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Hit Man On DePaul!

Hit Man posted this on the bulletin board and is was so cool we're running it
on the main page too. Thanks Hit Man!

A pseudo diary of the events in Cameron last night, prompted by Redhead's request...really a compilation of the views of my friends and I, from our different vantage points in Cameron. I apologize in advance for any wordiness or over-emotion on my part - but this was an amazing experience, comparable only to the UNC game in 1998 (speaking only of my tenure as a student here). Please feel free to correct any details that my memory betrayed me on.

The atmosphere outside the stadium as I walked up was "different"; you could tell we were not playing Columbia tonight. The line extending far past the doors of Wilson, the soon-to-be Crazies casually tossing Nerf footballs and Frisbees on the lawn, the cars parked at all angles, wherever space was to be found. It felt like so many late February afternoons had felt in years past. That sense, that feeling, was in the air.

The students began to file into Cameron, and more signs of the uniqueness of the occasion were present. The obligatory shirtless group of freshmen in the first row, chests painted with the letters G O D U K E. My first thought upon seeing them was that they would be a gooey mess by halftime - I pity the reporters who had to sit in front of them. Girls and guys with their faces painted, people with crazy hats, Tieguy in his mask, posters all over, the girls in Saran-Wrap (what were they thinking?); bit by bit the pieces of the colonial animal came into place.

The heckling of DePaul began as soon as they hit the courts for warm-ups. They began with stretching exercises, using those giant sized rubber bands, to which the Cameron faithful responded with choruses of "Use your rubber", and "Dominatrix" (directed at the female conditioning coach). In comparison, each Blue Devil who walked onto the court was warmly greeted with cheers and ovations. Chants of "Carr-a-well, Carr-a-well", and "Who's your daddy? Battier" resounded, as the crowd partook in its own version of warm-ups. One solitary DePaul student arrived, painted in red and blue, with a Santa Claus cap on (?). He was promptly and properly introduced to Cameron with a loud cheer of "ugly mascot". Our own Devil challenged him to a fight that I fear the DePaul student took a bit too seriously. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Then came the arrival of Dickie V, chatting with the players, doing his intro for ESPN. The crowd played to him, with chants of "Dickie V, Dickie V" and "Hoops Malone". Ever mindful of the need to be fair, the Crazies serenaded Mike Tirico with a cheer of his own. Following his interview, Dickie V stripped his jacket and walked over to those shirtless freshman guys, who hoisted him up and sent him off on his crowd surf. A chant of "We want Mike" arose, in an attempt to get Dickie's more stoic partner to participate in the ritual, but alas, he declined.

The teams soon exited, and by the time the Devils ran onto the court again for shoot around, the stadium was packed to the gills. Even the football recruits had made their way in by now, seated to the right of the band with their friends and family. Little did they know what lie ahead of them. Francis Redding completed the pregame festivities with her as-always splendid rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Then came the introduction of the players. In a move orchestrated by Tieguy and others, the entire crowd sat down in silence while DePaul was introduced, which then led to the announcer’s call of, "and now for Duke" being drowned out in mid-sentence by the roar of Cameron awakening. A buzz went through the crowd with the announcement of Horvath as a starter over Boozer and Dunleavy. Soon the drum would sound, and the Crazies would bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce. The football recruits were in awe, pointing, smiling, mouths agape. DePaul won the tip, and the familiar roar of a defensive set filled the air.

The first few minutes of the game were a blur. DePaul, unlike so many other teams, did not come into Cameron wanting to survive. They came in with a hunger in their eyes, a determination to win, buoyed by Pat Kennedy, who knew what we could be like. Their athleticism and desire had us reeling over the first few minutes, and soon we were down 17-8. (forgive me if I get some of the scores a bit wrong). Poor Horvath already had two fouls, and was relegated to the bench. Boozer replaced him, and the team started to spark a bit. Egged on by the raucous crowd, we climbed back into it. Carrawell's first bucket was met with a sign held up in the front row, one letter per student "1 0 0 0 - C W E L L”. Sloppy at times, but effective overall, the score was finally tied on a monster slam from the Alaskan. The ensuing roar reached that level - that level where you are screaming as loud as you can, but you can't hear anything. It was a blissful level that had not graced Cameron in over a year. But that bliss what short-lived, as Pat Kennedy immediately called a time-out. A very intelligent move if you ask me, one that stomped out the burgeoning run by the Devils. DePaul regrouped and took the lead once again. The action proceeded to seesaw back and forth - a bucket by Nate James here, a move by Hunter inside there. A reverse alley-oop by DePaul received the highest compliment from the Crazies - silence. Nate took over down the stretch of the first half, and it was his shot that brought us to halftime down only two.

Halftime was marked only by that oddest of juxtapositions - the Crazies and band, who spent the entire first half standing and jumping and screaming sat down, while the football recruits and upper deck, who spent the half sitting down, stood up. Finally, the Devils ran back in, and the crowd reverted to its normal positions.

The second half began with a whimper, as DePaul extended their lead to its largest - twelve. With only fifteen minutes remaining, the crowd seemed spent. Cheers died out quickly, and the defensive roar was not nearly as strong as before. And then it started. From where or from whom we never know, but the roar built. The players ran a little faster, jumped a little higher, and the crowd kept getting louder and louder. The balls that bounced out started to bounce in, almost as if willed by the spirits.

The defense became even more ferocious, and finally, thanks to a C-well rebound, we were tied at sixty. By this time the roar is deafening, and a student held up perhaps the cleverest sign of the night, one that read "O-Dome?????". The football recruits had long since abandoned their hardwood seats, and were standing in awe. A free throw by Nate James put us ahead for the first time in the game, 61-60, and impossibly, it got louder. Soon we were up 63-60, and Jason Williams took a three from the top of the key. It hit rim hard, and bounded straight up in the air, higher than the backboard. It then came crashing down, off the rim again, then kissing some backboard for good measure, and finally through the net.

As always, the best chants, the ones that are remembered and passed down forever, are not the ones planned out in line or on DBR. They are the ones borne spontaneously of the moment, and this was one of those moments. It built, beginning with the grad students, indecipherable to those in the band. We strained our ears, and one by one, we picked it up and joined in. "Our house". "Our house". The chant built, the decibel levels rising. Jason Williams, down low in his defensive stance at mid-court, looked around, bewildered. Then he nodded emphatically, and responded, "Damn straight, damn straight".

Nate, who picked up a very cheap fourth foul earlier, drove the lane hard and scored, but the referees waived it off. It was an offensive foul, his fifth, but it was good to see him getting it on an aggressive move. He walked to center court, gestured for his teammates, and then began to pump his fists in the air. His arms flailed about, as if punching, no pummeling, an imaginary opponent. And the Crazies responded, each punch evoking more bouncing, more screaming. The look on Nate's face was one of pure determination, seeing it later on TV still brought chills down my spine.

As a result of Nate fouling out, our team was basically set for the home stretch of the game: Jason, Mike, C-Well, Shane, and Boozer. It looked as if we had a slight edge, but DePaul came back once again, and it soon became a battle of free throws. As the DePaul player stepped to the line for the first of the key free throws, the upperclassmen in the band had one thought on their mind - Ed Cota. We began the same frenetic, jumping-waving-screaming distraction that worked so well that fateful day, and it worked yet again. Soon Shane came to the line, with a chance to put us up two. He hit the first, and was about to release the second when two students, behind the Duke bench, scream "Go Duke". This breech of the silence seemed to distract Shane a bit, and he missed the free throw. The looks shot at those two fans by the grad students and other Crazies would have made Medusa proud.

With Duke up by one, DePaul drew another foul, and again the band began the Ed Cota distraction, and again the player missed the first shot. He did however tie the game, which gave Duke a chance to win it on the last shot. However, Jason agonizingly turned the ball over, and we were headed to overtime.

Overtime was a stressful affair, to say the least. The crowd never let up, bouncing and screaming the whole time. Evil thoughts of Tractor Trailer danced in the heads of many a Crazie, especially when DePaul hit a three-pointer to begin the extra period. But the Blue Devils clawed back, led by Battier and Carrawell. It was great to see the upperclassmen taking charge of the game, especially with the hottest hand of the night, Nate James, on the bench. But despite their best efforts, we were still down two, and the shot clocked had been turned off. In a surprising move, Horvath was substituted in for Boozer. It seemed to us that if K was bringing him in, he had to be a scoring option.

I don't think there is really any way to appropriately describe the shot that he took. A great swing pass from Dunleavy left him relatively open, from the right hand side of the key, and he never hesitated. The shot was on-line, smacked the backboard, and dropped through the net. Absolutely unbelievable - we were up by one with about fifteen seconds to go. DePaul inbounded after a time out, and everyone in the building knew the ball was going to Quentin. Carrawell was up to the task however, and the same tough defense that stifled Quentin for most of the second half altered his last second jumper, forcing Richardson to airball the attempt. I have no idea what happened next, because we were falling over each other in a fit of happiness. A whistle blew and for a moment we were scared - was there a foul? Glancing around, one of us saw the referee indicate Duke ball, and everyone began hugging and celebrating. The last tenth of a second was a mere formality, followed by the crowd rushing the court. I'll never forget the smiles on the faces of Shane and Nick, as they made their way through the mob and on top of the press table, walking out above the screaming masses, kings among men.

When I finally made my way out of the stadium, a good twenty minutes after the game had ended, I found a family of five DePaul fans, still standing in the foyer of Cameron. The father was talking to his young son and daughter, telling them to remember this game. He said, "This is the best place in the world to watch college basketball, the most difficult place to play...we were privileged to be here tonight". I couldn't agree with him more.