[This is my column in today’s issue of The Commercial Review.]
I can’t think of a better place to spend the last day of 2013.
The CR was off for the holiday and there were no high school sports to cover Tuesday night, so I thought I would flex my sports editor muscles and try to score some media credentials.
Months ago, I had Saturday circled on my calendar. The Michigan State men’s basketball team travels to Bloomington to take on Indiana, and I wanted to go.
I figured, since I am now a Hoosier, I should experience Assembly Hall at least once before I move on.
Tickets were a little more expensive than I imagined. Plus, I had just put money toward a new camera and I knew funds would be tight.
Then, I thought, instead of going as an MSU fanboy, why don’t I shoot photos?
It seemed like a great idea, until I realized exactly how far Bloomington is from Portland.
So, in my quest to not spend New Year’s Eve by my lonesome in Jay County, I happened to glance at the Butler men’s basketball schedule to see if they had a game I could attend.
Bingo. The Bulldogs were to host the Villanova Wildcats on Tuesday in the school’s Big East Conference opener.
It had the makings of a great game. Villanova was ranked No. 11 after falling to No. 2 Syracuse Saturday, and Butler was opening its conference schedule during it’s inaugural Big East season.
The Bulldogs and Wildcats did not disappoint, as Villanova held off Butler in overtime for a 76-73 win.
The lead changed 10 times in the first half alone, and Butler forced extra time as Kellen Dunham, a Pendleton Heights graduate who played for Jay County High School coach Craig Teagle on the Indiana All-Star team in 2012, hit a jumper with 21 seconds to play in regulation.
He also made two layups in the final 30 seconds of overtime to put the Bulldogs within one, 74-73. But after a missed 3-pointer and an offensive rebound to set up an inbounds play with five seconds on the clock, Butler failed to inbound the ball successfully.
Hinkle Fieldhouse is an amazing venue, and with every big play in Butler’s favor, the crowd went nuts. After all, it was a huge game for the Bulldogs.
I had some friends and family text me during the game to tell me they could see me on TV, sitting on the baseline next to professional photographers with equipment I can only dream of having.
I knew some people in the stands too, who I would text periodically to share my first time at Hinkle with them.
Aside from historic, Hinkle can be described in one easy word: electric.
I recorded the game on my DVR, and while watching it I noticed something that just cannot be conveyed through television or surround sound speakers.
The sound of the crowd on TV pales in comparison to what it is like in person.
And, feeling the rumble on the wood beneath me as players moved up and down the court just added to the ambiance that is Hinkle.
The venue lived up to the hype, and at the very least, it strengthened my newfound fondness of the game of basketball.