Game #9-271: Austin Peay Governors at High Point PanthersDecember 29, 2012 4:30 pm
One of the big problems of being attached to a team is that it can sometimes be tough to watch them play. That is especially true if your team happens to be prone to losing
. It is an often irrational fear that goes through my head in worrying about High Point losing. "What if we keep losing?" "What if we lose to the point that Division I athletics becomes unfeasible for us?" "What if all this losing reflects the future of High Point University not just in basketball, but the future of the entire university?" Of course, if we do become the next NJIT or Savannah State, we will almost certainly continue to move along as an institution of higher education. Nor are we in any real jeopardy of dropping to Division II. But what you want is winning, so more people know about HPU. Every game you see is a building block towards the goals of your team and to some extent your school as well. I remember Kyle once writing on here that part of his job was to follow teams that win more in order to stay "relevant"
(he used the quotations in saying that as well). So you want to see your team win, just so your team is "relevant". And thinking about that takes away from my enjoyment often of watching High Point, because I really want to see my Panthers someday become "relevant".
Less than 24 hours before, I had seen High Point lose at Chattanooga
. And here they were at McKenzie Arena again, only playing to avoid going 0-2 in the Dr. Pepper Classic. Seeing High Point go 0-2 in a weak MTE would be crushing. High Point's potential opponents in the tournament were a weak Ohio Valley team, a struggling SoCon team, and a team from a non-automatic bid conference. To be the worst in that bunch would be bad. If we went 0-2 in the Dr. Pepper Classic, we would be the worst team of a tournament with four 250+ RPI teams. And it would not be just bad for High Point, it would be bad for the entre Big South Conference. Until a few RLUs in mid-December, we were the worst conference in Division I. The MEAC, SWAC, Atlantic Sun, NEC, even the Great West were all ahead of the Big South. Even today
the Big South is still worse than everybody except for the SWAC and the Independents/Great West. And our regional counterparts in the Southern Conference is also towards the bottom. If we lost, it might not just be High Point who was not "relevant", it could be all the mid-majors I go to watch play in the Carolinas. Every game I go to would be just considered to be another game that is not "relevant". Granted since we are all mid-majors here that should not be a big deal, but we also want to follow the mid-majors who win. There are mid-majors who will be every year considered to be among the teams hyped to pull a potential upset in March, but right now none of those teams look to be local to me. It was also not just relevance here I wanted. To watch your team play twice in a weekend and not see them win either game would not be fun. And if we lost, HPU would have a losing record in games I have attended since I started tracking games I attend. So I really wanted a win here.
To build on the tensions, about 15 minutes before tip-off a few Austin Peay fans happened to show up in the seats to my left. I had no reason to suspect that trouble for them, but I just did not like having big guys right next to me who were fans of the team High Point was playing. In an arena of 11,000 with a crowd of less than a thousand, I felt like I could do better than sit right next to a fan of the other team. The reason for that is the way the box office sells tickets usually clears one row out of each section at a time. The next people to buy tickets after myself for the game in the middle-tier seats would be put next to me. I like having more space regardless of school affiliation, so I am not too fond of that seating procedure. And after feeling fortunate to not have any Chattanooga fans next to me the night before, I would have three fans from another team next to me from a school that also had to travel (albeit at the same distance that High Point did). This just made me too uncomfortable, so I decided to move to the other side of my section. Since I was still traveling with my parents, they were there and also felt more uneasy about rooting for High Point, starting when I clapped for the team when they went on and off the court that just lead to echoes in the cavernous arena. But just because there were opposing fans in my section did not mean I was going to stop rooting for High Point. After the national anthem, as always I shouted out, "Let's go High Point!" My dad looked completely appalled as to why I would do that, clearly thinking that I was trying to antagonize the Austin Peay fans down the row from me (this is why I often do not like traveling with my parents). Of course, my parents are not usually there when I go to High Point games, and my "Let's go High Point!" cheer after the national anthem is done because that is what one of friends who graduated two years after I did always did. He used to always interject "Go High Point!" between "Land of the free"
and "Home of the brave" before he angered fans at Winthrop doing that. I was not even at that game, but could quickly figure out that it was my friend people were talking about when I saw Winthrop fans complaining. When I talked to my friend about the incident, he said that he also had people get mad at him at the Winthrop Coliseum that night as well. So for the rest of his time as a student he would not do "Go High Point!" until after the anthem concluded, as I do now as a way of showing respect for his enthusiasm. The fact that I was one of a very few number of HPU fans was not going to stop me, perhaps even motivated me since I needed to let my team know that had someone
there who was a fan supporting them. (By the way, on this YouTube video
at the 1:15 mark you can catch my friend's quite audible interjection in that game at Winthrop)
But now we had a game to watch. Like the game the day before against Chattanooga, it would remain close throughout. The Governors led throughout most of the opening minutes before High Point was able to get going and take a slight lead for the rest of the half. John Brown started slow before coming on strong in the second half. The only thing stopping Brown was that he was tightly guarded as the one Panther with the potential to do damage, although Allan Chaney had returned from his illness but was not as effective. But Brown had his ways of getting going, by stepping back from defenders and making off balance ten footers. My only interaction with the Peay fans in my section was when they asked me what year Brown was. I told them he was a redshirt freshman, and they were amazed by how well he was doing then but wondered why he redshirted (Brown initially had trouble at the beginning of last season getting cleared academically by the NCAA). HPU was ahead by two at halftime, with Brown doing his best late in the half. But this was the exact same pattern as was played against Chattanooga the night before, and that turned out to be a seven point loss.
This would make for a tense second half. But there were three important factors helping High Point unlike the day before: this was not a true road game, Allan Chaney was available, and most importantly there was no big run to start the half. Austin Peay did go ahead briefly before the Panthers appeared to gradually pull away, leading by seven with a minute to go. But these are the games that strangely make me nervous. I know how quick things can change with this team, so I was still tense. And sure enough, Austin Peay got fouled with 45 seconds left and made both free throws, Allan Chaney missed a bonus free throw, and then the Governors made a layup while getting fouled with 30 seconds left. And then the worst moment of the game happened when the and one was missed but the missed offensive rebound by APSU was ruled to be last touched by HPU. This definitely made it more tense, as I felt awkward voicing my displeasure because from past experience the one way to irk opposing fans the most seems to be getting upset at officiating calls that go their way. But to my relief, I overheard the Austin Peay fans agreeing that the refs had botched the call in their favor (earlier in the game the APSU fans were often vocal in feeling that the refs were not calling it their way). I was only sort of relieved, as APSU had the ball and was quickly fouled. This seemed to be the way to blow a seen point lead in a minute. But APSU made only one of two free throws while Adam Weary made both of his to put High Point back up four with 20 seconds left. On the next possession, it took the Governors many attempts to finally make a putback, at which point less than two seconds remained. Even now I was tense, as I envisioned a scenario in which HPU would screw up the in-bound pass and give Austin Peay one last chance. I wondered if HPU should just lob the in-bound pass over halfcourt, and just protect against a turnover in the backcourt and not let the ball go out of bounds. But Adam Weary was able to break free and get the in-bound pass cleanly, and by the time he got fouled the buzzer sounded to give High Point a 76-74 consolation game win. I was finally free from tension.
Tension is why I have found for several years now I like watching teams I don't care about play. It is good to have a favorite team just to have a basis for making the connections in Our Game, and it allows you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your players and what it takes to succeed in basketball. But if you really love college basketball, you don't necessarily need that to enjoy a game, and that is why I like watching all teams play in person. And for that matter there should not be any reason to be tense as a High Point fan. We are only playing for "relevance", which is best used in quotation marks as relevance is only relative. Ultimately, relevance does not mean anything except to the media and bandwagon fans. And while bandwagon fans usually only are found above the Red Line, they can attach to members of Hoops Nation if we win enough. But do we really want these fans, aside from the money they bring into our schools from time to time? Therefore there should be nothing getting tense about as this is all part of the Beautiful Season, relevance be damned.
at HIGH POINT 76, AUSTIN PEAY 74
AUSTIN PEAY 4-10 (0-0) -- D. Gatson 6-10 0-0 13; A. Campbell 7-13 7-7 23; C. Horton 6-12 1-3 13; T. Betran 2-15 5-6 10; W. Triggs 7-11 0-3 14; J. Purvis 0-1 0-0 0; M. Hasse 1-2 4-6 7; A. Lynch 2-5 0-0 5; C. Arentsen 0-2 0-0 0; P. Herring 1-1 0-0 2; H. Lawrence 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 17-25 74.
HIGH POINT 5-7 (0-0) -- J. Brown 8-19 9-12 25; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Wallace 2-8 3-3 7; D. Edwards 2-4 0-1 4; D. McGaughy 0-3 0-0 0; A. Weary 2-2 3-3 7; B. Mikulic 2-3 0-0 6; L. Cugini 3-5 0-0 6; A. Chaney 2-7 5-8 10; C. Law 3-4 2-3 8; H. McIntyre 0-2 0-0 0; J. Cheek 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 35-99 37-45 111.
Three-point goals: APSU 5-18 (A. Campbell 2-5; W. Triggs 0-1; M. Hasse 1-1; C. Arentsen 0-2; T. Betran 1-5; A. Lynch 1-3; J. Purvis 0-1), HP 4-32 (A. Chaney 1-1; J. Cheek 1-2; D. Wallace 0-4; B. Mikulic 2-3; L. Cugini 0-1; D. McGaughy 0-1); Rebounds: APSU 38 (A. Campbell 9), HP 61 (B. Mikulic 7); Assists: APSU 17 (T. Betran 5), HP 26 (D. McGaughy 6); Total Fouls -- APSU 19, HP 27; Fouled Out: APSU-None; HP-None.