Last year, the Liacouras Center hosted the first whiteout in the history of the arena. That night, the Owls beat a hot Xavier team, and made one of the best “I Believe” chants we’ve ever done. Yesterday afternoon, the tradition continued, and the LC was a sea of white as the #21 Virginia Commonwealth Rams waltzed in.
After an exhausting, but exciting, day meeting the quads the day before, I drove down to school, and got in line nearly two hours before tipoff with Jeff, Kevin, and Joe. When I remarked that Kevin Negandhi, a SportsCenter anchor and Temple journalism alum like myself, would be in attendance, a student in front of us turned around and asked if we knew he was a TU grad. We chuckled as he rattled off a list of famous Temple alums, before we let him down easy, confessing we were all tour guides and knew most of the crazy facts one could possibly know about Temple.
We walked into the Liacouras Center, and were excited to see every seat covered with a white shirt and the Owls in their white kits warming up on the court. As much as I love the Owls, I couldn’t wait to see the Rams start warming up and catch a glimpse of Coach Shaka Smart. While living at the Olympic Training Center this summer in Colorado Springs, we were able to watch the U-18 and U-19 national teams, coached by Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim, and Shaka Smart of VCU, among others, so it would be exciting to see Coach Smart in action with his regular team.
It was also Senior Day for the Owls, and we honored TJ DiLeo, Scootie Randall, Jake O’Brien, Khalif Wyatt, and my best friend on the team, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. Rah’s mom, by far, had the best attire in the building: a warmup jacket with “#1 Mom!” embroidered on the back.
The Owls struggled mightily in the first half, and down double digits, they’d need a boost of energy and a big run to make up the difference. No one was more surprised than I was when they clawed back, determined to make a bid for the Big Dance. With Jake O’Buckets raining threes in the second half and Khalif Wyatt making clutch steals, they definitely put on a show for the national audience tuning in.
I made sure Dom (the biggest Temple Owls fan west of the Mississippi, I’m proud to say!) had tuned in just in time to see the Owls take control of the game, and he was excited to see the famous Temple “I Believe” chant. The socially-acceptable rules of court storming dictate that upsetting #21 at home doesn’t qualify, so we settled for screaming “I Believe” twice, and taking the win as a huge résumé booster for the selection committee. Not to mention it was the perfect way to end the year at the Liacouras Center.
After ending the regular season by knocking off the Rhode Island Rams, Fordham Rams, and Virginia Commonwealth Rams, everyone’s hoping we get a fourth bout with a school with a ram mascot, the Rams of Colorado State, in the first round of the Big Dance! With the A-10 Tournament this week in Brooklyn, and Selection Sunday fast approaching, we’re still hoping to lace up our dancing shoes! I’m sure I’ll be pacing from now until 6pm Sunday with Joe Lunardi currently placing Nova in the 11th seed and Temple and Virginia in the 12th seeds, but we’ll just have to wait until the brackets are unveiled!