Sunday, February 5, 2012

My interesting experience watching Heels play at College Park

For an unfortunate reason, a funeral for a family member Saturday morning, I was in Maryland during the weekend. Wish the trip didn't need to be made, but it gave me a chance to do something I couldn't pass up: See the Tar Heels play at College Park.

I had covered Carolina games at N.C. State, at Duke and at Wake Forest, but this was my first road Carolina men's game as a fan.

There were plenty of UNC fans at the game, including the
one to the left with a Kendall Marshall jersey.
This was an interesting experience. 

Not every day that you have some guy, at the top of his lungs, yell "f--k UNC" during a pause in the national anthem. I guess that Duke students sometimes transfer to Maryland, huh? To Maryland's credit, apparently school officials ejected the "fan."

The Comcast Center (that name makes me happy that UNC's arena is named after a coaching legend and not after a corporation that paid for that right) is a very nice arena and not too big. What you first notice as you come through a door is that they have the heat turned WAY up. It was so cold outside, but I immediately peeled off my winter coat because it was so warm in the building.

That makes me wonder if the school did that particularly for this game because they knew that the Terps have better depth than the Tar Heels.

There were LOTS of Carolina fans. Around where my seat was located in the upper arena, there were a bunch of UNC fans. We were loud and surrounding Terps fans weren't amused.

Most of the Maryland students sit behind what is the
opponent's basket in the second half.
I've seen some game stories describe it as a sellout crowd. That may be true, but it definitely wasn't a capacity crowd.

This rivalry has certainly lost a bit. There was a big feature on Maryland coach Mark Turgeon's history with Roy Williams in Saturday's Washington Post, but the game story was inside Sunday's Post sports section.

I moved down to some excellent lower-level seats that had been empty in the first half (and on the side the Tar Heels were shooting toward) and sat next to two UNC fans from Philadelphia.

A commemorative cup
marks 10-year anniversary
of Maryland's national
championship. 
It was fun toward the end when Maryland was shooting free throws and UNC fans started a chant of TAR .... HEELS. I was doing that as Terps fans were dashing for the exits in the final 20 seconds and was told by a fan that "I was going to get my a** kicked." Luckily he just kept walking. Aways nice to meet those nice Maryland fans.

It surely was a lot nicer to see them leaving for the exits instead of storming the court! And you know they wanted to do that!

I should point out that I encountered some nice Maryland fans. They weren't all bad.

They probably waited until this game to do this: At a timeout, they introduced Maryland's national-championship field hockey team. The Terps, of course, tied the national-championship game against North Carolina as time expired in regulation and then beat the Tar Heels in overtime. Big cheer when they mentioned that Maryland had beaten Carolina to win the title.
It was good to see that final score on the scoreboard at the end of the
game and no Maryland students storming the court!

On the video board at one point, they showed a UNC logo with a fishing pole at a pond and played the whistling theme music from The Andy Griffith Show. Then a terrapin jumps up from the pond and squashes the UNC logo. The letters appear: FEAR THE TURTLE. Very popular with the red-clad fans.

The game was a bit scary, particularly after Tyler Zeller got his 3rd and 4th foul and then when Kendall Marshall got his 4th. Was really worried about Stillman White being forced into big-time minutes. Nice job by Marshall to collect 16 assists and cut out the turnovers after piling up about six early-on in the first half.

I kind of got irritated that UNC jacked up quick shots too often in the final five minutes when I thought we should have worked the clock more. But, hey, it worked out.

Very pleased with the Tar Heels' defense in the second half, which gave the offense more time early in the second half to get it going. Really nice 83-74 victory for UNC.

A fun, interesting environment. And I got out of there without getting my you-know-what kicked.

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