My Hallowed Ground: Love, loss, and Matthews Arena – where it all began for Sam Perkins

They say you never forget the spot where you fell in love, and Matthews Arena – which sits on St. Botolph Street on the campus of Northeastern, and straddles the divide between Boston’s trendy night spots and posh shopping jaunts of the rich and famous, the college world of opportunity, and the darker corners of the city where the real world gets REAL in a hurry – is where I fell in love with America East hoops.

Matthews is my Hallowed Ground

It was during the 2002 conference tournament, held in a mostly empty Matthews. You could hear the echoes of leather slapping hardwood reverberate off of the empty, faded-red, plastic seats. You could smell the sweat in the damp corners of the arena, and hear the squeak of sneakers bounce off of the wrought-iron pillars and beams. Matthews is the oldest multipurpose sports arena in the world, and the oldest in all of college basketball (it’s been 101 years now), and back then (prior to the multimillion dollar renovation) it really looked it.

But man did it have character. I loved the obstructed view; loved the cracked and corroding, cobweb-gray walls. And I loved watching down from the upper-level overhang seating just below the rafters. I was 17 years old, a senior in high-school, and it was a rare moment for my father and my brother (four years my junior) to still hang out together as a family.

It remains one of my most vivid memories of spending time with my father, and one of the last things we ever did together as a family.

I had already become a follower of the America East by tournament time – after having grown up as a member of the UMass “Refuse to Lose” family during the John Calipari/Marcus Camby/Lou Roe years (my dad had played college ball at UMass), we migrated to Northeastern, BU and the America East after the Minutemen jumped the shark (and new head coach Bruiser Flint alienated many of the faithful alums).

But three big things happened on Sunday, March 3rd, 2002, that forever cemented my love of the America East (Perhaps I should preface it by saying that Austin Ganly had the dunk of the decade the day before against Maine, which piqued my interest, and foreshadowed the following day’s impact on my life):

1. I saw Trevor Gaines play the final game of his college career. I will never forget that game.

To say that Gaines played with a heart the size of a basketball is a tremendous understatement: He was a center who stood 6’5 ½” in his sneakers. He relied on the best low-post moves I have ever seen in the league, and he relied on guts, guile and determination; on outworking and out-hustling his opponent every single night. As a senior, he was named First Team All-Conference, averaging 15.5 points and 11 rebounds per game while shooting almost 56 percent from the floor.

Gaines’ 11 rebounds per game ranked 7th in the nation. His 4.79 offensive rebounds per game led the nation. Think about that: a 6’5” center led the nation in rebounding. That was Trevor in a nutshell: rebounding is, above all else, an effort statistic – simply fighting as hard as you can for positioning and willing yourself to the ball – and Trevor’s effort was second to none. Continue reading “My Hallowed Ground: Love, loss, and Matthews Arena – where it all began for Sam Perkins”

Busted Brackets: Sam Perkins sounds off on the hyped up nothing that is the BracketBusters, but he’s still jacked-up for one match-up

The match-ups for the ESPN BracketBusters (to be played the weekend of February 18th and 19th) were announced today, and the America East (other than the lovely spin/hype job released by the league office) let out a collective yawn that reverberated around the league.

ESPN first launched the BracketBusters tournament in 2003 with the goal of capitalizing on the buzz of promising mid-major programs that could “bust brackets” during the NCAA tournament by upsetting power-conference favorites.

In its first year, the ‘Buster featured a select field of only 18 teams – the “best and brightest” of the mid-majors – that were viewed as having the best chance at shaking up The Big Dance.

Two years later, the America East broke into the ‘Buster, as Vermont – pegged during the preseason by both ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated as a Cinderella in the making, and followed during the season and featured on ESPN’s documentary series “The Season – squared off against Nevada.

2005 was a great year for the AE, as the UVM/Nevada tilt was viewed by many as THE game of the BracketBusters and was featured during a prime-time timeslot on ESPN. UVM eventually fell to a Nevada team featuring several potential/future NBA-ers, but Taylor Coppenrath, T.J. Sorrentine, and the rest of the Catamounts took the heavily-hyped Wolf Pack to the wire.

The Catamounts exposure garnered even more national interest in the program, as a new legion of fans followed the Catamounts through their “Upset City” victory over 4th seeded Syracuse in the NCAA tournament later that year (arguably the greatest win in America East history).

It was everything that the BracketBusters was supposed to be: A showcase of the best of the best of the mid-majors, generating publicity and hype for teams that would later shake up the NCAA tournament.

Then it all went terribly, terribly wrong: Big-time advertisers got involved, ESPN tried to cash in on every single last dime, nickel and penny, and the tournament got so morbidly obese, twisted, and corrupted that virtually every mid-major in the country is now involved. Continue reading “Busted Brackets: Sam Perkins sounds off on the hyped up nothing that is the BracketBusters, but he’s still jacked-up for one match-up”

America East Recap, 1/29/12

In Sunday’s lone game, the Catamounts and Wildcats exploded in the first half, putting up a combined 83 points in the first period. The second half turned into a grind-it-out defensive affair; New Hampshire strength, right? Not so fast! Vermont clamped down on the UNH offense which – as has been the case all year – became anemic once the trey’s stopped falling. UVM, meanwhile, got scoring punch from both the usual suspects and a forgotten face. The win moves Vermont into a second place tie with rival BU, setting up a huge grudge-match in Boston on Wednesday.

Vermont 77, New Hampshire 60
Four McGlynn scored 20 points and Sandro Carissimo sparked a decisive second half run as the host Catamounts pulled away from the visiting Wildcats.

With Vermont holding a slim 61-58 lead with 7:31 to go, Carissimo – who has seen his playing time become more sporadic with the emergence of McGlynn and Josh Elbaum – went bananas, scoring 8 straight unanswered points and igniting the Catamounts offense, as UVM closed out the game on a 16-2 run.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair of big runs and counter-runs, and included six ties and 12 lead changes.

The Wildcats were unconscious from the floor in the opening stanza, shooting 68 percent, including 6-10 from three. End-of-the-bench Freshman Garrett Jones, who entered the game with just one made field goal on the season, provided a spark with three 3’s in the first half.

But the Catamounts preyed on UNH’s shaky ball-handling, turning steals into fast break baskets. McGlynn scored 14 points in the first half to pace Vermont. The score stood tied at 40 with just seconds remaining before the intermission, but walk-on Clancy Rugg buried a 3 to send Vermont into the break with the lead. Continue reading “America East Recap, 1/29/12”

Prize Fight: Stony Brook rips first place away from the Terriers in America East “Game of the Year”

(Stony Brook, NY) With 12:46 left in the first half, Stony Brook forward Tommy Brenton fought through four BU defenders to rebound his own missed free-throw. Bested but not beaten, the Terriers quickly swarmed Brenton, knocking the ball loose. In the ensuing loose-ball scramble – which looked more like a gridiron pig-pile after a fumble – bodies flew in all directions as seemingly every player on the floor entered the scrum.

“This was definitely a championship caliber game, you could tell by both teams how hard they were playing – like it was their last game,” Brenton later reflected.

With sole possession of first place on the line, a sellout crowd and a national TV audience on ESPNU, the America East “Game of the Season” more than lived up to its billing Friday night. Host Stony Brook and visiting Boston University engaged in a heavyweight slug-fest, with both teams landing haymakers early and often.

Senior guard Bryan Dougher poured in 20 points, including several huge buckets in the clutch, Tommy Brenton continued to disrupt every facet of the game with nine points, eight rebounds and four steals, and all-out-effort on the defensive end and in the low post turned the tide for Stony Brook in a 66-57 win. The Seawolves now stand alone atop the America East standings at 8-1 in league play.

When the final buzzer sounded, both coaches — visibly exhausted — shared an embrace.

“They punched us, then we punched them back and the game kind of went back and forth from there,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell. “It was a big-time college basketball game today. Continue reading “Prize Fight: Stony Brook rips first place away from the Terriers in America East “Game of the Year””

Live Blog: Boston University vs Stony Brook

A rudderless ship: Binghamton has the talent to rebound, they need a captain.

On Wednesday night the Binghamton Bearcats – winless in the standings and much maligned in these here parts – showed sustained and surprising fight on the road, nearly upsetting the Albany Great Danes.

It was perhaps fitting that the Bearcats – who fell to 0-20 on the season, 0-8 in conference play and continue to inch closer to America East infamy as the worst team in conference history – fought valiantly against Albany.

Eight years ago, the Great Danes found themselves craning their necks to look upwards at the dregs of the America East conference. Albany trotted out a stopgap roster of two legitimate Division I talents in wing Levi Levine and guard Jon Iati, book-ending a team of spare parts and open-tryout walk-ons. Albany limped through a 5-23 campaign in which they went 3-15 in conference play.

For long stretches, the Danes looked even worst than their record indicated. At one point during the season, due to injuries and fouls, Albany finished a game against Hartford with only 4 players on the court. At another, they added a practice player for the women’s team.

Needless to say, it was ugly.

Two years later, the Great Danes punched their ticket to the Big Dance for the first time, running the table in the America East to both regular season and tournament conference championships. Continue reading “A rudderless ship: Binghamton has the talent to rebound, they need a captain.”

Live Blog: Maine vs New Hampshire

Dog eat dog: Terriers trounce Retrievers 83-48. BU moves to 7-1 in conference play, UMBC falls to 2-6

(Boston, MA) — UMBC guard Jerrell Lane drove down the court, pulled up from behind the arc, and fired up an uncontested 3. As the final buzzer sounded, Lane’s wounded duck struck nothing but the bottom of the backboard.

It was the Retrievers season in a nutshell.

Boston University romped to an 83-48 win Tuesday night over visiting UMBC in a laugher between two teams headed in polar-opposite directions.

The host Terriers hit on all-cylinders, posting season highs in points (83), rebounds (45), blocks (nine), and point-differential (35), while emptying the bench with roughly five minutes remaining in game time. The win moves Boston University to 7-1 in America East play, the program’s best start to the conference slate since the 2003-2004 season.

“I was very pleased with our overall effort, and we got significant contributions from a number of guys,” said Terriers head coach Joe Jones, who saw 11 different Terriers score.

For the Retrievers, who fall to 2-6 in conference play and 3-17 on the season, the wheels appear to have fallen off. UMBC has now lost two straight games by 35 or more points and has fallen in six of their last seven.

“[BU] certainly came out and pushed us around, and I don’t think we responded very well – it’s a little disappointing and a little discouraging,” said UMBC head coach Randy Monroe. “It’s college basketball; you have to compete… we didn’t do it.” Continue reading “Dog eat dog: Terriers trounce Retrievers 83-48. BU moves to 7-1 in conference play, UMBC falls to 2-6”

Live Blog: UMBC vs BU