It’s a Wednesday. A school night. And yet, the Liacouras Center is packed, the books are packed away, and we’re there for one reason: to watch the Owls take on George Washington. By no means was it the biggest game of the year, or the most colorful, or the loudest, but it doesn’t matter. Temple Basketball’s a staple in this community, and the time, the date, the place are inconsequential.
I finished my classes for the day at 1pm after turning in an unorthodox paper on the culture of the Super Bowl. Watching the snowflakes fall through my window, I ate lunch and did homework before catching up on last night’s Glee. Forget Love & Basketball. Love is snow and basketball. It may have been cold and slick outside, but there was still a game to be played inside, and the Liacouras Center was about to heat up.
I always get to games early. As soon as the doors open, I’m in my seat. There’s something calming about sitting in an empty arena and slowly watching it fill and the players warm up. I managed my high school’s basketball teams and saying that I loved it would be an understatement. I was the first one there and the last one to leave, every night. Basketball became a religion. So now, for me, it’s sitting in an empty cathedral.
Tonight, the Owls tried to best conference rivals GW. At times, it wasn’t pretty, and the halftime score sat uncomfortably in our stomachs at 29-41. We’re not used to being on the losing end very often, especially at home. Down 15, Juan Fernandez went down on a physical hip-check. My hands flew to my face at the sight of one of my favorite Owls in pain, and I forgot about the rest of the play happening right in front of me. Juan left the game with his injury, and the team stepped up. TJ DiLeo, a usually clumsy, butterfingered sub, made clutch plays, and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson beasted the boards and made a hustle for the ball each possession on the hardwood. As Ramone Moore drained the go-ahead basket, Juan found his footing, still grimacing from the hurt, and stood up on the bench, a single fist held high in the air as the crowd erupted. The Owls were back.
They might not have played their best basketball of the season tonight and I have no doubt Coach Dunphy’s going to emphasize rebounding the next few days, but, miraculously, these Owls pulled out the W. What I thought was going to be our annual easy, quiet, snowy game turned into a rousing come-from-behind conference victory. With 11 seconds left, the alumni section led the Wild Cherry in the traditional “I Believe” chant. Khalif Wyatt stood in the paint in front of the students, nodding along passionately as the words echoed through the Liacouras Center, the wide smile across his face telling the whole tale of the night.
We might have class tomorrow, but for tonight, we’re going to enjoy sitting pretty atop the A-10.