Game #9-090: Florida Gulf Coast at Saint John`s Red StormNovember 24, 2012 7:30 pm
QUEENS, N.Y. - The plan seemed simple enough: drive the 70 miles from Lafayette to St. John's in about three hours for the guarantee game between the Red Storm and Florida-Gulf Coast of the Atlantic Sun.
I looked at my phone's GPS, and it gave me three routes, and I chose the most southern because it would take me around the bulk of the New York City traffic.
As I should have known from experience, though, there's no getting around Big Apple traffic. Ever, let alone on a Saturday night. But, like the players we cover, sometimes we have to make mistakes repeatedly to learn from them. I'm just lucky my coach didn't take me out.
I crawled along through Staten Island over the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, trying desperately to get to Queens, but running precariously close to Manhattan, near and slow enough to look onto the lights of lower Manhattan with awe, at least. But, especially after a long day, it's draining sitting in that kind of motorized humanity. Finally in Queens, people - now desperate like me to get to their locations on time - buzzed by me left and right, and I finally made it to Carnasecca Arena with a few moments to spare.
I have nothing against St. John's, personally, but I detected that above the Red Line stench as I walked to the ticket booth and saw them tell the man in front of me there were no military discounts on a night they were honoring the military. Did I mention the cheapest ticket
Inside, people clamored to get to the one concession stand with a narrow hallway. Pushing, shoving, and spilled drinks ensued. Which line was cash, which one wasn't?
You know what, just give me my 100 Game points so I can get out of here, would you?
Which is kind of the attitude I expected Florida-Gulf Coast to have coming into Queens, although limited research showed they might be in the running for the A-Sun title this season (they went to the final last March), as a Red Line upset over our old buddy Jim Larranaga and Miami testifies to.
It was an interesting contrast in universities if it wasn't really in styles. St. John's had its basketball golden age in the 1980s, winning five Big East titles in that decade and going to the Final Four in 1985. They haven't done a heck of a lot nationally of late, as several Chris Mullin jerseys were still seen in Carnasecca Arena (named for the legendary coach of that era, Lou Carnasecca
, if you didn't know) Saturday.
Florida-Gulf Coast University didn't even exist until 1997 (the process was started to begin
it in 1991), placed in Fort Myers because of the demand for a state school there (it is the 10th Florida state school). As a Division I basketball program, it's obviously still in its infancy.
Sure enough, the Eagles came out flying. Swiss marksman Christophe Varidel hit a couple of three-pointers, and the Red Storm seemed to have little answer for the athleticism of senior Sherwood Brown or Eric McKnight's wingspan early. Brown's steal and dunk midway through the first half gave FGCU what seemed like a massive 23-10 lead. He's only 6-foot-4, but plays much bigger. Maybe it's the Fletch effect, Brown is 6-foot-4, 6-foot-8 with the dreadlocks.
(At one juncture, points were scored by Switzerland, Nigeria, Switzerland again, and France, in a very international affair.)
Of course, we know better by now with this Red Line stuff. Second-year coach Andy Enfield came out with what seemed like an ingenious gameplan, playing a sort of box-and-one, keying on sophomore D'Angelo Harrison. It baffled St. John's for a while, but eventually the pace of the game picked up, the Red Storm picked up the defensive intensity on the outside, and back came the Red Storm, all the way to tie the game at 32 by the intermission.
The Red Line upset fun continued into the second half for a little while. Bernard Thompson (20 points) and Chase Fieler hit back-to-back shots to give the Eagles a 45-44 lead with 15:31 left, but it would be their last. Harrison got loose and St. John's was able to get to the basket at will behind point guard Phil Greene IV and a guy by the name of Sir'Dominic Pointer, who went off for 15 points off the bench.
One of the things you notice about above Red Line teams as opposed to below is the ability to get to the rim. When the Red Storm overplayed FGCU's perimeter game, the Eagles obviously went inside, but were turned away by the size of St. John's, which only started more fast breaks the other way. It's a pattern I've seen a few times this season in matchups like this.
Regardless of how it happened, a Harrison superhoop put St. John's up double digits with eight minutes left, and the visitors would never get any closer.
Even the end of the game was painful. For whatever reason, both teams decided - with the game not in doubt - they had to use their time outs and still play hard enough to commit fouls. Finally, St. John's had their guarantee victory, 79-68 and Florida-Gulf Coast had their guarantee check. Basketball prostitution? Well, that's for you to decide.
The end did give me a chance to see a man maniacally scribbling every point and foul into his notebook. He mimicked every referee signal (like pointing out that the seventh team foul was one-and-one, and the time out signals). I could tell his notebook was pretty full, so I asked him how many games he went to. He said whenever he could, he was at a Division III women's game earlier in the day, and he was headed to a Division II men's game tomorrow.
He was clearly a little bit different, his clothes weren't exactly in style anymore, he was talking very fast. But, in the end, aren't we all a little "different"? Who am I, a guy that just drove three hours through outrageous traffic all for this meaningless guarantee game, to judge him. I just wish I had a notebook as organized as him. I wished him well, and I was on my way.
(By the way, I've seen a few guys like him in my travels. They're out there, the basketball junkies. Hopefully, they'll find us here at some point.)
I saw some FGCU friends and family milling about, and in most cases, I'd try to investigate to find some kind of story to give you here, but I was tired, flustered, and just wanted to go home, where I knew I'd have to maneuver bridges and tolls to get back to Connecticut.
Just give me my 100 points so I can get out of here, please.
at SAINT JOHN`S 79, FLORIDA GULF COAST 68
FLORIDA GULF COAST 4-3 (0-0) -- B. Thompson 9-16 1-2 20; S. Brown 6-12 1-2 15; C. Fieler 4-8 0-0 11; E. McKnight 3-7 2-2 8; B. Comer 2-4 1-1 5; E. Murray 1-3 2-2 4; D. Graf 0-2 0-0 0; C. Varidel 2-6 0-0 4; F. Cvjeticanin 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 27-61 8-11 68.
SAINT JOHN`S 4-2 (0-0) -- D. Harrison 7-13 4-4 20; P. Greene 5-12 0-0 10; J. Sampson 5-9 2-2 12; S. Pointer 6-8 3-7 15; C. Obekpa 1-3 1-2 3; A. Garrett 2-4 0-0 4; F. Balamou 4-5 0-0 8; C. Jones 2-3 0-1 4; M. Bourqault 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 33-60 10-16 79.
Three-point goals: FGCU 6-21 (S. Brown 2-5; C. Varidel 0-2; C. Fieler 3-6; B. Thompson 1-4; B. Comer 0-1; F. Cvjeticanin 0-3), STJ 3-10 (P. Greene 0-3; D. Harrison 2-4; M. Bourqault 1-3); Rebounds: FGCU 31 (C. Fieler 7), STJ 31 (S. Pointer 8); Assists: FGCU 13 (B. Comer 4), STJ 17 (S. Pointer 6); Total Fouls -- FGCU 16, STJ 15; Fouled Out: FGCU-None; STJ-None.
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