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Gameday Observations: Return To Rec

Before this season, Penn State basketball had only played once in Rec Hall since 1996, the year it left its intimate home for the cavernous confines of the Bryce Jordan Center.

So when it was announced the team would return for not one, but two games in its old stomping grounds, a fair bit of excitement followed. This past week, on Thursday and Saturday, the basketball team made its second and third returns to Rec; two wins that featured sloppy play on the court and empty seats in the stands.

We took a look back for our gameday observations from the two showdowns.

Rec Hall doesn’t produce the best basketball: For whatever reasons, Rec Hall, the arena in which the program’s seen its greatest days, doesn’t seem to bring out the best quality play for Penn State anymore. After blowing a 20-point second-half lead two years ago against Princeton (in its first Return to Rec), the Lions won two slopfests against lowly Canisius and Louisiana Monroe. Granted, Penn State played both games on very limited rest — the latter two games of a three games in five days stretch — but the play left much to be desired. Thursday’s showdown against Canisius saw the Lions blow a 15-point halftime lead, evoking memories of the Princeton game, before limping to the finish line. Those in attendance Saturday saw the Lions struggle mightily to score the ball in a much closer game than the quality of its opponent (UL Monroe) deserved.

The atmosphere is great…when people are there: Only 4,509 fans attended Thursday’s matchup, a far cry from the 6,188 on hand in 2013 against Princeton. With the stands only about 65 percent full Thursday, and only slightly more so on Saturday, it was a bit disheartening to see such a lowly number of supporters at the hyped event. Finals week and two uninspiring opponents may have contributed to the lesser turnout, but the point stands. Despite this, when the game tipped Thursday night it was immediately again clear that Rec Hall is an infinitely more exciting place to watch a basketball game. The crowd’s noise bounced off the rafters in a way not possible in the eerily quiet Jordan Center. The student section, despite its spelling challenges, was right on top of the action, and contributed in both victories.

Some season ticket holders were snubbed: While it’s true that Rec Hall’s seating arrangement for the most part puts you right on top of the action, some seats behind and to the corner of the basket are significantly removed from the court. Alas, several reports suggested that many season ticket holders, a group that tirelessly supports the Penn State basketball team (no small feat), were placed in those less desirable seats while single game tickets were closer to the area of play.

Penn State basketball is no stranger to ticketing snafus. Last year, in an exciting home matinee against Purdue, fans were turned away at the door despite hundreds — if not thousands — of empty seats in the upper deck.

Let’s get a big (or B1G) game at Rec Hall: I’m not entirely sure of the logistics or contractual television agreements between hosting a conference game at Rec Hall, but I’m all for it happening. Rec Hall can sit about 7,000, and a good turnout at the Jordan Center is around 6,500. There’s certainly enough room in the stands to host a conference game, and it would draw a great amount of excitement when one of the nation’s elite teams comes to town. If conference games aren’t possible, even hosting the annual Bucknell game or fellow in-state foe Duquesne would excite the folks more than the likes of Canisius and Louisiana Monroe.

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About the Author

Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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