Game #9-253: Florida Gators at Yale BulldogsJanuary 6, 2013 5:30 pm
John J. Lee Amphitheater
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - There are no Gators that are native to Connecticut, and as a Nutmegger, I like it that way.
Unfortunately, there were a few Gators that invaded New Haven on Sunday night, big blue ones, a breed I'm told runs rampant in the swamps of northern Florida. They brought with them an entourage, hundreds of blue and orange wearing folk that liked to open their hands very wide and close them really quickly, like they are squashing some imaginary insect or something.
When it was announced that Florida was coming to New Haven to play Yale, my first instinct is that it had to be a misprint, especially when it was sandwiched on the schedule between Albertus Magnus
and Oberlin, a pair of Division III teams.
Did they mean Florida International? Florida-Gulf Coast? North Florida? Florida A&M? Had to be.
Maybe if the New Haven Coliseum was still hanging around
, but I watched Yale play Tennessee Tech before a large crowd in the NIT in 2002, and that was one of the last events in the Coliseum's history (the Coliseum was once voted one of the worst architectural designs of the 20th century with the parking lots above the actual Coliseum, with circular entrances and exits that I hadn't seen again until I went to Western Kentucky's Diddle Arena last month). I thought maybe they could dust it off, but then remembered it was demolished to the ground in 2007
, and currently serves as parking for the nearby train station.
Over time, I was assured it was the University of Florida, which meant, "Oh crap, I'd better get a ticket!" Lee Amphitheater, inside of Payne Whitney Gym
, holds only 2,543 for basketball, and when I ordered tickets two months ago, all I could get was the dreaded Standing Room Only. I immediately called my friend Dave, and Sunday night, there we were, standing behind one of the baskets at the ancient auditorium, built in 1926, but perhaps my favorite in all of college
basketball, not the least of which that it is currently a little over a mile from my house.
The next dilemma was why in hell Billy Donovan would bring his team here on Jan. 6? Yale went to Gainesville last year, and this should be a 2-for-1 deal, but still, I couldn't tell you the last team above the Red Line to come to Yale's campus.
Donovan said it was a homecoming of sorts for senior Erik Murphy, who is from Rhode Island. Florida formerly had a player from New London, Allen Chaney, who has a great story of recovery
, but he's now
at High Point, and should have graduated a couple of years ago.
(As it turned out, Murphy didn't play with an injured rib with conference play beginning on Wednesday.)
My theory - and I watch a lot of CSI shows - is pizza. New Haven isn't known for many things (except Yale, of course), but pizza is one of them. And there's no way Donovan could be outdone by John Calipari, is there
? Personally, I think Modern Apizza beats out Sally's and Pepe's, but if you want to come to New Haven some time, we can have that argument. Or throw down. I can do that, too.
I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised at how many Florida fans were in the gym. The delusional part of my brain pictured a sea of navy blue cheering Yale on from start to finish with a handful of Gators fans behind their bench.
In reality, the Yale supporters were outnumbered significantly by the people chomping with the arms. Young kids, good-looking women, and older men alike all snapping their arms together. Kind of sickening, actually. Where did they come from? Some of them must be my neighbors, no?
And I like Donovan and Florida. It was nice to have someone a little different win back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, and I would have much rather seen Florida than Louisville in last year's Final Four.
Anyway, there was a game to be played, and Yale looked every bit like a 5-10 squad picked to finish in the lower half of the Ivy League in the first few minutes. The Bulldogs could barely get to half court, and when they did, they couldn't get anywhere near the basket against massive Patric Young and semi-massive Will Yeguete in the paint.
Mike Rosario's superhoop put the Gators up 15-7 nine minutes in, but strangely, Donovan - the king of the superhoop since its inception - seemed to be telling his team to eschew the long ball and Florida couldn't finish inside, even against the smaller Bulldogs. Justin Sears had an omgdunx that got the Yale crowd going and when Michael Grace followed with a jumper, Florida's lead was cut to 21-20 with five minutes to go in the half.
And the Gators call time.
Alas, that was about it, sadly. Kenny Boynton hit a superhoop and Michael Frazier was fouled shooting another just before the half and the tally was 35-23 by the intermission.
Boynton was unconscious to start the second half, his second superhoop two minutes after the break closed a 12-0 run that put the Gators up a whopping 47-23. But Yale, which had been playing a little better in its last couple of games, showed plenty of pride the rest of the way, even if it had little bearing on the winner.
Sears finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and four steals while Javier Duren and Armani Cotton, who may hold the key to any success Yale has in the Ivy, finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively, and got a little feisty with the Gators, much to the consternation of Donovan.
(Interesting tidbit that James Jones was the junior coach in this game, despite 14 years of consecutive service at Yale. This is Donovan 17th campaign with Florida.)
Boynton finished with 28, tying a school record with eight superhoops (on only 10 attempts).
Yale doesn't begin conference play for two weeks (hence the need to play Oberlin next Saturday), but this likely marks the end of my Red Line upset quest, to which I saw only one, and that was an upset of my alma mater.
Maybe the Bally Gods are saving one for the NCAA Tournament for me. Maybe it will involve the Gators? Or am I being quixotic again?
I take it as a compliment, thanks.