Thursday, January 12, 2006

UWM vs. Loyola: A Frightening Escape

Last evening I made my way down to the MECCA arena to see just my third UWM game (in person) of the year. It was a tough night to do so, with two marquee games on ESPN (both of which I would have happily watched) and a Marquette game on TV. Per yesterday’s post, I had planned to record the Marquette game and play it back later, but that playback was derailed for reasons that will become clear in my following points:

1) Until player introductions, I had totally forgotten that former Whitefish Bay Dominican star Walter "J.R." Blount was playing for Loyola. I’ve had a couple people ask me this year if I knew how he was doing, but I hadn’t checked up on Loyola at all this year. Well, apparently he’s doing pretty well, since he’s starting, and was instrumental in leading the nearly successful comeback of the Ramblers, before finishing with 18 points. I never noticed that type of talent on the few occasions that I had the chance to see him in high school, but it looks like people are going to be sad for awhile that Blount chose to leave the state for college.

2) Adrian Tigert’s hair looked pretty plain last night. Tigert always looks like he’s gelled up for the game, but last night looked like he had no product whatsoever in his hair. Could he be reacting to harassment from his teammates about his metro-sexual traits, or was he just too busy to get styled up for the game last night? I guess we’ll find out in coming weeks.

3) Kevin Massiah had an absolutely ridiculous dunk last night. He came down the lane in a fairly unassuming manner, but then at the last minute just exploded to the hoop like I’ve never seen. For the most part, Massiah hasn’t done anything eye-popping this year, but that dunk definitely opened a lot of eyes. And unfortunately, it would end up being the only dunk of the night, leaving the Panthers four dunks short of ensuring a free fried chicken dinner for all patrons during the nightly Popeye’s "Dunk With Attitude" promotion.

4) Dez and I were chatting about an old standard topics that we sometimes discuss: creating a pay-per-view channel with bizarre programming that we would pay big money to watch. The best example of this is the "Our Friend Greg On a Date" channel, where we watch our buddy Greg fumble around on dates with random women (Of course, now that Greg has a serious girlfriend, that idea’s out the window). However, I’ve got to give Dez credit for coming up with a new channel to rival that one: the "Adrian Tigert vs. Brian Butch Dunk Competition" channel. Has anyone seen either of these guys dunk this year? Of course, this sort of neglects Marquette’s Steve Novak, who dunks infrequently, so maybe we could invite him, too. Assuming that we can label Novak as a power forward (which is something that would be done only for convenience sake), I think that we can confidently say that there’s no state that has three less powerful power forwards than Wisconsin (Green Bay, though I’m no expert on them, seems to actually have some bulk down low, so we’ll lay off of them). Strangely, though, they’re all great players.

5) Last night was one of the best Jumbotron nights that I’ve ever encountered. There were no gimmicks like the "kiss cam" or the "flex cam," but two moments still stood out. First, there was an extended shot of a guy in a neck brace who looked like he had no interest in being at the game. Given that he was in a neck brace and couldn’t crane his head to look at the Jumbotron, he wasn’t even aware of his heightened public scrutiny. Second, as old and uncreative as it is, I can’t help but get a small chuckle when I see someone give the middle finger to the camera when they’re on the scoreboard. Yes, sometimes I do have the psyche of a teenage boy.

6) The halftime competition last night was a really week competition between two guys to see who could put together a puzzle from pieces spread out on the court. The moment I heard what was going on, I started to look at Dez to say "This is the worst halftime competition I’ve seen since we went to Northwestern and the did the word jumble at halfcourt." Before I could get the words out of my mouth, Dez looked at me and tossed out the name "Sven Macheyere," which was the incorrect jumble name determined by the Northwestern participant (the correct answer, of course, was Evan Eschmeyer). It’s a little bit frightening to go to a game with someone who knows exactly what absurd things I’m thinking, but it does make for good conversation.

7) Dez noted that in the last UWM game he had gone to, a friend of his had noted that the UWM mascot, Victor E. Panther, was wearing a jersey that not only wasn’t the current UWM jersey, but didn’t seem like it was ever used by UWM. That seemed pretty weak–you’ve got to give the mascot a proper uniform. Then I noticed at the half that the mascot’s costume was authentic, but he was just wearing the secondary warm-up jersey of the Panthers. I still thought that was kind of weak, and still believe that there should be money in the athletic budget to get the mascot an oversized authentic jersey. I didn’t mind Dez’s suggestion on this topic–that the mascot should just get Luke Homan’s (a talented, sharpshooting walk-on guard who always looked sort of pudgy, and transferred to UW-LaCrosse after last season) old jersey.

8) After watching a few Panther games this year, one thing is clear to me: Jason McCoy is a totally different player this year. Last year he was a sub who was good for about 10 minutes per game, and existed largely just to guard the inbounds pass. This year, I was shocked to see him starting at the beginning of the season, but he’s a legitimate starter, and works perfectly in the UWM rotation.

9) Great game for Loyola’s Blake Schilb, who dropped 24 points on UWM despite spending a good chunk of the game on the bench with foul trouble. A nice job was also done by Loyola forward Tracy Robinson, who entered the game for Schilb, and appeared to get more minutes that he’s accustomed to. As active as Robinson was, one would guess that he earned a few more minutes last night.

10) One of the most entertaining facets for me of attending games is the occasional times that you get seated in front of a couple of total idiots. Last night was such a case. The guys that Dez and I were sitting in front of were so clueless that I hesitate to comment on them for fear that one of them had a legitimate mental disability, which I would never want to mock. But I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case, so I’ll commence with describing the madness. Perhaps the most over-riding aspect of their fandom was their decision early on that one of Loyola’s forwards, who had an afro, somehow looked like Ronald McDonald, a clown with curly red hair. It was a tenuous comparison, at best. Nonetheless, for the rest of the evening, I was treated to taunts like "Choke on a Happy Meal, Ronald!" and "Go get me a free Big Mac!" These were not only borderline non-sensical, they were ineffective from the upper deck of the MECCA, even if yelled at the top of one’s lungs (as they constantly were). And of course, these guys also happened to get the score of the Marquette game and openly discuss it, destroying any chance that I would have to watch the game later as if it was live. That latter annoyance is really more my hang up than their fault, but it was still the icing on the cake for me.

I could go on about these two for awhile, but I’ll just say that they were entertaining in their lack of knowledge or social skills, and leave it at that. They definitely make my top three all time most foolish fans that I’ve sat in front of.

11) As the score (UWM 78, Loyola 75) indicates, the game got pretty tight in the closing minutes. Thus, I was perplexed during the closing minutes to look out on the floor and not see Joah Tucker. There’s probably a logical explanation to all this, and it’s probably in the morning newspaper (which I almost never read before doing my updates, for fear of tainting my analysis with too much factual information), but I still don’t understand why you put the leading candidate for conference player of the year on the bench with a two point lead and a minute to go.

12) While leaving the arena, Dez and I ran into a friend who noted that the Green Bay Packers had just offered the head coaching job to someone. The friend then properly noted that due to this development, UWM’s game would probably now be pushed to the 11th page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s sports section. Indeed, it was only on page 6, but in fairness, the sports page was only 10 pages long today, and you need a couple pages for box scores and such.
So UWM, despite being in control most of the game, pulled out a squeaker at the end. They never threw a knock-out punch, but generally looked good. They’re still in the middle of a great stretch of basketball, though, and should keep on rolling. Let’s just hope they don’t go down to the wire every night.

And with the score of the Marquette game already revealed to me by the idiots behind me, I chose to save that recording for the weekend and check out the Duke-Maryland game, which I had recorded as a back-up, just in case someone ruined the drama of the Marquette game by revealing the score. Of course, in the Duke-Maryland game, Duke pretty much destroyed the drama by halftime by destroying Maryland, but I guess that’s always a risk when you’re watching Duke. Not a bad night of hoops, though. Not a bad night at all.


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