Game #9-179: Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks at Cincinnati BearcatsDecember 8, 2012 2:00 pm
Fifth Third Arena
With the number of games dwindling as the holidays approached, I didn't have many choices locally that fit into my schedule. I hadn't attended a Cincinnati game yet, and the number of opportunities to do so in a game that would count were running out. Plus, last year I witnessed a Red Line Upset when Presbyterian took out the Bearcats, so I was hoping for similar luck again.
I headed down I-75 to the UC campus for an afternoon game against Maryland-Eastern Shore. I knew that Cincinnati had a solid team from their national ranking and local media attention, coming into the game 8-0. But I didn't realize how poorly the Hawks from Maryland-Eastern Shore were performing until I heard the radio pregame show being played in the restroom. The Hawks had yet to win a game this season, coming in at 0-8. RealTimeRPI.com forecasted UMES's chance at victory at 0.4 percent. As Lloyd says in Dumb and Dumber, "So you're telling me there;s a chance. YEAH!"
A large portion of the area next to the UC campus is under construction, which is a good thing. Some of the areas around UC are a bit run down, so any effort to improve the surrounding area is welcome. But the number of parking spots near Fifth Third Arena have been greatly reduced because of the construction. The two nearest parking garages to the arena are reserved for pass holders and season-ticket holders only. That means general ticket buyers need to park in a garage halfway across campus.
With the weather overcast, but at a moderate temperature, it was a pleasant enough day to take the 10-minute walk through campus. Thankfully, there were other people that knew which way to go, because I had never really walked the UC campus before. It's reasonably nice for an urban campus with a mix of older brick buildings and super-new architecture. The space is well used, one building is practically underground so you walk across the roof of it.
To get to the arena, you have to walk through Nippert Stadium, home to the Bearcat football team. Nippert is a pretty cool venue, as Bearcat football has been played on that site since 1902, with the original stadium finished in 1924. Unlike most stadiums, the access is pretty unlimited. There were kids running around on the field and some students were running the stairs as I wandered around the concourse.
Cincinnati is definitely in an athletics transition. They seem to be one of the last castaways stranded on Big East Island, The athletic department is aspiring to bigger things, as they are planning an expansion of Nippert and are looking for one of the big five football conferences to take them. Any doubts that UC is a football school now could be cast aside when the biggest cheers of the day came from the announcement of a press conference later that night to introduce Tommy Tuberville as the new head football coach.
That's really a shame, because Cincinnati was a basketball school for decades. The Bearcats went to five straight Final Fours from 1959-1963, winning in 1961 and 1962. A statue outside Fifth Third Arena reminds you that one of the legends of the game played here. Oscar Robertson, still the only man in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, was a Bearcat from 1957-1960, and still attends many UC games to this day.
I elected to take the cheap route for this game and sit in the upper level, which only cost $13. There were plenty of lower-level seats available behind the baskets, but at over twice the price. The turnout looked to be sparse, so I figured I could move down a bit later in the game. Indeed, only 6,400 people showed up to watch a major conference Top 20 basketball team.
Maryland-Eastern Shore would have a difficult task ahead of them. Like many of their HBCU brethren, the Hawks have been on one long road trip to start the season, including a trip to Hawaii for three games. Their only home game was a preseason exhibition against Salisbury. The key to pulling an upset is to hang around as long as possible and put some doubt in the minds of the superior team.
The one bright spot for UMES is sophomore guard Kyree Jones, who has had a nomadic high school and college career. Jones, who stands out as a point guard by wearing No. 45, scored 13 of the Hawks' 23 first-half points. Maryland-Eastern Shore just couldn't get a ball to fall through the hoop, shooting 18.4 percent in the first half on 7-of-38 shooting.