October 25, 2021 – Smithfield, Rhode Island
Bryant University v Nichols College
Why am I doing this? Why am I firing up the car and making towns for the blog for a third year?
Sure, this is a personal creative project, but beyond that it’s far more important to me. It is the responsibility of taking something to the finish line. I’ve started so many projects in my life and seen them fizzle to dust.
I have 15,000 words of a book buried in an old computer. I’ve stopped and started writing my novel three times. I have a 72-minute feature documentary that sits on a friend’s hard drive on Long Island because we couldn’t get the financing to finish it.
And that was all true back in 2019 when I conceived of this project. I just wanted to do something wholly my own that I could look back on and say “Shit, I did that.”
And in the intervening years, especially now, this project, like college basketball overall, has been a major anchoring point in my life as I’ve seen my mental health spiral, rebound, and bounce around all over the place.
I’m trawling the websites of every college in New England as early as August looking for any scheduling nuggets. Sometimes colleges post unfinished schedules and I even pull those up too. Anything to find my anchor and right my ship. Something to keep me upright and on course for port.
Keeping the ship upright is one of the major reasons why I keep pushing myself forward with this. Knowing my anchor is there, keeping me grounded, is everything.
And I really, really like the gyms and the vibes and the food and the people I meet along the way. I just want to better enjoy the company of myself. The miles are very real and the majority of these games I’m by myself with myself.
I don’t know what to do to better enjoy the company I have on the ride out to wherever I’m going. I can run from it with music and podcasts and YouTube videos but every runner always needs a drink.
The Good Eats
Being back in Rhode Island brings with it a whole bunch of memories. I went to the University of Rhode Island, and eternally have a soft spot for the smallest state in the Union.
And one of my favorite things is how fucking weird this place is. Being so small, Rhode Island depserately clings onto anything homegrown and pumps it every chance it gets.
“I just finished my hot weiner as I drove by the Big Blue Bug and am going to get a coffee milk cabinet before I get home.”
That’s a real sentence that would perfectly make sense to any Rhode Islander. In any other state it reads as well as Kanji or Cyrilic. The translation is below.
“I just finished my hot dog as I drove past the extermination company’s mascot and am going to get a coffee-flavored milkshake before I get home.”
Which brings us to Newport Creamery.
A small chain with a dozen locations all in either Rhode Island or in Massachusetts towns bordering Rhode Island, the Creamery is an Ocean State institution.
I can’t walk into one and not feel warm and familiar even though I never went to one growing up. There are small chains like this throughout the country. Every one has familiar food, familiar feelings, and good prices.
I kept it simple on what was a cold, gloomy Monday night. Cheeseburger club with fries.
It was damn good. It was homey. It was something I needed on the day.
But at the Newport Creamery you can’t leave without getting an Awful Awful. Made with different flavors of syrup and a proprietary ice milk, the Awful Awful is the star of the show. As it says on the cup, awful big awful good.
I went junior because I just turned 30 and suddenly I don’t vibe as well with dairy as I used to. Still wasn’t going to say no. My flavor was chocolate. Next time I’ll get the chocolate mint.
Bryant University is the enigma of Rhode Island college basketball. Every other college in the state is either in Providence or in some way connected to the waterfront and beach culture of the Atlantic.
Bryant is in Smithfield, a small town in north-central Rhode Island a good 30-45 minutes from the oceanside. A private university founded in 1863, the current campus is on land that was donated by alum Earl Tupper in 1971.
You might be familiar with his most famous invention: Tupperware.
The Chace Athletic Center is the beating heart of Bryant sports. Home of the gymnasium, the swimming pool, team offices, the works, places like the Chace are common among low-major schools. And it’s a lovely building. Bright, full of energy, plenty of schools would love to have a building like it.
The gym is a cozy 2,670, and would be electric when it’s filled.
Despite being an exhibition game there was still plenty of juice in the room because Nichols showed out. With a strong recent history of success at the Division III level, it was the Nichols student section and cheerleaders that brought the energy early.
The schools being separated by only 26 miles certainly didn’t hurt either.
I will eternally have a soft spot for Nichols. They were the main protagonists in the best college basketball experience of my life, and for that I will always have a place in my heart for the Bison.
And early on, they controlled the game. A few pieces from the Elite Eight team in 2019 still remained, and the uptempo energy punched Bryant in the face early.
It was even throughout the opening segments of the first half. Bryant had the bigger size but the Bison were wily and kept the Bulldogs in check.
Halfway through the first half it was only 20-16 Bryant and the place was buzzing. Eventually Bryant shook free a bit but the lead hung at a dozen late in the half, and the large Nichols contingent was feeling like an improbable comeback was possible.
Now, allow me to introduce you to Charles Pride.
Those ended a run of four straight threes by Pride to cap a 24-point first half. The last one made it 53-31 and the Bulldogs rolled from there. Pride finished 29 points an 11 rebounds. Erickson Bans had 19 points, five boards, and five assists.
Jason O’Regan finished with 18 points and eight rebounds to lead Nichols.
Bryant 107, Nichols 71. Final
Time of game – 2:06:34
Yeah, I knew this would probably be an unbalanced game, but I wasn’t going to say no to basketball so early in the season. And Bryant is looking to be one of the better mid-majors in New England this year so keep an eye on them. Plenty more to come this season. Thank you for reading.
And now, here’s one for the road.