Game #9-269: Niagara Purple Eagles at Brown BearsJanuary 8, 2013 7:00 pm
Pizzitola Sports Center
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - You try not to assume things in life, but if you're anything like me, you do anyway. Maybe you don't. Maybe it's a character flaw.
I should get proper directions to arenas I've never been to before, but I usually just assume that the basketball arena would be somewhere on the campus. Or, at the very least, there would be signs to said gym
on the campus.
But the Ivy League can be a little different when it comes to athletics and their place in the world sometimes. Getting to Brown was slightly easy, basically just go toward downtown and then go up College Hill. And College
Hill is no joke, it's a pretty steep climb.
I reached the center of campus, and granted it was dark by now and the students were still on break, but no signs for the Pizzitola Center, where Brown was supposed to take on Niagara in about 45 minutes. Finally, I stumbled upon a campus map, which told me I was a few blocks away from the athletic complex, which also included the football stadium.
One thing that's always a dead giveaway
that you're in the right spot is the visiting bus, and it would appear that Niagara drove all the way from Buffalo to Providence, which makes a little sense because their next two games are at Saint Peter's and Fairfield, meaning it's probably a mini-vacation for the Purple Eagles.
The next issue, of course, is parking, and I just slid into the next spot I could find, hoping I wouldn't eventually get a ticket (I didn't). Alas, there seemed to be no way into the arena the bus was parked outside of, but when I finally got to the front, it was Meehan Arena, which seemed nice, except it was for hockey.
Hockey? That wasn't going to help me.
I now had the choice of a well-lit building across the walkway or the not so illuminated building next door. I could have asked someone at this point (or any point, really), but you know, right? We just don't do that.
Both looked just as fair, but I chose the closer one, and that made all the difference. Because, of course, it was the Pizzitola Center at long last.
Where were all the fans? Well, it was a non-conference game on a Tuesday night. In fact, one of the several dozen people walked in and yelled from the small skybox above: "Hey, I thought all the games were going to be sold out after the last one!"
He was kidding, of course, but the Pizzitola Center was full in Brown's last home game two weeks ago, because it was cross-town rival Providence's first visit to the Brown campus in three decades. It might be another 30 years before they come back after the Bears picked up the Red Line Upset.
Once inside, the Pizzitola Center was a very nice mid-major gym, cozy but well-lit, and they actually let me take the Subway I had bought at a rest stop an hour earlier in with me so it was a win-win.
Someone actually forgot to erase the notes from the preceding women's practice off of the gym wall, but there wasn't too much insight there.
It was a bizarre time for a non-conference game for Niagara, who was already 3-1 in the MAAC, but - as I said - they seemed (with no classes yet) to have some time to kill this week, so why not Providence? A game like this also shows how hard scheduling is in the Ivy League, which not only has only 14 conference games, but also no conference tournament, meaning that most don't begin the games that count until next weekend (Brown will take on Division III Daniel Webster on Saturday).
With a whole section to myself, I was able to concentrate on the Brown sideline. The Bears, with only eight players dressed under first-year coach Mike Martin, understandably looked less sharp to start the game, and when Ameen Tanksley started to hit #superhoops, Niagara looked unstoppable, leading 36-17 late in the first half. There was nothing to indicate that Brown was going to come back, Niagara was clearly superior athletically and the Bears, well, looked disinterested, for lack of a better term.
But, like their MAAC brethren Iona, Niagara is prone to bouts of inconsistency, and Brown has one of the Ivy League's best scorers in junior guard Sean McGonagill. Not exactly an imposing figure at 6-foot-1 and generously listed at 180 pounds, McGonagill can shoot a basketball, however, as well as almost anyone in the country.
McGonagill hit one #superhoop
before halftime and two more after, the final one finishing off a baffling 28-6 run over a 10-minute span, putting Brown up 45-42 with 10:30 to go. All the momentum the Purple Eagles had was obviously gone, but they were able to steady themselves behind their best player, Juan'ya Green, who probably needs to take over games more often in my humble opinion.
Four straight Green points put Niagara up 55-50 with five minutes left, and it looked like they would hang on up 62-56 with 1:20 to go. But they wouldn't score again in regulation, and had a complete meltdown in the closing seconds. Leading by three with 20 seconds to go, Green missed a jumper with the shot clock running out. That much was OK. But when the ball bounced around and finally into the hands of McGonagill, only two Purple Eagles were back. With a 4-on-2 break, Matt McCarthy basically just walked up to the three-point line and calmly hit an open shot to tie the game with 11.8 seconds left. Niagara wouldn't even get a shot off and to overtime we went.
The Purple Eagles scored the first three points of the extra session, but guess who? (McGonagill, of course) was wide open to tie the game with a #superhoop. Hard-working but tough-spelling Togolese freshman Cedric Kuakumensah soon gave Brown a lead it wouldn't relinquish, and Niagara was handed a 65-64 loss that will probably be tough to explain in the final ledger.
Niagara forced 21 turnovers, but was somehow outrebounded 53-42, a ridiculous amount of total boards. Even more eye-catching was 22 offensive boards for the Bears, leading Niagara coach Joe Mihalich to plead with his team, "Will someone please get a freaking rebound? Please? Just grab the damn ball." There were different variations of that during the second half and overtime, none of them successful.
Alas, the way out was not nearly as difficult as the way in, the one-way streets on College Hill giving me some mild trouble on the way back downtown, but I-95 South was soon in sight and it was back to Connecticut I went.
Next time I go to a new gym, I'll be sure to look up exactly where I'm headed before I leave.
Actually, you'd think I would, but I probably won't. It's more fun this way.
at BROWN 75, NIAGARA 74
NIAGARA 7-8 (3-1) -- J. Green 7-17 0-1 17; A. Mason 4-13 3-8 13; A. Tanksley 7-15 1-3 18; T. McCall 2-4 2-2 6; D. White 4-7 3-4 11; M. Lemmons 0-1 0-0 0; T. Cline 0-5 5-6 5; M. Jordan 2-5 0-0 4; J. Thomas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-68 14-24 74.
BROWN 5-8 (0-0) -- M. Sullivan 5-20 8-9 20; S. McGonagill 8-18 2-4 23; T. Halpern 4-13 3-4 15; R. Maia 2-5 1-4 5; T. Ponticelli 2-3 2-4 6; C. Kuakumensah 3-8 0-3 6; J. Schmidt 0-1 0-0 0; J. Sharkey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-68 16-28 75.
Three-point goals: NIAG 8-25 (M. Jordan 0-3; M. Lemmons 0-1; A. Mason 2-4; J. Green 3-7; A. Tanksley 3-7; T. Cline 0-3), BRWN 11-29 (T. Halpern 4-9; M. Sullivan 2-8; S. McGonagill 5-12); Rebounds: NIAG 39 (A. Mason 9), BRWN 49 (T. Halpern 10); Assists: NIAG 12 (J. Green 5), BRWN 15 (S. McGonagill 7); Total Fouls -- NIAG 25, BRWN 17; Fouled Out: NIAG-A. Tanksley; BRWN-R. Maia.