Game #9-188: Northeastern Huskies at Central Connecticut Blue DevilsDecember 21, 2012 8:00 pm
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - Everything seemed to fit together perfectly Friday night for me. For some reason, Central Connecticut moved its game with Northeastern to an 8 p.m. tip, so I was able to get to coach a full soccer practice, and - because it was on the way to New Britain - still make it to CCSU in plenty of time for the beginning of the game.
However, being the last
practice before Christmas, there were gifts to hand out and food to eat, and I didn't want to be rude. On the way out, I forgot my phone in the locker room, which meant turning around and getting it.
Suddenly, it was going to be really close to make it.
I cut a couple of people off at intersections, went much faster than I usually do on the highway, and I think I even flashed my brights at people I perceived to be going too slow, yelling at an audience who had zero chance of receiving the message, at least the auditory part.
As I turned for New Britain, I remembered to tune in to the pregame only to hear veteran CCSU play-by-play guy Bruce Biel announcing what was clearly a live game going on in the background. It was 7:55.
I knew that 8 p.m. tipoff time was too good to be true. But a closer listen told me that he was mentioning a lot of feminine names. Ahhh, the reason for the 8 p.m. start was to play a women's game at a decent hour. That game with Rider went to overtime, meaning I was going to make it with a good 30 minutes to spare.
Wow, I was a complete dick for nothing. That didn't make me feel good. Don't ever change, Karma Police.
I was somewhat surprised to see that this only the second CCSU home game of the season, the first being six weeks ago against Brown, but I guess that's life in a conference like the NEC. The Blue Devils already had a trip to Indiana (in which Matt Hunter scored 40 points, tying a record for a visiting player at Assembly Hall), and will go to the Carrier Dome
to take on Syracuse next week.
I was already upset at myself for acting like an idiot on the road, so I wasn't in a cheery mood, and sitting near me were two men who immediately drew my ire by trashing our friend Joe Arnone.
"He just sucks the life out of the building, you can't even understand what he's saying. Time for someone younger. He's terrible."
There are three choices when faced with people like this: move, confront them immediately, or ignore them. In this case, I chose the last option, mostly because I wanted to know how far these guys would go.
Being the first game since the Newtown tragedy, CCSU held a moment of silence, before which Arnone read a flawless tribute that I wish I could print for you verbatim. In an irony that made me sad, the silence was only broken by the sound of a pair of toddlers running up the stairs to get to their parents, down the road children about that age were buried earlier in the day.
Here's the conundrum I have with the gentlemen sitting near me for this game. They are clearly professionals, they were dressed well and obviously came from work somewhere. They were real Central Connecticut fans. They knew the roster, knew the history, could even name CCSU and Northeastern's RPI numbers without looking them up.
But they were still lost.
Jonathan Lee, Northeastern's point guard whose injury has contributed to his team's recent downturn, is a good player, but not just because he's from Michigan. Yet they were able to know, without looking it up, that Lee was not only injured, but what teams they might have beaten (Maine, for one) had he played.
They spent a good five minutes arguing whether freshman Brandon Peel was the seventh or eighth guy in coach Howie Dickenman's rotation, even though the program - which was free - had the season stats in it, and could tell them Peel was seventh (Dickenman has only played seven in most games). They spent the next five minutes debating whether Peel was taller than fellow post player Joe Efese or not, with one saying they were the same height, the other saying there was a good three inches different.
Again, the program was right there, but even if you question it, who gives a crap? Really?
Kyle Vinales and Hunter have been a great story for CCSU this season, friends from Detroit (which is clearly why they're good at basketball) whom joined forces after Vinales convinced the lightly recruited Hunter to join him in New Britain. For a time, Vinales was the leading scorer in the country, and going into Friday's game, the duo was the highest scoring tandem in Division I.
They both showed it early on, Hunter's steal and dunk tied the game at 20, and had five more points to tie the game at 28 late in the half. But after Northeastern took a 35-30 into the half, the Huskies quickly pulled away from the cold shooting Blue Devils early in the second half, and were soon too far away to be caught.
As the Huskies pulled away, the pair were convinced that their squad was losing to a clearly inferior team.
"Losing to a team from a conference 12 spots below them in the RPI. At home. Complete garbage, I told you we had to be worried tonight."
The Colonial will not be the same without VCU, and I don't know RPI conference numbers all that well, but it's still better than the NEC. And, although Northeastern had lost five in a row, they're still a decent basketball team.
Which is not to say that it was a good performance for the Blue Devils by any stretch. Hunter finished with 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists, but many of them came after the game was already decided. Vinales scored only one field goal in the final 25 minutes of the game and that was a banked in 21-footer, closing with just 10 points and five turnovers. CCSU will need to find a way to get more production out of other players to take some of the pressure off them when conference play starts.
As the game deteriorated, I could just tell that the nuances of the game were lost on the guys next to me. After Dickenman tried a 1-3-1 to look to spark something, they decried the fact that a CCSU player left their man open. They couldn't understand why the media timeouts weren't more consistent. As a CCSU player clearly didn't give a Northeastern forward a chance to land, and - lacking that - was obviously In the restricted area under the basket, they thought the block call was "terrible, worst call of the season, blatant charge, guy was set".
I could go on, but you get the point. But my dilemma is this: Aren't there more fans like these guys than there are like me? Who am I to make fun of people like this, who come to see their alma mater play, who clearly care about their team, and are connected with people in the university?
They weren't really harming anyone, there wasn't any vulgar language, they had nice conversations with the people around them, were even cordial to the recent Northeastern grads that were sitting nearby. Although that could have been more due to the fact that they were female.
Even though their team was getting destroyed, it seemed like they were enjoying their experience, in a short of perverse way. They said hi to a bunch of their acquaintances through the course of the game, and vowed to be back next week when Central took on Saint Peter's.
They were correct about the last thing I heard them say:
"The score doesn't really matter here anyway. Conference play is coming up. That's when it really matters for us."
I felt like a dick for thinking I was more important than they were.
NORTHEASTERN 82, at CENTRAL CONNECTICUT 63
NORTHEASTERN 5-6 (0-0) -- J. Smith 9-15 5-6 27; J. Lee 5-11 4-6 15; R. Spencer 3-8 9-12 15; D. Walker 0-1 0-1 0; Z. Stahl 4-7 2-3 10; Q. Ford 4-8 3-3 11; D. Pollard 0-0 2-2 2; C. Avenant 0-0 0-1 0; M. Banegas-Flores 0-0 0-0 0; D. Marshavelski 1-1 0-0 2; D. Peck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 25-34 82.
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT 4-5 (0-0) -- K. Vinales 4-13 0-1 10; M. McMillan 2-7 0-0 5; M. Hunter 10-21 1-2 22; A. Burbage 3-9 0-0 8; B. Peel 1-2 0-0 2; J. Efese 1-1 1-1 3; T. Allen 1-6 2-3 4; G. Andrade 1-2 0-0 3; A. Hurd 1-2 0-0 3; E. Raleigh 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 25-64 5-9 63.
Three-point goals: NU 5-14 (J. Lee 1-4; J. Smith 4-8; Q. Ford 0-2), CCT 8-27 (T. Allen 0-1; A. Burbage 2-7; K. Vinales 2-7; M. McMillan 1-3; G. Andrade 1-2; M. Hunter 1-5; A. Hurd 1-2); Rebounds: NU 44 (J. Lee 12), CCT 25 (M. Hunter 6); Assists: NU 17 (J. Lee 7), CCT 12 (M. Hunter 6); Total Fouls -- NU 12, CCT 26; Fouled Out: NU-None; CCT-A. Burbage.