Every now and then, sports fans have the opportunity to witness the magic of a good matchup combined with a super-excited crowd. Those types of games are the ones you tell your grandchildren about, the ones that take you back in time whenever the subject is brought up.
For me, I think the BYU-SDSU game of 1/26/11 will fall into that category. My parents talk about the times they watched Danny Ainge play for BYU, but my kids will probably hear about the times I spent watching Jimmer Fredette play.
The buildup to this game was enough to not only sell out the entire Marriot Center but to also bring in national interest. BYU hasn't beat a top-5 opponent since 1965 and the Marriot Center rarely sees a matchup between 2 top-10 seeders. Add San Diego's undefeated record to BYU's Jimmer-and-Jackson-lead team, and you know the game is going to be legendary.
We ended up parking by the football stadium and joined the throng of people braving the cold air to the Marriot Center. We sold our extra ticket right off the bat and soon found ourselves in the crowded hallways of the Marriot Center. Dad grabbed Mom's hand, and I grabbed Mom's hair, and we slowly made our way to our seats in Portal C.
Inside the arena was a throng of blue-and-white supporters. The students were standing up and leading the crowd in various cheers and chants. The crowd went wild whenever Jimmer touched a basketball. Fans talked (or rather, yelled) excitedly amongst themselves about the great matchup about to be displayed. The energy buzz was high enough to be heard or felt from miles around.
And then the game started.
The game was all we hoped it would be. It wasn't perfect--Jackson Emery didn't play very well offensively, BYU missed a million layups, and the refs made some outrageous calls--but both teams were battling hard througout. The crowd was insanely loud--at times I felt like I would pass out because of all the extra pressure on my ears. Nonetheless, the noise gave me the chills and just made me want to scream louder. This was the kind of noise you only experience when something truly great is happening, and the fans knew it.
We kept waiting for Jimmer to make a half-court shot, but sadly, it never happened, though he did make 5 threes. I think the best moment, however, was when Jimmer made a 3 with about 5 minutes left, and Jackson followed that up with a steal and a dunk, putting us 8? points ahead of San Diego. At that point, the crowd just about blew the roof off and I'm pretty sure my ears are still ringing from the noise. It was at that moment that we knew we were going to win. There was simply nothing San Diego could do to stop us.
In the end, we won by 13 points. No one could stop the crowd of people who stormed the court during the last miliseconds of the game, and I think some of the players were a bit afraid for their lives. There they were, having just given BYU its arguably best victory in history, and fans were streaming in to attack them. I'm glad we didn't have any casualties.
As we walked back to the car, we were surrounded by fans giving game summaries via phone or face-to-face communication, and I can't tell you how many times I heard someone say, "Jimmer had 43 points!" Everyone was grinning from ear to ear, and the swagger in our walk wasn't because of alcohol consumption but rather because of the dangerously high decibels we just walked away from. Talkshows on the radio couldn't say enough about the team and the unusual stats associated with this particular game.
It's not very often that you can count on both a good matchup and a victory. As intense as the game was, I was never worried that BYU would lose, because this team knows how to win. It didn't matter that Jackson only scored 4 points--he made up for it on the defensive end. Our backups played unselfishly and did what they needed to do to get a win, and a lot of time that meant handing the ball to Jimmer.
I don't know if this is the best basketball team BYU has ever seen, but I'm sure excited to be witnessing a new legend unfold. I don't think I'll have to experience any heartwrenching losses like those I've experienced with the Jazz over and over and over again--BYU will not lose because of its own faults, but rather because of another team's greater abundance of talent.
I like our chances. This team will go far (it already has gone far), and I'm not just talking about March Madness.