It’s that time again – an evening watching Augustana’s men’s basketball team when they come to town for a conference clash with Illinois Wesleyan. This is always a great rivalry – Wesleyan is rated #25 in the country, and #6 Augustana started the season as the top-ranked team.
Perhaps, it’s more accurate to say I enjoy watching the visiting coach pace the sidelines as the teams battle.
I’ve written about him before, but Augie is coached by the colorful Grey Giovanine, and he rarely disappoints. It’s an annual can’t miss game for me. The timeline:
6:25 Arrive at the Shirk for a 7:30pm tipoff. It is much easier to get lighting set up before having to trip over people in the stands.
6:40 I try to assist an elderly couple with accessing the open Internet with the iPad so they can “watch” Illinois play at 8pm. Unsuccessful.
6:50 I try to connect to the Shirk Open network with my computer. Also unsuccessful.
6:55 Augustana has an assistant coach that played for a rival high school a lifetime ago (when I was in high school). My team generally won in basketball, split most seasons in baseball, and always lost in football. It is always good to catch up – we talk about the current state of things at our current high schools, friends we have in common, a little about Augie’s team so far. It’s funny that I’ve reached the half century mark, and it seems like yesterday we were competing against each other. Our Iowa roots run deep. How time flies.
7:00 Titans take the floor, followed shortly by Augie. The band is playing, and Augie’s entrance is without cheers or acknowledgment. No so for the Titans.
7:10 A half hour ago there were many, many coats in the stands, all marking the seats of long-time fans. Its general admission, but then again, it really isn’t. Those fans are now filing in, filling those spots. Tonight is a “white out.” Clearly, I didn’t get the memo. I’m not alone.
7:15 A quick conversation with a retiree from my company and long-time Titan fan is followed by a quick conversation with Matt the Cat, an IWU icon. “We’re going to blow them out,” he says. A quick wave of his towel for emphasis. I hope he’s right.
7:17 Matt is already talking about a Carthage visit by Bosko Djurickovic on Saturday. He’s had years to develop an opinion about the other conference opponents, coaches. Bosko won two national championships at North Park previously, and is entering his 16th year at Carthage. The conversation clearly shows Bosko doesn’t get Christmas cards from the Cat.
7:21 Teams leave the court. A low hum competes with the near silence. You know it’s the calm before the storm.
7:25 My internet works! I later find out from the IWU head baseball coach that the wireless service wasn’t working correctly throughout the facility, but has since been recycled in some fashion.
7:28 National anthem by four ladies from a local church singing a capella. Nice job.
7:36 Tipoff is late. But the main event is here.
From this point forward, the game is a wrestling match. A football game. A rugby match. I’m not sure which descriptor applies, only that the game is physical. And entertaining.
At 12:47 remaining in the 1st half, Giovanine’s sport coat is off and his first rage of the night takes place. My rule of thumb is that the over/under is six minutes before Grey tosses his coat. He hit the over this year. I hate to sound disappointed.
With 6:04 left in the 1st half, the score is 18-16. There have been more bodies on the floor than shots in the basket.
Augie leads 32-31 at halftime. You know there’s more to come.
The second half is more of the first. At one point, a loose ball looks like an NFL fumble recovery. I never did hear a whistle. I also note there are no blue jerseys helping up white jerseys, and vice versa.
My notes get sketchy at this point, mostly because I decide to stop writing and spend more time watching the game. Foul trouble brings in a local player named Parker Musselman, who provides a big lift in consideration of the situation and his limited playing time. A huge three-pointer at the 12:28 mark gives IWU the lead. Everyone in the crowd was thinking the same thing I was – no, no, no, GREAT shot.
Augie answers and the lead is exchanged a few more times, but at 10:23 Andrew Ziemnik, another sparingly used player, knocks down a three to give Wesleyan the lead for good, slowly creeping away to a 10-point victory. There were 12 ties and 15 lead changes. Augie commits 24 fouls and Wesleyan 26 – just another typical CCIW matchup.
Grey Giovanine concedes at the end, telling his players not to foul.
The Titan faithful are on their feet, celebrating another victory in the Shirk center.
As Grey leaves the court, he is very gracious with the IWU coaches and players during the postgame hand shake. Two conference losses in a row for Augie.
Wish I could watch his practice tomorrow.