A dark hallway underneath the University of Dayton Arena. Two players are seen standing face-to-face, backlit by the arena floor lights.
Player in blue and silver Hampton uniform: You ready to do this?
Player in white and green Manhattan uniform: Let's make it happen.
A manshake is made; a thunderclap and flash of lightning happen in the hallway, as both players are blown back against opposite walls. After slowly recovering to their feet, they take a long look at each other, sizing each other up.
They jog out to the floor.
Ashton Pankey and Quinton Chievous' body swap has been completed.
That's sure as hell what this game felt like.
Coming into this game, Quinton Chievous had posted five double-doubles on the season and had scored more than 15 points six times. In 33 games. In the surface, that looks like a guy who is a threat to be a presence on the block, but isn't about to really take over a game.
Except today, Chievous had 11 points and 10 rebounds. At halftime.
Again, Chievous had posted his seventh double-double in 34 games by the time everyone was making their second run for nachos.
Deron Powers, coming into this game, had been averaging 15 points, three rebounds and four assists per game since returning to the Pirate lineup in early February. At the half, he had five points and six assists, which means he was well on his way to his first double-double of the season and one assist away from seven for the third time all year.
Who is this team?
What the hell happened to Manhattan, a team that, at least on paper, is far and away the better team? Well, any team becomes flawed when they can't stay out of foul trouble. In a span of one minute of game time, Emmy Andujar, Ashton Pankey and Tyler Wilson had all picked up their second foul.
It should come as no shock that Manhattan trailed by seven, 38-31, at the half when you realize that their two leading scorers had combined for almost as many fouls (4) as points (5). Also, the rim appeared to shrink on their end of the court. The Jaspers managed to hit only 11 of their 33 field goal attempts in the half.
Pankey, specifically, was just out of control all night. Early on in the second half, things looked worrisome as he went up for a dunk - one of many close range shot attempts for him in the game - and was blocked to the ground and right onto his tailbone by Emmanuel Okoroba, then out of the game to the bench.
He wasn't playing well before then, and it only got worse from there. Pankey was hesitant, a step slow, and would return only to leave a few minutes later with his third foul, and again a few minutes after that with his fourth.
This game actually could have gotten even uglier had Chievous not rolled his ankle twice and needed regular periods of rest and/or being un-involved in the offense down the stretch.
Then the frustration started setting in.
The Manhattan Jaspers somehow, someway managed a grand total of four turnovers and scored zero points over a three and a half minute span down the stretch. Their fantastic press defense kept them in the game and strung things out a bit, but a pair of late free throws from Brian Darden sealed the deal for the Pirates.
Hampton had one player all season (Dwight Meikle) who averaged in double figures scoring. He didn't play tonight, and they still finished with three players posting more than 12 points. Meanwhile, Shane Richards needed every shot he could muster to wind up with 17 wholly meaningless points.
Hampton will now officially be the team that heads to the slaughter against Kentucky.