Yesterday was THE big day...Wisconsin-Madison, #22 in the polls, in Milwaukee, at OUR Bradley Center, playing THE Marquette Golden Eagles. Shall it suffice to say that mind mind was blown and will be for weeks to come after last night...let me begin the tale.
A prelude to this matchup. Wisconsin and Marquette are obviously rivals, being the only two BCS conference basketball schools (Big 10 and Big East respectively) in the state. The rivalry is historically rather nasty, with no love lost amongst neither fans nor players/coaches/ball boys/random people associated with the either programs. A popular cry during game day that I will paraphrase to keep this blog family rated is "Buck the Fadgers"...yeah...figure that one out all you savvy adult readers. To compound the drama, last year Marquette strolled into the Kohl Center in Madison and oh so causally ended UW's 28-game home win streak and recent dominance in the MU-UW game. This year we got them on our court: the task? Show that we are STILL the best basketball school in the state.
Now that you know the run-up, let me tell you my part of the story. My basketball odyssey began yesterday at 1:30 when I took my place in the back of the line that had already formed outside the Bradley Center. Some guys from my floor had been there since 12:30...am...as in...the night before. It was a warm and snuggley 10 degrees outside and underneath my undershirt, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and winter coat I was already getting excited.
Anticipation only built at around 2:30 when Head Coach Buzz Williams (who we all love) came out and shook everyone in line's hand, thanking us for our support. After he went back inside and we all calmed down he sent the ENTIRE team out to high five us and joke around. Highlight of this was when someone laid out a UM Badgers T-Shirt for all the players to wipe their feet on. Wes Matthews got us all riled up by throwing it up in the air and proclaiming that he was about to show his hometown why MU was the greatest (Matthews grew up in Madison and was Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball his senior year, beating out UW forward Marcus Landry...this still rubs UW people the wrong way).
Joe Fulce and Chris Otule greet the crowd
The line waiting game meets with Buzz
With all this excitement it felt like the wait until the 7:00 pm door opening would be quick, but alas, it was not to be. For the next five hours we basically just stood there, finding ways to pass the time (riddles, ordering Subway, a dramatic retelling of the Christmas story while huddled together for warmth). Finally, at around 6:30 they let us in, MU fans sprinting and slipping all over the floors to claim their lower bowl seats and free T-Shirts.
The almost two hour wait inside was a GODSEND. It felt so good to take off all the warm clothes and just sit, especially knowing that I had three hours of standing and jumping ahead of me. Introductions were highlighted by streams of blue and gold smoke and the loudest cheers the student section has produced this year. EVERY seat was full, all the way up to the top of the upper deck. Attendance count showed that there were, in all, over 18,00 people at last night's game, the vast majority of them in blue and gold.
The first half was...disappointing. After scoring the game's fist points, Marquette fell serious victim to an inability to shoot and UW's three point prowess. Only our ability to get to the foul line kept us in the game, MU 27, UW 33 at half.
In the second half we looked like a new team. Defensively the guess hustled their butts off and on offense we scrapped for every point we could get. The point margin stayed within one or two scores for most of the half (which meant the students were jumping, screaming, cheering, or dancing the entire half) until Jerel McNeal hit a 3 pointer at the 5:26 mark to give us the lead. The Eagles held that lead for the rest of the game until the final whistle blew and the whole state knew by a 61-58 margin that the best team in Wisconsin sits between 9th and 22nd streets in Milwaukee.
Not many photos from inside the BC (terrible lighting conditions for my poor camera), but here are two videos to give you a glimpse of the atmosphere.
Finals week starts now...which means One Lost will be hitting the books. That also means I might post more as a way to blow off finals stress.
OneLost out...to the library to hit the books one last time in 2008