By Nina MandellThe Daily Northwestern
The ride on the shuttle, I thought, was going to say it all.
It was about a half an hour before game time and the bus was completely empty except for me and a driver.
Actually that’s not totally true. Two people got on at Foster and off at Tech. But I digress.
I started thinking about why in the world NU was playing Texas Pan-American, other than the obvious – Texas Pan-American’s head coach is from Chicago and the Cats thought this would be an easy boost to a tournament bid.
Then I got it: The Cats were taking on Texas Pan-American because of Bill Carmody’s desire to try Texas Pan-American food. It sounds like artsy, delectable and just plain yummy cuisine, kind of like Pan-Asian, but with a Texas twist.
But then why at home?
I kept thinking. Maybe Texas Pan-American was an out-of-nowhere Cinderella team, this year’s Wichita State, that a psychic had recommended to an NU assistant when the team was searching for something to do this week.
But then I met the ticket scalper. He looked so tired and unenthused. He was charging 10 dollars, half price of a regular non-student ticket, and he didn’t even seem to think he was going to sell them at that.
“It’s Texas-whatever,” he sighed.
Exactly what I was thinking, as I watched the team come out to 10 total fans. Whatever.
And then I found the true answer: Texas is the spring break capital of college students everywhere. And that means any team from the Lonestar State would make this game fun. And after a rough conference season, NU needs fun.
And at least, for the first half, the Cats looked happy. From the first time they came out of the locker room, they had fun. There were dunks in warmups and they were joking around with each other.
For awhile, they played good basketball. Tim Doyle looked younger than his 24-years, slipping in the UTPA offense to pick off passes and grab two layups in the first half. Kevin Coble grabbed an offensive rebound after everyone else except two Pan-American players had gone down the court, netting a layup. And those were just some of the highlights. They scored as many points in the first half as they did all last game at Illinois.
Then when they were losing the lead, they still acted like they were on spring break. They made it exciting, as to make sure that everyone, even the other team was having fun. It might not be fun losing, but when the UTPA guards celebrated closing the lead in the second half, if someone took a picture, it would have looked like Drew Neitzel on ESPN.com after Michigan State upset Wisconsin.
Then just like the best spring breaks, everyone came home safely. The Cats won. The fans threw purple confetti.
When asked how spring break (or having four people score in double digits) was, Bill Carmody summed it up just like anyone who went on vacation in Texas.
“It was nice.”
Assistant Sports Editor Nina Mandell is a Medill senior. Reach her at [email protected]