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Posts tagged ‘Quinnipiac’

On the Road with RMU Basketball – Into the Carbonite Bobcat’s Den

The third day of our Connecticut invasion was a quiet one, thank goodness. Following the previous day’s victorious battle, the men needed some time to rest, recover, and prepare for their next challenge.

And I needed some time to browse Pinterest.

Day four, our final day in the Nutmeg State (whatever that means?), was to be our longest, most challenging day yet. My wake-up call came at 7:20 a.m. and nearly knocked me out of bed, it was so loud. A bull horn would have been more subtle. As I made my way down to breakfast, ears ringing, I looked outside and saw that the previous night’s torrential rains had given way to a clear, sunny day. However, a stiff, cold wind gave the day an ominous feel. After I woofed down some runny eggs, home fries, and around a half a pound of salty bacon, my stomach had an ominous feel, too.

Ski Lodge and Carbonite Bobcat

Once again it was silent on our charter as we traveled the six or so miles to Hamden to face the Bobcats of Quinnipiac. After climbing a long hill, we finally reached the summit and the TD Bank Sports Center, i.e., The Den. Out front, a large Bobcat, which had obviously been captured and frozen in carbonite, much like Han Solo, stood guard.

Across from the center, there was a strange complex resembling a ski lodge and a number of oddly shaped windmills. Obviously this was their source of power. If I could only dismantle it, I thought… But then, I thought, Geez it’s cold out here! And I ran inside.

Quinnipiac's sole source of power

As soon as I entered the building, a Quinnipiac supporter tried to push one of his little yellow “Go Bobcats!” towels on me. Being from Pittsburgh, I felt strangely compelled to take the golden towel and whip it above my head. But somehow I managed to fight off the urge and escape the Siren-esque trap.

Prior to the contest, the men were energetic and upbeat. They even participated in some kind of pre-game dancing ritual to get themselves fired up for the battle that lay ahead.

And what a battle it was. RMU dug itself a 10-point hole mid-way through the first half, and it looked like the Bobcats might run away with an easy victory. But the resilient Colonials managed to scrape and claw their way back into the game, and by halftime the score was tied, 38-38.

The second half continued to be a tight, hard-fought struggle. The men battled courageously despite the hostile environment inside the arena, but at the end the Colonials fell just short, 73-69. As they walked back to their locker room, the men were forced to watch the Bobcats celebrate on their own court in front of a delighted home crowd. It was a painful show that, no doubt, the Colonials will not soon forget.

The ride to the airport was a somber one, as we began our long journey back home to Pittsburgh. But although our Connecticut adventure ended in defeat, Head Coach Andy Toole and his men were able to come away with their heads held high, knowing that they had fought hard and courageously. Now they get to prove their worth in the 2012 Northeast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournamentwhich begins this Thursday as the Colonials host the Hawks of Monmouth at The Chuck, aka, the Sewall Center Arena.

As I look back to my time embedded with the Robert Morris University Men’s Basketball team, the memories are bittersweet. Bitter, because I wasn’t able to help the team more; sweet, because I had my own double bed, flat-screen TV, and no kids to wake me up before the break of dawn.

But such is life on the road.

Valentine J. Brkich

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On the Road with RMU Basketball – Day 2: Into the Sacred Heart of Darkness

The second day of our Connecticut invasion dawned with promise. Mid-morning, we gathered for a hearty breakfast and learned that Coach Toole had decided to cancel the morning practice to give his men a much-needed day of rest. It was welcome news, following our long journey the previous day, and it gave the men a chance to focus on the challenge ahead.

After receiving their orders to reconvene that afternoon, the men adjourned to their separate quarters. Since I had some time to kill, I decided to reconnoiter the surrounding area on foot. One positive aspect of being on the road is that you get the opportunity to experience other cultures and see things you’re not accustomed to. Walking into a local market, for instance, I saw what appeared to be a mannequin sitting in a chair, when, in fact, it was a live human being! I also saw some distinctively local establishments you won’t find anywhere else–places like Target, Best Buy, and something called Dunkin’ Donuts.

That afternoon the team gathered for a top-secret strategy session, in which Coach Toole quizzed his men on the opposing players, reviewed their individual assignments, and had them do a pre-game walk-thru. In lieu of a real ball, they used a balled-up t-shirt. In lieu of a real hoop, Coach Toole stood on a chair.

The bus ride to Sacred Heart was quiet – eerily so – as the men got themselves into game mode. When we arrived at the William H. Pitt Center, the players marched into the arena, focused on their mission and prepped to do battle with their NEC foe. Meanwhile, I went off with my pen and notepad and began working on this post. Believe it or not, these things actually take some thought to write.

For the visiting team, Sacred Heart’s home court is a challenging venue. Besides the 70 or so faithful fans who gathered to support their Pioneers, the Colonials had to try to not be distracted by a squad of cheerleaders, a dance team, a marching band with full drum set, and, of course, “Big Red”, the Sacred Heart mascot, who apparently is a distant cousin of RMU’s mascot, RoMo.

The contest itself was a battle for the ages. The Colonials and Pioneers traded blows throughout the game. Tied at halftime, the teams stayed neck and neck until the very end. Then, in what seemed like a fatal blow, the Pioneers took a one-point lead with 4.6 seconds remaining. But just when it seemed all hope was lost, Velton Jones launched a three-pointer a fraction of a second before the final buzzer. The ball swished through the net, silencing the crowd and sending the RMU bench into a frenzy.

It was a hard-fought victory for the Colonials, and one they won’t soon forget. But tomorrow is another day, and with it another challenge: the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

Valentine J. Brkich

On the Road with RMU Basketball

First they sent me in search of the Civil War. Then they sent me on a pedal-powered adventure to D.C.

Now, on what may be my greatest adventure yet, they’re sending me to….Connecticut.

That’s right, Connecticut—Land of Insurance Companies, birthplace of  Gary Burgoff, and home of the first collapsible toothpaste tube (1892).

Beginning this Thursday, I’ll be embedded with the Robert Morris University Men’s Basketball Team – Pittsburgh’s perennial powerhouse of the parquet (sorry) – as they travel to the Constitution State to battle Sacred Heart (Feb. 23, 7 p.m.) and Quinnipiac (Feb. 25, 11 a.m.).

Follow me on Twitter (@rmu) and on the RMU Blog (rmu.edu/blog), as I learn what it’s like to be a NCAA Division I basketball player…or at least what it’s like to ride on a bus with one.

–Valentine J. Brkich