Just returned from a surprisingly electrifying and raucous Wake Forest hoops game against Maryland (Wake brought it, a nice W in OT big scoring, physical, three point shootout take-ya-ta-school-from-the-free-throw-line kind of classic game – bedlam!)
For you college basketball freakies like me who can’t stand it til the Tourney season is on, like 25F raw outside tonight on a weirdo Tuesday night game, basically a near-capacity crowd, bunch of marylanders there too, at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, seats one riser off the floor courtesy of a friend, home side left of home side goal, if that is, you’re sitting on home goal side.
Wow, what a fun thing to witness. I have always loved college hoops, with heart and soul. I matriculated from a small, but NCAA Division III bball powerhouse, where we made the walk, sometimes in the snow or rain, to sweaty contests of basketball survival in the nike league of college athletics, held in a deafening quonset hut gymnasium with a stone face on the end facing the highway. Aluminum bleachers, I don’t recall if the roof was insulated or not, the entire building seemed to shake when (not really like a prizefight – it was that kind of drive to prevail, to conquer tho) we had an opponent on the ropes, first staggering, and then out of momentum and the coach lacking an idea about what to do next because he can’t hear to think with all the din. The bleachers stacked close to the court, we were right on top of the players it seemed. That helped me fall in love with the essence of college basketball.
So tonight, I think I witnessed a true classic matchup, and one that I suspect will, and that I think rightly should feed an interesting rivalry for many years to come – Maryland, once a Division I powerhouse back in the day, came in and really gave Wake Forest a run for its money tonight. They were not punks, I mean it was so close, they were never behind by double digits, and Maryland’s 3-point hotshot was just making it look easy. But in the end, the terrapins were owned by Wake and especially by Ishmael Smith, nearing the end of the overtime 5, with the shot clock down from 33 seconds when he took the ball, to 11 seconds which then ticked by as he made his move from the top of the key. But I think Ishmael knew he had it the instant he made his move, he could see a clear lane and a pick that he needed, darting around one, two, three defenders ending up hand even with the rim, but still 5 feet out in front as he seemed to run out of gas in midair, this was in slow motion, now, everyone’s peripheral vision watching the shot clock tick down to zero, the ball beginning its roll off his fingertips, and seemed to gently give it a little ‘pop’ at the end. And it pff’ed through the net, and the crowd just ate that shit up. In the LJVM in front of 12,000, and hopefully you ACC junkies too, if you can find it on the ‘Net.
I’m calling it first, here, boys and girls, a January snoozer (based on the “both middle of the road” assessment of one of our companions before the game) turned into an instant classic this evening, it felt like the damn playoffs.