It's a little strange to plan a basketball trip for a game that you don't even know will happen, but such is the lot of the pilgrim, I guess.
Game #9-247: Pennsylvania Quakers at Butler BulldogsJanuary 2, 2013 7:00 pm
When it was announced last March that Butler and Penn would play a #ghostbracket game in the Palestra (which gave rise to one of my favorite 800GP essays), I heard lots of Penn folks say they hoped it would be an ongoing series. (I've heard that it's a 2-for-1, in case you didn't think Butler was "big time" now.) So I wasn't surprised to see that Penn would play at Butler this season, and I made plans to make the trip.
I worried a bit about what I'd write about, because, as TMM-er Mike Miller said back in February of 2010, "[i]t's not like Butler has been starved of column inches by the national media or TMM." Needless to say, that hasn't changed since March of 2010, and the 800GP saw excellent essays about traveling to see a game at Hinkle by a regular and an outsider like me.
I didn't give a lot of thought to what the outcome of the game would be - especially once I read that Penn would be playing without its leading scorer, Fran Dougherty. I did hope the Quakers had made some progress on their turnover problems since I saw them last.
Wandering around the arena before the game, of course I couldn't avoid noticing the differences and similarities between the Fieldhouse and Penn's home gym, the Palestra. The most striking thing to me was the ceiling: For reference, here's a ceiling shot from a game last season at the Palestra: And hey, they've got "east coast subs" and "soft pretzels"! Also some final four banners:
There was talk of cathedrals of basketball:
But I could only get a paparazzi-style shot of the true celebrity in the house (though as you can see I wasn't the only one trying!): However, I did get to see a rendition on the game tickets for the day that I think captures things pretty well (those claws! yow!): When I returned to my seat, the area around us had filled in with what appeared to be mostly regulars, wishing each other happy new years and anticipating the beatdown their Bulldogs would soon put on the Quakers ("I think Jones'll go for 30!").
Once the ball was tipped, if you were an alien plunked down in our seats, you'd almost certainly think that purpose of this endeavor was to watch three guys in striped shirts perform, and the 10 kids running around with the ball were just accessories. You'd probably also conclude from the behavior of our neighbors that the team in blue's doing anything to impede the team in white from putting the ball in the basket was a terrible breach of etiquette, and that people in the stands could score points for the team in white by making the cleverest put down of the team in blue. The couple in the seats to our immediate left were, it seemed, only there to see their kid sing the national anthem as part of a high school choir, and they looked as uncomfortable as we were.
On the other hand, the hurricane of fan nonsense surrounding us from all directions did serve as somewhat of a distraction from THE TURNOVERS, GAH, THE TURNOVERS. Eleven in the first half alone. So my pre-game hope that maybe some progress had been made in that regard over the last few games was basically dashed. I've been able to watch the freshmen (guards especially, but forwards too) improve over the course of the season so far in general, which has been encouraging, but obviously this is an area where they've lagged behind.
That being said, Penn seems to be a better defensive team than their current record might lead you to expect (and KenPom has them #90 in eff. FG% defense and #98 in 2pt. FG defense, for example, way above their overall KenPom #252 ranking), so they hung around with Butler longer than most people probably thought. (Which I'm sure was part of the cause of our neighbors' collective, let's say, agitation.) After a few more out of conference games, Penn will start conference play, and I'll be holding out hope that the team can steal a win or two from one of the top tier Ivy teams. Seeing what the team was able to do against a really good team like Butler reinforced my hope for that, at least.
Oh yeah, one more thing - second in an ongoing series: Miles Cartwright sneaker watch: (If you have any interest in checking out more photos from the trip, the full set is here. Warning: JJ Jumper appears.)
at BUTLER 70, PENNSYLVANIA 57
PENNSYLVANIA 2-10 (0-0) -- M. Cartwright 5-14 2-2 15; J. Lewis 3-5 0-0 7; G. Louis 2-9 0-0 4; T. Hicks 4-12 0-0 10; S. Rennard 1-1 0-0 3; H. Brooks 3-4 2-2 8; C. Gunter 1-1 0-0 2; D. Nelson-Henry 2-3 1-2 5; D. Jok 0-1 0-0 0; P. Lucas-Perry 1-1 0-0 3; C. Crocker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 5-6 57.
BUTLER 11-2 (0-0) -- R. Jones 10-15 4-7 24; A. Smith 1-7 7-8 9; R. Clarke 2-11 1-1 6; A. Barlow 1-2 0-0 3; K. Dunham 3-7 2-2 10; K. Marshall 7-10 0-1 14; K. Woods 1-4 0-0 2; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0; E. Fromm 0-1 2-2 2; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-0 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 16-21 70.
Three-point goals: PENN 8-15 (M. Cartwright 3-4; D. Jok 0-1; S. Rennard 1-1; G. Louis 0-1; P. Lucas-Perry 1-1; T. Hicks 2-5; J. Lewis 1-2), BUTL 4-19 (R. Clarke 1-9; A. Smith 0-3; A. Barlow 1-2; K. Dunham 2-5); Rebounds: PENN 19 (G. Louis 5), BUTL 35 (K. Woods 8); Assists: PENN 11 (J. Lewis 6), BUTL 9 (R. Jones 3); Total Fouls -- PENN 19, BUTL 12; Fouled Out: PENN-H. Brooks; BUTL-None.