"Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat." - Ralph Ellison
Game #9-401: Illinois-Chicago Flames at Loyola (Ill.) RamblersFebruary 16, 2013 2:00 pm
Joseph Gentile Center
CHICAGO - No one likes to cede control. Think of a facet of your life, maybe the place you work, or even something you're going to do today. Control is paramount to your success, or at least that's what we believe most of the time.
But we inherently know that we can't control everything all the time. In reality, we don't have control of much: there are probably so many examples in your day that many of them go past without even blinking an eye, Which means we grab on tighter to those few things we can control, trying our best to manipulate them the way we want to.
Our Game is no different. Coaches try to take ownership of everything they can, staying up all hours of the night, watching film until their eyes burn, drawing up plays with intimate details, only to have an easy pass go awry or a team that can't knock down the open shot that his perfect play designed.
The players have a little more control, but it's certainly not total. A common misconception about man-to-man defenses is that they are exclusively singular battles, when in reality, great defenses rely on help and recover principles to succeed. Watch the next time someone takes a big charge; it's usually not the person who was the primary defender of the man he took it on. Offensively, you can draw the double-team, but once you kick the ball to your open teammate, control has officially vanished.
I still keep in touch with my best friend Scott from my elementary years, visited him in college
in St. Louis, went to a NASCAR race with him at Darlington when he moved to North Carolina, lived not too far from him in Texas for a year, then saw him almost every summer when he got a job in Detroit, always having the summer visit coincide with a Tigers homestand.
In Detroit, Scott got married, had kids, and was living the typical American suburban life when he got a chance for a promotion
two years. The catch: he had to move to Chicago. It really wasn't a huge change for me, just a different place to come in the summer. Two years ago, we saw the Yankees sweep the White Sox at Comiskey Park; last year, we went to Wrigley Field with his wife.
However, we never saw a pitch at Wrigley. A massive thunderstorm rolled through the north side of Chicago on that Friday afternoon and the game was delayed for more than three hours. Two decades ago, Scott and I wouldn't have blinked at a three-hour delay. We sat through doubleheaders at Yankee Stadium, never minded getting home late by staying until the end of games.
But those adventures never involved kids or a teenage babysitter who needed to get home to her family. So back on the train to the suburbs we went, never seeing a ball thrown in anger between the Cubs and Diamondbacks.
A combination of a February school vacation and having never seen any mid-major college basketball anywhere near Chicago made me move my annual summer visit up a few months this year. Per usual, I put together an ambitious schedule around Chicago and prepared to go bright and early (a 5:45 EST flight) Saturday morning.
Despite a rather lengthy de-icing (which is always reassuring, by the way), my flight from Hartford to Chicago was almost on time, and I drove the rental car to my friend's house in plenty of time to head to Loyola University for the annual #ALLCAPSGAME
intra-city battle between Loyola and Illinois-Chicago.
But there was a catch. Scott's four-year old son had his last basketball get-together at 11 a.m. It lasted an hour, which would put us at Noon. It was an hour from the elementary school to Loyola's Gentile Arena. Tip-off was at 1 p.m. Do the math.
What was I supposed to do, tell his four-year old son to skip his final basketball of the season for my selfish reason to get to a game by tip-off? I like to be in control, probably more than I should on a daily basis, but I wasn't here, and that was just the reality of the situation.
Interestingly, there was a rule in place that parents were not allowed to watch the "practice" portion of the basketball, so Scott and I waited outside, catching up a little, until they let us in at 11:30 to watch the "game", which consisted of four-foot hopes at either end. There were a few travels and illegal screens not called as the refs let the action flow, but a couple of #omgdunx
got roars from the crowd. The final line for Scott's son: 0 pts., 0-1 FG, 1 steal, 1 turnover. Not a great efficiency day for him, but he - of course - had a smile on his face as he came out.
There was a small compromise made, we left 15 minutes early, at 11:45. We meandered through north Chicago. A couple of times there were yellow lights I probably would have taken a run at, especially under the circumstances, but Scott relented. His four-year old son was in the back of the car after all. At 12:55, we made it to the shores of Lake Michigan, Scott allowed me to jump out of the vehicle, I sprinted to the front of Gentile Arena (we already had tickets), and made it to my seat with about three minutes to spare.
The streak lives on. Even if I didn't have much control over it on this day.
Kyle has written about Chicago more than I can add or detract from in this short space, but I was happy to see Gentile Arena treating #ALLCAPSGAME
like the major event it is. It wasn't full, but UIC brought a sizable student section across town, adjacent to Loyola's. As I've seen a couple of other times this season, a true visiting team has no rights to the floor, so the UIC cheerleaders had to be content with standing in front of the student section decked out in red (I unintentionally wore red as well, oops).
Loyola and UIC have combined for one winning
conference record in the last decade, and that streak looks likely to continue this season (although UIC has a shot to climb above .500), but just like when I saw Penn and Saint Joseph's at the Palestra, none of that really mattered on this afternoon.
Gentile Arena is not the Palestra or Hinkle Fieldhouse, but I've seen much, much worse. You can squeeze about 5,000 in if you need to, and all the seats are basketball friendly. The acoustics were clear, at one point the UIC section started a "This-is-our-house" chant that was immediately answered by a Loyola run.
Loyola got off to a 10-3 start this season that included a pair of Red Line upsets (Mississippi St. and DePaul), and a conference-opening win at Horizon League favorite Valparaiso, but the wheels had come off a bit for the Ramblers after that.
Meanwhile, UIC has wins over Northwestern and Colorado St. on its resume, but the Flames have had trouble being consistent of late, which was obvious in the first half as behind Christian Thomas, Loyola led by as many as 15 before going to the half with a 36-23 lead.
would be a tremendous disappointment if they didn't, UIC made a second-half run, Daniel Barnes hitting his only #superhoop
of the day to get the Flames within four, a milestone they would reach on a couple of occasions. But redshirt senior Jordan Hicks, whose career had been derailed by injuries the last two seasons, got a pair of big offensive rebounds and four straight points to make his final #ALLCAPSGAME
a memorable one. UIC never seriously threatened the rest of the way. #ALLCAPSGAME
MVP Thomas finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Ramblers, who officially doubled last year's win total with the victory.
At halftime, Loyola honored one of the teams that it didn't end in a loss for, the 1963 NCAA champions, on the 50th anniversary of their triumph. UCLA would win nine of the next 10 NCAA titles, with only Texas Western breaking the streak in 1966.
So much has changed in the last half-century that it's futile to try to document everything. But as the remaining players from that squad walked out to center court to a standing ovation from the Loyola crowd, you could see the pride in their smiles. While Texas Western gets most of the publicity these days, as well as the Disney movie, Loyola was obviously a great story of its own
. People that don't know better today assume that racism was strictly confined to the south, and the institutionalized version of it mostly was.
(One of the players - sadly, I didn't catch which one -said, "People ask me how we'd do against today's champions, and I think we'd lose by 10 or 12 points. Of course, we're all 70 or older now and a couple of us are gone, but still.")
However, one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s self-admitted darkest days came when he walked through the streets of Chicago and dealt with taunts and worse
. That was three years after Loyola's title. And yet George Ireland was able to put a predominantly African-American team from Chicago at the top of the NCAA world.
Loyola has only been to the NCAA Tournament once in the last 45 years (ironically, I watched them advance to the Sweet 16 in Hartford in 1985, their last appearance), but the current Rambler fans dream of a day - however unrealistic - that they can match their 1963 brethen. Unfortunately, and probably thankfully, they'll definitely never be able to recreate some of the other shenanigans that surrounded their games.
It was off to the next game, so there was no time to hang around Gentile Arena, but I did have control of one last thing before departing. I had never met Bally B. Basketball, but I saw him sitting against the fence across from the benches at Gentile Arena. I waited for my chance, sneaked past the security and quickly shook his hand.
I also got to meet his owner, who also seemed like a nice guy as well, and supposedly has seen his shar of basketball over the last few seasons.
"Mr. Whelliston, I presume."
at LOYOLA (ILL.) 69, ILLINOIS-CHICAGO 60
ILLINOIS-CHICAGO 15-11 (6-7) -- B. Scott 1-2 0-0 3; G. Talton 5-10 0-1 10; H. Humes 4-8 0-0 10; D. Barnes 3-12 1-2 8; M. Brown 5-10 2-3 13; J. Crittle 3-5 2-2 8; J. Wiegand 3-4 0-0 6; A. Kelley 0-2 0-0 0; J. Miller 2-5 0-0 5; J. Parker 0-0 0-0 0; W. Simonton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 5-8 60.
LOYOLA (ILL.) 14-12 (4-9) -- C. Thomas 9-16 5-7 23; J. White 2-5 2-2 6; J. Crisman 0-1 2-2 2; J. Hicks 6-7 5-6 18; D. Turk 4-12 0-0 10; N. Osborne 2-10 0-0 5; M. O'Leary 2-3 1-2 5; L. Dokubo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 15-19 69.
Three-point goals: UIC 5-21 (D. Barnes 1-6; A. Kelley 0-2; H. Humes 2-5; M. Brown 1-5; G. Talton 0-1; J. Miller 1-2), LOYO 4-9 (J. Hicks 1-1; N. Osborne 1-2; D. Turk 2-6); Rebounds: UIC 23 (H. Humes 4), LOYO 32 (C. Thomas 11); Assists: UIC 10 (G. Talton 8), LOYO 9 (J. White 5); Total Fouls -- UIC 18, LOYO 11; Fouled Out: UIC-J. Crittle; LOYO-None.