Thursday, February 5, 2009

Big-Time Atmosphere

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at UNC Greensboro

Thirteen conference games into the season, and the ‘Cats’ 75-54 win in Greensboro is the first road conference contest I’ve been able to make.

From tales told of the other six (and the details I’d read on Spartanfest), I brought a pretty high level of anticipation to the Greensboro Coliseum Thursday night.

I’ve been to the Greensboro Coliseum before, though, it didn’t look very familiar as the Sports Info Sable arrived. The bounce house wasn’t inflated yet (major bummer), but the tailgaters would not be deterred by the 20-degree weather.

After getting directions (ish) from the guy in the bright orange jumpsuit, we made our way into the arena. Sort of. First we went looking for the media entrance at the Southeast corner (compass, anyone?), and after going through the boat/hot tub show, down the ramp, up the ramp, through security (where my laptop had a nasty encounter with the concrete floor) and past the mascot holding room (love a half-dressed mascot) we found the media room. (Hooray!)

We settled into our spots on press row, directly behind the Wildcat bench — assistant SID Matt Harris alongside the Davidson broadcasting team, and I, rubbing elbows ( can’t blame a girl for trying) with the NBA scouts in attendance.

I haven’t sat by you at a game yet this year, I tell Matt. This will be fun. (Mostly for him.)

Yeah, but I’ll be writing about scoring runs, and you’ll write about ushers in Tuxedo vests.

Touche. But, did you see those guys??? A-maz-ing.

I make a joke (also, amazing) about how Greensboro SID Mike Hirschman is running a tournament game, and sure enough, the table workers demand I pour my Diet Pepsi into a Gatorade cup. Last time I checked they played for the same team, but OK, yes, ma'am... just one second.

The game gets underway, off to a bit of a shaky start, with Greensboro jumping out to a 7-1 lead. I’m very much enjoying my seat behind the bench, especially as Coach McKillop burns an early TO to have a quick conversation with his team, who promptly responds with a 16-0 scoring run (See... I can do runs, too.)

It is in the middle of this when The Dilemma goes to the line for three tries, only to miss two and draw chants of “Overrated.” Time on the clock, 13:36.

(Other arena happenings of entertainment value: The Wave. To which a scout asks, Am I in a time warp? A ‘Hair Ball’ graphic on the board. After a miss, and Steve Rossiter offensive board, put-back and foul call.)

“I think that’s what happened to me, too,” interjected Steve Rossiter, who made 6-of-11 gimmies. “I thought they were chanting at me.”

Rossiter earned his way to the line, though, time after time, finishing the night with career-highs in points (14) and rebounds (13), in what his coach called his most complete game as a Davidson basketball player. Greensboro head coach Mike Dement called him relentless, a player that just runs through you, afterwards.

The Spartans chipped away, answering with their own scoring run of 13-8, to cut the lead to just 26-20. A missed breakaway layup, halting a 5-0 mini-spurt, would have given Greensboro, and this crowd, new life.

But Davidson allowed just a pair of baskets for the rest of the half, as six different playas (including a nice Dan Nelms steal to Andrew LOVEdale dunk,
The Dilemma'san alley-ooooop to MAX and spectacular hanging layup) put the difference at 37-24 at the break.

After a halftime performance featuring the Zooperstars! Alex Frogridguez (easily the best with a 50 cent impersonation), Lebronco James and Whale Gretzky, things picked up right where they left off, and the ‘Cats started to build on their lead.

Basketball is a game of runs, though, and Greensboro would mount one final challenge, cutting the lead to just six on a pair of free throws by Daniel Oliver. Another missed opportunity for the Spartans, this a missed dunk (don’t waste your shots, Damian Eargle, name of the game winner), and the ‘Cats were off to the finish line for their 43rd straight SoCon win in front of 11,687.

“It was a big-time atmosphere,” McKillop said post-game. “A first-class environment. For the Southern Conference to have this is very special. Congratulations for putting on such a great event.”

And on Saturday, the ‘Cats get another big-time stage as Dick Vitale and ESPN2 come to town for the Cats v. Cougars match-up. Another big-time atmosphere. Wear Black.

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