Sometimes I feel like the worst fan in the world.
I vividly remember sitting in an airport this summer, awaiting our flight back to Baltimore, when I suddenly realized that a family Bar Mitzvah had been scheduled on the same day as this year's Connecticut 6 basketball event. Don't get me wrong, I was curious/excited to attend my first ever Bar Mitzvah, but at the expense of seeing the season openers of Quinnipiac, CCSU, and my Sacred Heart Pioneers? Damn...
Oh well, I thought. I probably won't miss much anyway. Quinnipiac should beat a young Hartford squad fairly easily. Fairfield - who had never lost in the CT6 event - should have no trouble with a young CCSU team that lost nearly 55% of their scoring from a season ago. And of course, Sacred Heart will have their way with a Yale team that was picked 6th in the Ivy League Preseason Coach's Poll.
I probably wouldn't miss much. Shalom!
So you could imagine my horror as I quickly checked my cell phone for the Yale/SHU score after the family event. I pulled up Twitter, quickly updated the timeline, and found this tweet at the top.
Oh no. I didn't investigate why my Pioneers were down 16 at the half, and I quickly put away my phone. About 20 minutes later, I checked one more time while my wife and I were walking to dinner in Philly with our friends. Yale had extended their lead to 24 points with about 15 minutes left. What a disaster.
Honestly, I figured that was it. Usually, I'm a half-glass full guy, but when my wife stated it would take a miracle for the Pioneers come back from that deficit, I pretty much agreed with her. Which is also weird because I sometimes enjoy pushing her buttons by foolishly disagreeing with her.
Fast forward to 30 minutes later. I'm in a restaurant bathroom and my friend and fellow SHU alum Newsie sends me a text, simply asking me what the hell is wrong with SHU. Truthfully, I don't even remember my response, because I had a blurred moment sparked with anger, disappointment, and sadness. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a pro-Dave Bike message though. Or something that surely summarized my disappointment.
But really, it's time for me to wrap up this trivial story. Long story short, I quickly check my phone after dinner only to discover ... that the ... Pioneers ... actually WON?!?! I figured something was up, since there were several text and Twitter messages awaiting me on my phone. Absolutely amazing.
Turns out the Pioneers - after trailing 24 points early in the second half - mounted separate 11-0 and 14-0 runs to get the game close enough for Shane Gibson to perform his magic. Gibson had 29 points (on 11-21 shooting), and sunk a clutch basket late in regulation to force the game into overtime. You still think Gibson isn't a top 50 player in the mid-major ranks now, Mid-Major Madness?! HUH?? I CAN'T HEAR YOU?!
Louis Montes had a double/double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but more importantly corralled a number of critical offensive misses in overtime. Justin Swidowski, who appeared healthy just from the box score, scored 17 points on only five shots in 23 minutes. Nice! The frontcourt of the future also chipped in, led by Tevin Falzon adding five points, five rebounds, and one blocked shot in 20 minutes of action. Steve Glowiak, who's role is that much more important with Chris Evans and Evan Kelley out of the lineup, grabbed four rebounds, stole the ball twice, and hit two critical free-throws late in overtime to help seal the improbable victory.
It really was a miraculous win and nice to see the Pioneers win a tight game, after struggling so mightily in that category last season! As I was catching up on Twitter, it was pretty awesome to see some of the SHU player tweets like these after the game.
It's certainly moments like this that capture why I love the purity and competitive spirit of mid-major college basketball.
Looking ahead, the Pioneers head to New Jersey to take on Rutgers University this coming Monday night. A victory there would be one hell of an upset, not just because SHU is 0-16 career versus the Big East, but also because Mike Rice's Scarlet Knights will be angry too. This past Friday, St. Peter's shocked Rutgers by beating them 56-52 on their home floor. Perhaps it would be imperative for the SHU coaching staff to aim for next Friday as a possible return date for Kelley and Evans, although I'm currently in the dark regarding their injury status.
After the Rutgers game, I'll be attending the next three Pioneer games live - at Hartford (Friday, 11/16 at 7 pm), at Stony Brook (Sunday, 11/18 at 2 pm), and home versus Lehigh (Sunday, 11/25 at 2 pm). After a performance like last night, I absolutely can't wait to get my first look at the 2012-13 Pioneers.
The season is underway and I'm already giddy, even though I haven't seen or heard one minute of the SHU/Yale game yet.
Hopefully next season, it's CT6 or bust. Until next time...
Ryan Peters covers Sacred Heart men's basketball and the Northeast Conference for Pioneer Pride and Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride