San Luis Obispo,CA – On January 10, 2015, once again I had the pleasure of attending a basketball game between visiting UCSB and Cal Poly in the on-campus arena. From the parking structure, the Mott Athletic Center looks like an airplane hanger, which leaves the viewer looking for the airplane runway. Entering the arena, with its high pitched roof, this writer could not help but compare it to Butler Field House in Indiana, the setting of the classic basketball movie, Hoosiers.
Everything about the facility is nostalgic. The folding chairs and wooden tables on press row, right behind the scorer’s table; and the way the fans, knowledgeable and fervent, are close to the action on the court. In San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Athletics are the center of the attention and part of the lifestyle, like the Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin. As the game starts, it is easy to envision Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) calling the famous “picket fence” play to have Jimmy Chitwood come off three screens to make the winning shot to beat a much larger school, Muncie Central, in the 1954 Indiana State Basketball finals.
This game was not much different than a game in the 1950s, as both teams played “lock down” defense with the score at halftime 23-20 in favor of Cal Poly. UCSB was still down by 10 points at the ten-minute mark of the second half, and with leading scorer and rebounder Alan Williams (18.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg) saddled with four fouls, things looked bleak for UCSB. However, in the last ten minutes of the game, because of the clutch 3-point shooting of freshman Gabe Vincent (3-of-5) and UCSB’s second leading scorer, junior Michael Bryson (2-of-5), UCSB came back from the ten-point deficit and held on for the 50-45 win.
Coach Norman Dale would have been proud.
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