When we first scheduled our road trip months ago, I have to admit that the trip to SLU was sort of an afterthought. St. Louis is on the way home, and one of my closest friends lives in a ‘burb. Since it was on the way, we figured we might as well throw in one more game! Turns out, the Billikens provided one of the best college basketball experiences of the entire trip.
SLU welcomed New Mexico to Chafietz Arena on New Year’s Eve. The fact that the Lobos were newly ranked 20/23 thanks to that road win at Cincy that we just so happened to witness a few days earlier, gave the game a little more oomph. SLU hasn’t been on my radar this year, and since they are dealing with a new coach since the passing of Rick Majerus, I can’t imagine anyone expects much out of them. Well the scrappy team fed off the booming crowd and put on a performance. They jumped out early, and held on to a solid lead from start to finish.
Lobos coach Steve Alford was so frustrated that he got booted in the second half, which wasn’t going to help the struggling Lobos. When we saw New Mexico play Cincinnati, neither team really looked all that skilled. New Mexico didn’t look any better last night, but SLU displayed a lot more skills than the now #15 Cincinnati. With a halftime score of 33-13, New Mexico had a long hole to crawl out of.
Though New Mexico had a better showing in the second, it wasn’t nearly enough; the final score was an ugly 46-60.
After three straight days of driving and basketball, I was a bit tired by the end of the game, and had hoped for something a bit more enthralling. Aside from the exciting finish at Cincy, the three other games we witnessed were blowouts. As you can see from the final score, this game was no different. Luckily, the fans and the venue provided an unforgettable experience.
For one thing, I got to meet Mary from The Gold Rush, which was definitely a plus. Also, I would venture to say the arena was the most college-y that we’ve been to on our road trip. Despite the fact that it was New Year’s Eve, the stadium was pretty full. There was a band AND cheerleaders, and both were more than decent. The cheerleaders were moving around the entire game, and in the absence of male cheerleaders, the ladies did their own lifts. The band played throughout, never relying on the rap music so prevalent at the other venues. Memphis has a slight edge in the intro, but you’d expect that from a team that plays on an NBA court. SLU gave it a solid effort, and got the attentive crowd pumped.
The dancers – which we got to nickname the SLU-ts (pronounced Sloots, and yes, we’re terrible human beings), were adequate. Better than Cincy, but not as good as Memphis. Hot dog received a sad 6.5, but FINALLY I got to enjoy some real nachos. The ultimate nachos provided me with fresh multicolor chips, hot peppers, cheese, salsa, olives, beans and tomatoes. There was some chili for the carnivores, but even without that it was well worth the $8.25. To my surprise, alcohol was also available. That means that Vandy was the only stop that was dry. Unlike Cincy, SLU offered wine and margaritas, in addition to beer. We were also lucky enough to snag free parking, yet again.
I’m happy to be back in Chicago with my dog and the comforts of home, but I’m sad to close the book on our basketball road trip. I wasn’t sure we’d really make it to all those games and locations in such a short time, but I’m proud to say we did it. And, we witnessed some great games – and venues – in the process.