Tuesday Morning, Jersey City

Posted by jstevrtc on November 19th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences, and was in attendance at the Monmouth at St. Peter’s game during ESPN’s 24 Hour Marathon.

To steal from a favorite Elton John song, “It’s four o’clock in the morning, damn it…”

Actually the mood when the alarm sounds is not anger but eager anticipation.  Monmouth-St. Peter’s, 6 AM at the Yanitelli Center.  The day, or morning, is here.


4:50 – College ChalkTalk colleague George Rodecker arrives and we make the eight mile trip from my Lyndhurst home to Jersey City.

5:10 – Easy parking and walking from the car.   The St. Peter’s campus is quiet.   As we near Yanitelli Center the sound builds.

On entering the center for our press credential, we find St. Peter’s students coming from a night of all-night games and organized activities in the “Yanitelli bubble” to the court to get their seats.  The students — with faces painted, some carrying signs — are energized and ready.

5:15 – In the weeks prior we joked with the fine SID at St. Peter’s, Dan Drutz, about serving bacon and eggs.  In the press room is the media breakfast — eggs, home fries, bacon, sausage and bagels with liberal supplies of coffee.  Once again, Dan is the man, and a great host.  Went from there to check game notes and renew acquaintances with media we haven’t seen since April.

5:45 – The place is rocking.  Officiating friend Guy Pagano is on the game.  We say Hello and discuss how easy and traffic-free the commute was (Guy lives 15 miles north of me).

MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor is here and says thank you for coming out to the game.  Ensor is excited.  Niagara is on at 8am and he will drive to Albany after this game to catch Siena.

6:03 – Tip off, and early in the game the first basket, appropriately enough, is scored by Ryan Bacon of St. Peter’s.  The intensity from both teams is excellent.  This has the feeling of a late February evening, not an early morning in mid-November.

Monmouth fans are behind us and really centered behind the ESPN crew.  They are loud and enthusiastic.  During one time out they break an unwritten code by booing the St. Peter’s cheerleaders and taking it a notch lower, chanting “You are ugly.”  The action is not unnoticed by the basketball gods.

Monmouth also brought cheerleaders and a pep band.  The Hawk cheer group gets a better reception.  Impressed as the Monmouth crew entered the floor running and doing back flips.  Back flips at just after 6 AM?

6:20 – The half continues and St. Peter’s begins to distance themselves from Monmouth.  Chalk it up to defense.  The Monmouth perimeter shooters are not getting many good looks and Travis Taylor, a nice inside player, is being defended to the point of frustration.

HALFTIME:  27-16 St.Peter’s.  The Hawks are 4 of 22 (18%) from the floor.

At the half I run into Bert Shoobs.  Bert is the long time PA man at Farleigh Dickinson University and notes the previous evening was his 691st consecutive game (men’s & women’s games totalled).  Said this 6am game wouldn’t be complete without him in attendance to which Bert adds, “I got here at twenty to five to beat the crowd.”

Walking back to the court I ask two Monmouth cheerleaders what time they left.  “Our bus was 4:30 and we cheered the women’s game last night.”  Complimented them for the fine job they are doing, especially given their schedule.

7:05 – Second half continues with much of the same.  Monmouth struggles to get any offense going.  St. Peter’s is led by Wesley Jenkins’ ten points but is getting contributions from a number of positions.

7:10 – Media time out.  Monmouth pep band, just behind us, is very good but it’s tough hearing “My Sharona” blasting your eardrums just after the stroke of 7am.

7:20 – The rout is on.  St. Peter’s fans love it.  Monmouth fans are stunned.  St. Peter’s students chant the expected “We can’t hear you…”

7:40 – Little drama here.  The lead hits 20, a Monmouth fan waves a white flag.  The look is not much different on the bench.  The Monmouth coaches haven’t given up but Dave Calloway & staff have late-game moments where they sit and wonder what went wrong.

Final:  St. Peter’s 58, Monmouth 34.  Monmouth is held to 10 of 47 (21%) from the floor.

Tempo free numbers also show the disparity in a 63 possession contest:  Offensive efficiency:  Monmouth 54, St. Peter’s 92.

Nice post-game touch of class as St. Peter’s faces their fans.  A player thanks Peacock Nation for the support and urges them to come out again as more wins are in store.

8:05 – Post game interviews.  Both coaches agree Monmouth was playing their third game in five days but the St.Peter’s defense was more responsible than Monmouth fatigue.  The respective coaches also discussed their regimens, such as Calloway having a 6 AM practice on Monday.

St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne noted their regular pre-game meal was substituted by bagels and fruit in the locker room.  Dunne said his staff wanted to let the players sleep to 4:15 AM but they wanted to rise earlier.  “I couldn’t sleep past 3:30,” Wesley Jenkins said.  “The bubble kept me up.”

(credit: Noah Murray, The Star-Ledger via NJ.com)

Calloway also said at first the idea seemed like a gimmick, but on closer look there are a lot more positives than negatives.  “You are on ESPN,” he said.  “You have national exposure and that is a big plus for any program in our league (the NEC).”

Exiting Yanitelli the campus is once again quiet.  Students are in class.  Most of those who went to the game are probably asleep.  It’s almost a surreal feeling.  Probably due to the quiet on the once boisterous campus.

In March 2009 I covered the 6-OT Syracuse-Connecticut game at Madison Square Garden.  But that started at 9:30 PM and just happened to go to after 1 AM.  This began at 6 AM, was over by 8.  A time commuters were starting their day.  In his press conference Calloway said he would love to do it again at Monmouth, “Same bat time, same bat channel,” he said.  Sounds good.  Though next time the alarm will sound at three.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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