent job in obscurity. Now in his ninth year, he's never been to the NCAA Tournament (neither has the school), but he's had his share of winning seasons. This year, he's got a pair of Germans, two Canadians, a couple of Serbians, and one each from Finland, Scotland (Fraser), and the Bahamas. Maybe he told the Europeans that Orono was a Boston suburb. In a relatively weak America East, Maine should be competitive again this season.
On this night, though, with the Canadian contingent struggling mightily (center Mike Allison - who had 17 points in the opener - was in foul trouble and eventually fouled out, while Justin Edwards suffered through a nightmarish 1-for-16 performance from the field), it came down to Pollard and Fraser.
Beans scored five straight points, including a line drive three-pointer that put Holy Cross up 55-50, a lead they clung to until the dying seconds. Fraser's putback made it 55-54 with 5.4 seconds left, but a pair of Dave Dudzinski free throws gave the Crusaders a 57-54 lead with 3.5 remaining.
Woodward was out of time outs, so Pollard took the inbounds pass, got as far as he possibly good, and got a pretty decent look from 25 feet out at the buzzer that was online the whole way, but clanged off the back of the rim to end the game.
The football players immediately got to their feet, Pollard put his head down and walked off the floor. And that was it.
There are some that might argue otherwise, but I personally think a little bit of trash talk can be fun, as long as it's done correctly. And it's best when it's not contrived, when it's something that develops naturally as the game progesses.
On the way out, I asked a couple of the football players about it.
"We were just having fun, man. Nothing personal. It was a good game."
No arguments from my seat, either.at HOLY CROSS 57, MAINE 54
MAINE 0-2 (0-0) -- A. Fraser 8-17 5-5 21; J. Edwards 1-16 0-0 2; X. Pollard 4-12 6-9 14; M. Allison 1-3 0-0 2; J. Mesghna 1-2 3-4 6; L. Cooper Jr. 1-5 0-0 2; Z. Valjarevic 1-5 0-0 3; T. Gloger 2-4 0-0 4; K. Cato 0-0 0-0 0; S. Micovic 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-65 14-18 54.
HOLY CROSS 3-1 (0-0) -- P. Beans 7-13 3-3 19; J. Stevens 5-7 0-0 13; D. Dudzinski 2-12 6-8 10; C. Hamilton 1-7 1-3 4; M. Miller 1-4 2-2 5; J. Burrell 1-9 0-0 2; D. Goens 0-4 2-2 2; T. Abt 1-6 0-2 2. Totals 18-62 14-20 57.
Three-point goals: UME 2-19 (A. Fraser 0-1; L. Cooper, 0-1; J. Edwards 0-6; X. Pollard 0-3; Z. Valjarevic 1-5; T. Gloger 0-1; J. Mesghna 1-2), HC 7-23 (D. Goens 0-1; J. Stevens 3-3; P. Beans 2-4; D. Dudzinski 0-2; J. Burrell 0-3; M. Miller 1-1; T. Abt 0-3; C. Hamilton 1-6); Rebounds: UME 43 (A. Fraser 15), HC 44 (J. Stevens 10); Assists: UME 10 (J. Edwards 6), HC 12 (J. Stevens 5); Total Fouls -- UME 19, HC 15; Fouled Out: UME-M. Allison; HC-None.