This piece was written months after attending the game. The blog got lost in the fray of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is written of its time.
February 21, 2020 – Waltham, Massachusetts
Brandeis vs Washington University (St. Louis)
It’s fucking cold. It’s so cold walking around Waltham on this day, but it is a beautiful day for basketball.
Waltham is a sneaky little city. With a population of 60,000 people, and located 11 miles west of Boston, Waltham is a place with things going on. Today I am at Brandeis University, and a few miles away sits the city’s second college, Bentley University.
With a consistently in flux population of young people, and good restaurants and quality of living, Waltham hides in plain site as one of the Commonwealth’s great cities.
But it’s still so fucking cold.
The Good Eats
Moody Street is the cultural beating heart of Waltham. Full of restaurants and shops of all flavors, Moody Street is as good a high street as there is in Eastern Mass.
And boy did I get a great meal on the corner at Balani. I even needed a reservation. The place even had a 4.9 rating on Google with more than 50 reviews, that type of unanimity is unheard of online.
Walking in I knew I was in for quality all around. The ambience of the restaurant struck the perfect chord between relaxed and upscale. An Asian fusion restaurant, I found myself seated at a table under a cherry blossom tree.
If only for a minute, it made me forget how blisteringly cold it was outside.
Fried chicken over pineapple fried rice? I had no idea how much I needed that in my life but I need it every day.
Instead of chips or popcorn, Balani offered a basket of puffed, fried shrimp chips. I don’t know how to describe this other than the texture of a baked lay with the flavor or perfectly cooked shrimp that melted on my tongue like a thin sliver of chocolate.
It was both airy and decadent.
Brandeis is located about 20 minutes away from Boston in Waltham. A sizable suburb, Waltham is known as The Watch City due to the Waltham Watch Company, the first manufacturer to make watches on an assembly line.
The university itself is named after Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, and it was founded in 1948. Originally, the board of trustees wanted to name the university after Albert Einstein, but he turned down the accolade. Although, his connection to the university in its fledgling days did help raise its profile.
The photo atop this piece is of the Brandeis statue that sits in the middle of campus.
A mix of mid-century architecture with newer, shinier buildings sprinkled in, Brandeis has carved out a place for itself as one of the top universities in the Boston area.
Brandeis is a member of the United Athletic Association, and that conference needs a deep dive in its own right.
The league has a larger geographic footprint that most high-profile Division 1 conferences. It’s eight members are all ranked in the top-40 research universities in the country. While athletics play second fiddle to academics in the league, basketball has seen its share of success across the conference.
Brandeis was a national power early this century, and Wash U won a men’s national title in 2008. And that’s small fry compared to the Bears’ women’s program which won the 2010 championship and four-peated from 1998-2001.
The other schools in the league are:
New York University
University of Rochester
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve
University of Chicago
In fact, the largest distance between schools in the Big 10 (Nebraska & Rutgers) is just 115 miles further apart than Brandeis is from Wash U. It’s a D3 league with a D1 travel budget.
On this night, the Judges needed to find a way to get past the Bears if they were to stay in league title contention. The UAA still crowns its champion after a double round-robin regular season schedule with no tournament.
Brandeis plays its basketball on Red Auerbach court, which is located just inside the running lines of the indoor track. The most analogous D1 facility I can think of is Jadwin Gym at Princeton.
The game was back and forth early as both sides were able to hit shots. Brandeis closed the half on a 10-4 run to go into the break up 38-34.
The second half was a game of Brandeis trying to get breathing room, and Wash U closing them down like quicksand.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was exciting basketball, and Wash U slowly started to open up a lead as the clock began to wind down. Then it was Jack Nolan who made it his job to stick the knife and twist. A pair of threes on consecutive possessions cemented a 12-point lead with 3:45 to play.
Nolan had 15 in the second half. He finished with 24.
Washington University 77, Brandeis 70. Final
DeVaughn Rucker (WashU): 25 points, seven rebounds