A throwback game for the Big East

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Back in the formative years of the Big East Convention, when Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John’s, Villanova and their brethren were just beginning to develop animosity towards each other, men’s basketball games were still played in rickety ice boxes with warped floors, the fans bubbling and frequently exchanging change sharp elbows.

It’s called atmosphere.

In a nutshell, the early convention became the centerpiece of the college basketball universe in the early 1980s, with Pearl WashingtonPatrick Ewing and Chris Mullin became household names from Brooklyn to Berkeley thanks to another upstart organization, ESPN.

It wasn’t long before the game demanded a bigger stage. So instead of playing in places like McDonough Gym, Manley Fieldhouse, Alumni Hall and Cat House, schools rented NBA arenas — or in Syracuse’s case, boldly built Carrier Dome — and planted tournament flags. play after the season at Madison Square Garden.

The Big East may be far from those dizzying heights – a basketball-focused league intended to shrink in today’s soccer-sponsored world of football. But necessity (and the coronavirus pandemic) allowed it to tap those roots Monday night when Seton Hall’s men’s team welcomed St. John’s to the long-running campus house with 1,316 fans polishing their shoes at the Walsh Gymnasium.

It’s also a return to the field, with the Routing Seton Hall of St. John, 84-63, teams reprise their Big East-seven’s original roles as conference and patsy organizers.

The Johnnies’ victory came two days after Seton Hall defeated them in a sparsely populated Garden, a stark contrast to a trip across the Hudson, where the cozy gymnasium was filled with students, faculty, and staff. friends and family.

“It feels like everyone is above you,” says Aaron Wheeler of St. John, a 6-foot-9-year-old high school graduate from Purdue, whose father, William, was a high school teammate of the former St. John’s Mark, said. Jackson before starring at Manhattan College.

“There weren’t too many people there but it was still very noisy,” said Aaron Wheeler, who contributed 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 tackle in a rare opening game. more. “Overall, I think it’s a great environment.”

The game itself has a lot of old-school vibes from the Big East – starting with the St. John’s (11-7, 3-4 Big East) harassment, all-court defense leaves Seton Hall (12-6, 3-5) missing its best ball handler, guard Bryce Aiken (injury) action), confused when committing a crime.

The Johnnies blocked 11 shots and even when they didn’t get the ball they left an impression – as when Kadary Richmond of Seton Hall, who missed all eight of his shots in a miserable night, was stopped by three defenders as he drove to the basket.

There were a few moments when Seton Hall was informed that it was a two-way street. Ike Obiagu stood up to cram Joel Soriano’s scam attempt. And just before halftime, Tyrese Samuel set up a crunch performance as he pinned the point of Saint John, Posh Alexander, giving the audience a taste of what it really, really wants.

Expectations were high for the game on Seton Hall’s quaint campus, where nearly half of the school’s 6,000 undergraduate students live.

The game was originally scheduled for December 20 at the Pirates’ regular home, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, but a coronavirus outbreak on Seton Hall’s show forced it to be postponed. . And when the Prudential Center was closed Monday night because of a Korean pop concert, the Pirates moved the game into their campus instead.

Andrew Travis, a freshman studying diplomacy, arrived three hours before the opening to be first in line with his friends, JJ Misiewicz and Jerry Ford, saying: “I couldn’t miss this. for the world, ensuring that they get a seat mid-journey.

The pandemic prompted some teams to return to campus gyms last season when coronavirus restrictions banned them from playing in front of fans. Earlier this season, Texas only played in front of students in its first men’s basketball game at the 3,234-seat Gregory Arena since 1977. Similarly, Seton Hall hosted Monday’s game. as a reward for the students – the Greenbeard Army – who provide strong support at the Prudential Center.

The Walsh Arena the students went to Monday was hardly the place Bill Raftery, college basketball commentator and former Seton Hall coach, recalls – dimly lit with poor lighting. and the dark floor, warped near the midpoint after a flood, looks like a poor man’s wooden stilt house.

It’s now sparkling after a series of renovations with blue and white chairs replacing most of the stands, bleached wood floors with the Pirates logo in the center and a team office replacing most of the seating behind. basket, which made the building built in 1939; a clean, modern home for the Seton Hall women’s basketball and volleyball teams, and where the men’s basketball team occasionally played a non-conference game .

A stage remains at one end of the court, however, the same stage gifted by Bruce Springsteen in the mid-1970s for a double concert after he released “Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ.”

Don Bunch, Rochester Royals and Harlem Globetrotters played on the field, which also hosted the first Big East Conference game, Boston College’s victory over Seton Hall on December 11, 1979.

Raftery was on the sidelines after that.

He describes the old gyms in the Big East as intimate and tense, where the coaches knew they had the home field advantage. Lou Carnesecca, coach of St. Rollie Massimino, Villanova’s coach, once let two priests sit behind a bench at the Nevin Fieldhouse, the 2,200-seat on-site gym known as the Cat House.

Raftery, who broadcast the game Monday night, said: “I said, ‘Fathers, I hope you are praying for both teams. “They said, ‘We are. We are praying for a winner and a loser. ‘”

Once, the referee warned Raftery that he was about to commit a technical foul on the overzealous Pirates mascot. So Raftery turned to his assistant, Hoddy Mahon, telling him to calm down for the mascot. When Mahon started yelling at the mascot, he said to Mahon, “Dad, it’s me.”

Crowd behavior on Monday was limited but boisterous.

It’s big enough that Coach of St. John’s Mike Anderson had to step onto the field to shout at security guard Stef Smith, who couldn’t hear Anderson calling during the wait. “While starting the roster, just hearing the energy in the arena, I felt so great, I got goosebumps,” said Jamir Harris, a senior guard at Seton Hall.

The crowd appeared poised to bring Seton Hall back all the way back in the second half, as it dropped 21 points to 8 with 13 minutes left. But Montez Mathis, who played a great two-way game, beat a rare 3-pointer to stall the momentum. And minutes later, Tareq Coburn hit a treble to beat the clock, giving St.John a 22-point lead.

Around that time, the three students above the benches of Seton Hall, wearing Speedos, swimming caps, and goggles, had seen enough. They pull on their pants, put on their shirts, and bundle up to make their way to the exit, perhaps finding a silver pad along the way: it won’t take long for them to return to the dorms.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/sports/ncaabasketball/seton-hall-st-johns-walsh-gym.html A throwback game for the Big East

Fry Electronics Team

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