Rout Monmouth in unique, exciting sunrise basketball game
If coffee stocks rose considerably when the New York Stock Exchange opened its session Tuesday morning, there was a major reason. That’s because three hours before the NYSE clanged its opening bell, more coffee was being consumed in one single location in Jersey City than anywhere else in the United States.
Never in college basketball history had more coffee cups been seen than at the sunrise spectacular that was held at St. Peter’s College’s Yanitelli Center, when the Peacocks welcomed Monmouth University for the first-ever 6 a.m. tipoff in college basketball history.
Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts had to be pleased that the SPC administration agreed to be part of ESPN’s “24 Hours of College Basketball” marathon and that the cable network slid the SPC-Monmouth game into the 6 a.m. time slot. Because there had to have been about 1,000 coffee cups spotted throughout Yanitelli Center. While we’re at it, there were several bagels spotted as well.
While the rest of the Jersey City neighborhood around Glenwood Avenue and Montgomery Street was fast asleep, Yanitelli Center was alive and jumping. In fact, the joint was happening with an all-night student pep rally being held in the Yanitelli bubble. There was music and sporting events and contests all night long. The students were eventually treated to free breakfast.
SPC junior guard Wesley Jenkins didn’t have to worry about trying to get some sleep before the early morning contest.
“I heard what was going on in the bubble,” Jenkins said. “The dorm is right next to the bubble. I heard it from my room. I couldn’t sleep anyway.”
Peacocks head coach John Dunne said that he loved the idea of the sunrise contest, until the early morning hours before the game.
“I thought it was a great idea, until I had to wake up at 3 a.m.,” Dunne said. “I set every alarm in my house at 3 a.m. My wife didn’t like that one too much.”
Dunne said that he had some concerns about the status of his team, considering that the Peacocks lost a heartbreaker to Seton Hall at the buzzer last Friday night and considering that the sun was not up yet when he arrived at Yanitelli.
“But I got to the school and the kids were all dancing around to music at 5 a.m.,” Dunne said. “I was hoping that they wouldn’t lose that energy.”
“I was ready to go at 3:30 a.m.,” junior guard Nick Leon said. “I couldn’t sleep because I had the game on my mind. I was excited and mentally focused.”
Apparently, Leon wasn’t alone. The Peacocks were energized despite the early hour. So was the crowd, the most electric showing at SPC in recent memory. Jenkins paced a balanced scoring attack with 10 points. Leon scored nine and the Peacocks won in an early morning rout, 58-34.
In this matchup of birds between the Peacocks and Hawks, it was the Peacocks who were the early birds who, in this case, caught themselves a win.
“We really played with great energy,” Dunne said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but the kids were really pumped. I think the students were really into it as well. It was a great experience. It was fantastic.”
It sure was. From someone who has covered hundreds of games at SPC over the years and from someone who spent five years of his life as the sports information director at the school, this was an absolute no-brainer, regardless of what WFAN radio host Mike Francesa and New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick may say or think.
The game got major coverage from the New York mass media market – television, radio, print. Every major newspaper in the area covered the game. Television crews were on hand. Heck, the game was televised live on ESPN. Schools like St. Peter’s can’t get that kind of coverage, unless something tragic happens on the campus.
If a kid gets killed on campus, sure, that gets coverage. But a basketball game? Never anything like this. No one can criticize this game, especially anyone who witnessed it. It wouldn’t have mattered what time that game started. The joint was rocking for a Peacock basketball game, with the crowd being called “Peacock Nation,” a very catchy moniker.
“We couldn’t ask for anything better than this,” SPC athletic director Patrick Elliott said.
It didn’t hurt anyone. Most of the players didn’t have class after the game was over. Except one. Ryan Bacon, a guy with a very fitting name for an early morning game, had to excuse himself from the post-game press conference.
“I have a class at 9:30,” Bacon said. “I have a quiz in International Management.”
That was the reminder that this was a game involving college kids. They had fun. The students had a blast. It was a one-shot deal. A day later, everyone was back to the business of being college basketball student-athletes. The novelty was over. The gimmick was done.
Even Monmouth coach Dave Calloway loved the idea – and his team lost by 24 points.
“I would do it again,” Calloway said, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. We didn’t play well, but it had nothing to do with the game being at 6 a.m. Our kids were excited to play. But it was our third game in five days and we had three emotional games. I thought our kids played hard, but they played a little harder. I thought it might be a gimmick and that concerned me, but it didn’t feel like a gimmick to me. The positives outweighed the negatives.”
From someone’s standpoint who was there, who witnessed the excitement and the electricity, it was a fun event.
Here’s another thing that has come out of the first week as well: St. Peter’s is a vastly improved basketball team. They were a prayer-shot away from beating Seton Hall in the opener and came back to house Monmouth, no matter what time that game started. Dunne has assembled a highly competitive team this season and they’re about 8,000 times better than any Peacock team over the last few years.
After the game was over, Leon went over to the crowd, grabbed the public address microphone and made a plea.
“I want to thank you all for your support today,” Leon said. “I hope you can show this support all year.”
It looks as if the Harvard on the Boulevard fans really now have a team they can wholeheartedly support now, no matter what time of day they play.
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