Hats off to you Anteater fans. Hats off to all 4,206 of you who attended last Friday’s UC Irvine-Oregon basketball game at the Bren Events Center.
I finally felt like I was in college. Although the crowds were impressive in the Big West men’s soccer tournament, the Big West men’s basketball tournament last year and baseball home games against Cal State Fullerton and the University of Southern California, the crowd has never been more impressive at the Bren Events Center.
What distinguished this crowd, however, was that the overwhelming majority of those in attendance were not parents or alumni, but students. The student section bled over four sections in the Bren, and was wild and rowdy throughout the game.
Even when the team went down by 15 at 55-40 with 15:22 remaining in the second half and all seemed doomed for the Anteaters, the crowd lifted up the team and especially Kevin Bland. Bland scored a career-high 26 points on an insane 12 of 14 field goals. During one stretch he seemed to have scored at will. Whether it was a jumper, a fade-away or a layup, the crowd went nuts whenever Bland touched the ball. It is safe to say that Bland definitely brought some spice to UCI.
Where did he come from? Bland was the California Junior College Player of the Year at Delta College three years ago. He transferred to UCI and red-shirted his junior year. He never seemed to get his career at UCI going except on the defensive end, where he led the Anteaters in steals last season.
So what got into him?
“Last few games I’ve gotten a few points, a couple, assists and some turnovers. I basically have been a nothing guy and it wasn’t helping the team. So I tried the opposite, and we still didn’t win,” Bland said.
Whatever, Kevin. A performance like that will put the team in position to win nine out of 10 times.
The Anteaters might have won if it weren’t for Oregon’s mighty mouse Tajuan Porter, who scored 20 of his 23 points in the second, half of which seemed to have come from a plethora of free throws (12) in the final minutes.
The chants of “Gary Coleman” by the new Completely Insane Anteaters T-shirt sporting-crowd every time the 5-foot-6-inch Oregon go-to man touched the ball exposed the inexperience of our crowd. Porter probably gets chants like those every time he touches the ball, even at home.
However, the C.I.A. leaders had the enormous task of handling the gargantuan student section and it was obviously difficult coordinating chants. That is the next step.
We need to develop unique chants that we develop for certain situations, and publish them. That way, everyone will be on the same page, and we will further the sense of a student section.
Nevertheless, the players couldn’t say enough about the crowd.
“Oh man, I loved it. We need them to come out like that every game,” said freshman Eric Wise.
For the first time in a long time, an Anteater basketball team did not fold against a top opponent when down big in the second half, and the crowd had to be a factor in their resiliency.
Playing in front of a big crowd adds more adrenaline and increases the drive to succeed. Keep in mind that we only lost one game at home last season. Home court advantage is no joke.
We have ASUCI president Megan Braun and her staff to thank for that. ASUCI already came up big with the best welcome week festivities in recent years, the thrilling Shocktoberfest/Midnight Magic mash-up, and an incredible lineup for ASUCI free movie screenings. They showed up again with the “Duck Roast.” From the booths to the giveaways to the food, students enjoyed themselves and had reason to stay on campus on Friday night and support their legitimate athletics program.
It has me thinking, where the heck was ASUCI’s money and creativity going before the Braun regime? Were we getting jacked? But that is beside the point.
I am here to celebrate our successes as a school and a student body.
You’ve seen the teams. You’ve seen the potential. You’ve had fun. Enjoy your time in college and enjoy your athletic ties.
Besides, where can you get away with being rude and obnoxious without being hated, but cheered on?
Filed Under: Sports