The rush of excitement was overwhelming as I pulled up in my rental car to the athletic side of the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. The complex is developed so that their football stadium, track & field park, and basketball arena are all located right next to each other. I had been exchanging messages with MikeTTU and @TTUHoopsFans (Bill) throughout the day getting pumped about the game. It all hit me with a surreal impact when the venues came into view.
As I walked across across the street and stepped foot onto campus I didn't get any dirty looks from any of the students as I wore my Texas Tech attire with pride. It was too early for sports hatred and the game was still hours away. I checked out Tiger Stadium and ventured over to the $3 million dollar Mike the Tiger Habitat to try and catch a glimpse of the live Bengal tiger mascot. He must have been snuggled up sleeping somewhere warm, because he wouldn't make an appearance no matter how hard I was hitting on the fenced walls.
At that point it was opening time for the doors to the arena, so I made my way to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The arena is aged on the outside, but you can see that there is a lot of history to go along with the structure. I went into the first opening I could find, which happened to be the players guests entrance. The door attendants did not give any fuss and let me walk into the bottom hallway right onto the court to find my seat. The first thing I noticed with the dome is that it was the epitome of college basketball. Seating that goes right into the court all the way up to the back walls of the dome. It was a little more antique than I had expected, but I guess LSU wants to keep that quaility about it. It made me think that Tech basketball fans should really be proud of the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. I have been to many college basketball arenas and the USA is still one of the most magnificent courts I have ever watched games at.
I sat in my seat and a few moments later the Red Raiders arrived to shoot some pregame warm-up shots. There wasn't many people around and I had a chance to get a firsthand look at each and every dressed player. Our team this year is not as big as years past, but they moved around more athletically than I have seen in awhile. I could tell that we have a squad of young guys with wheels on their shoes. Also, some of the guys can really lift themselves above the rim and throw down monster dunks.
Before tip-off I sat and sent some texts back and forth between friends. At one point Chris Level found some of my tweets and looked back from the broadcasters booth to find me in the crowd. He waived and gave me a smile and a big guns up for representing Texas Tech in Baton Rouge.
@DanSwany that you over there repping the Red Raiders in section 5 or 105?— Chris Level (@ChrisLevel) November 19, 2014
Then VTMer brredraider and I met up and had a pleasant conversation about his family coming to the game for all 5 of his kids first college basketball experience. We knew it would be loud and we would be outnumbered, but hoped for an amazing Red Raiders victory.
The game was sloppy in the first few minutes, but Tech held their own. I was surrounded by Tigers fans that were extremely impressed with our young Red Raiders. They had told me before the game that they had a great team this year, and thought LSU would for sure make the Big Dance. I was pleased with how well some of the new faces on the roster were holding their ground and not being bullied by the taller lengthier LSU squad. Norense Odiase is a beast in real life, and will be a great player for our future frontcourt.
When Tech went on the run to end the 1st half, and the Tigers were missing everything the fans in the stands went silent and were dumbfounded at what was taking place. But, then in the second half they came alive. I don't like to blame things on the officiating, but it was very poor in this game. Not only were us Tech faithful upset about the calls, the Tigers had a bunch of gripes themselves.
Tubby Smith was pacing back-and-forth down the sideline. He was yelling instructions to the team, and at times they were playing with excellent patience to set up the offense. We looked good, but you could tell that the Tech players were becoming rattled as LSU turned up the heat with more aggressive defense. On offense the Tigers started to run the ball and get to the rim with force. The 2nd half their shots started to fall into the hoop.
When LSU made some clutch shots, and back-to-back dunks to get back in the game the PMAC exploded with thunderous roars. I felt that old familiar feeling from last season, and started to sweat as I was cheering. I really thought we could get a break and steal a victory from the Tigers. With less than a minute to go we were up by 4 points.
That's when the breakdown happened and Texas Tech handed the game back to the Tigers. I was so sad to see the lead slip away, and when the game went into overtime the LSU fans were on their feet cheering on LSU to take down Tech and finish the game. The momentum had shifted and we never had a chance from that point forward. I slouched down in my chair and put my head in my hands as Tech was robbed of a tight contest victory once again.
Absolutely heartbreaking. Can't believe it. #TexasTech was robbed.— DanSwany (@DanSwany) November 19, 2014
I left the arena through a wave of LSU fans, they had nothing to say to the lonely Tech guy on his walk of shame back to the parking area. As I drove back to my hotel all I could think was that I saw flashes of greatness from a very young roster that let their nerves get the best of them. I exchanged a few supportive messages with @TTUHoopsFans (Bill) and got ready for bed. There's always tomorrow, and Tech needs to focus their attention to the next game. I love college basketball, and I encourage fans to watch games at different venues. It gives you perspective on how much passion for sports there is out there. I'm glad I went to the game, even if the outcome wasn't in our favor. On to the next one. Wreck 'em Tech!