For the first time this season, I was on campus to witness a Sunday afternoon basketball showdown between the Sacred Heart Pioneers and the Brown Bears. Before the game, I decided to visit the recently built Chapel of the Holy Spirit, which now occupies a portion of the campus quad where the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) 1998 J-Hill Football Battle took place. I knelt down and prayed for a SHU win, and for my friend Dave’s future mental health, since my bony knee collided with Dave’s temple during a tackle to leave him mildly concussed in the aforementioned football game (sorry Dave, but if someone gets concussed while I compete for a win, so be it). After this brief one-way conversation with God, I found myself in the Pitt Center amongst a raucous crowd of…..434 people. Not even the mascot, Big Red, made a pity appearance. It was just the type of atmosphere I would expect for a NEC/Ivy League basketball game over Thanksgiving break.
Nonetheless, there I was enjoying the game. I was hopeful SHU could bounce back after a brutal loss against Lipscomb, where they were literally 10 seconds away from winning the "prestigious" Cancun Classic, Riviera Division Tournament at a Mexican resort in a giant ballroom. No really, they played the Cancun tourney in a freaking ballroom! In the game, Evan Kelley competed masterfully down the stretch, but came up un-clutch by missing the tying free throws with 3 seconds remaining. How would SHU respond to that?
Well, SHU played a frustratingly inconsistent game – especially on the defensive side of the ball - against Brown, but luckily for them, 80% of Brown’s starting lineup consisted of slowish white guys who had trouble creating their own shot. Oh the joys of Ivy League basketball! In the end, SHU avenged last year’s loss to Brown with a 77-64 victory, to improve their record to 4-3. My notes from the game are below:
• My first look at freshman guards Steve Glowiak and Phil Gaetano was positive. Yes, Gaetano made a couple of costly turnovers in the 2nd half and Glowiak has never met a shot he didn’t like, but we must not forget that these kids need time to mature. Gaetano is the only actual point guard on the roster with talent (sorry Steve Zazuri, but you’re only on the team because daddy played for Bike years ago), and Glowiak displayed his range in the 1st half by draining 3 quick buckets to spark an 18-2 SHU run. There will be ups and there will be downs, but patience must be practiced with these freshmen.
• When Brown had erased a 15 point deficit midway through the 2nd half, it was Shane Gibson and the bearded Louis Montes who stepped up their play late in the game. Gibson really played the part of team leader, by willing SHU through some brutal offensive stretches by sinking some critical shots when it looked like Brown could extend their lead. Once Gibson and company took back the lead, Montes drained a couple of wide open three pointers to effectively ice the game.
• For the most part, Bike did a good job rotating his players, although I’m still scratching my head over the offensively inept Femi Akinpetide getting 17 minutes on the floor. Luckily, Bike came to his senses by removing Akinpetide for good with 12 minutes remaining in the 2nd half. On a related note, SHU outscored Brown 26-10 to close out the game!
• The afro on inactive junior forward Mostafa Abdel Latif is growing in nicely. To the 5 SHU students who read this blog – please, please, please keep Abdel Latif away from the Haircutters Salon at the Trumbull Mall. His hair has great potential if it avoids clippers for the next few months. Thank you.
Later this week, the Pioneers begin conference play with a couple of difficult road games, at Quinnipiac on Thursday and at Central Connecticut on Saturday. I would easily sign up for a split, which is realistic if we get the Sacred Heart team that defeated Hartford, Stony Brook and Hampton. If we get the team that coughed up a 15 point lead to Brown however, then it could be a messy start for Bike’s squad in the NEC.