In a matter of minutes, the “Best Road Trip Destination in College Basketball” quickly turned into the “Quietest Road Trip Destination in College Basketball.” A six-game winning streak can easily make any team hungry, but so can a three-game road losing streak. Last week the Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm took down the Harding men’s basketball team in the Rhodes-Reaves Field House for the first time in school history. Crazy, right? Still hasn’t sunk in for me either.
There awaited a fairly packed, normally rambunctious crowd ready to see their team split the season series and grab another conference win, but after a 12-0 run by SNU to start the game, things started to go south for the Bisons. Even SNU’s student section of about five was making more noise. And no one likes visiting fans, especially when your team isn’t playing well and theirs is, and they won’t let you forget it. Now, I apologize in advance for the terrible metaphor, but just to give you a small image of the game, close your eyes and imagine a light drizzle that keeps growing and growing into a loud, obnoxious thunderstorm that won’t stop. The Crimson Storm hit six 3-pointers in the first half, and finished the game with 13. You figure after two or three, they have to go cold at some point, but at one point I felt like I was watching the Golden State Warriors on any given day of the week.
And the dunks. Everybody loves a good dunk, even when it’s not your team. Well, most of the time. I’ve seen countless alley-oops growing up on TV, but I never thought I would see one from five feet away. I instantly knew what was about to happen as soon as I saw their player starting to run along the open baseline. At that point, you could feel whatever air was left in the building go out.
It’s always hard to swallow a loss, especially a blowout on your own court, but you just can’t discredit SNU. Apart from a strong shooting performance from outside the arc, and a few ESPN-worthy dunks, the Crimson Storm dominated down low with a 6’11” center who seemed like he couldn’t be stopped. Not to mention a strong defensive performance from-tip off. They held the Bisons scoreless for almost the first five minutes, and even then it seemed as if SNU had a response, and then some, for every basket.
When it comes down to it, one team was hot and the other wasn’t, and some nights that’s how it goes. The Crimson Storm kept surging (last storm pun, I promise) and wouldn’t stop for all forty minutes. They held Harding to 35 percent from the field, 65 points, and seven 3s; all season lows. It was hard to watch, and it was even harder listening to a group of five students make more noise than a few hundred. But what I’ll never forget, is how many Bisons fans were still there even with a minute left. While it was one of the less-dominant shooting performances of the season, fans were still there behind their team.
I think the great Wayne Gretzky said it best, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” I know it’s from a hockey player, but it’s the same principle. Off-nights are always going to happen, but if there’s one thing this Harding team has been good at all season long, it’s bouncing back after a loss. So keep shooting, Bisons, you’ve got a herd of Rowdies behind you.