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Mid-Major Madness Road Trip Part 1: Beers, burgers, and Bruno

The first game of our trip was a thriller in Providence

Brilliant iPhone photo, courtesy of me

I write to you tonight from a Holiday Inn Express in Warwick, Rhode Island, just over an hour after the Yale Bulldogs took down the Brown Bears in Providence, 75-74.

It was the first of four games in the Mid-Major Madness Road Trip, and I could not have asked for much more.

My friend Peter, of Sports Passport fame, took care of the driving duties from New York to Providence because I’m awful at that, and the ride east saw no real traffic problems — the occasional tap of the breaks, but nothing major.

Thanks to Twitter’s own Brian Doyle, we knew to check out the burgers at Ivy Tavern before heading over to the Pizzitola Center.

We ended up being a few minutes late to the game, but it was totally worth it.

Over a couple beers, Peter and I discussed the college basketball landscape, gawked at the sports memorabilia on the walls, and talked about the days to come. Then, out came the Goldenburger. This masterpiece was eight ounces of burger joy, topped with bacon, cheese, an onion ring, and barbecue sauce. It wasn’t the biggest burger I’ve ever had, but it was everything I could have hoped for. Well done, Ivy Tavern. Well done, Brian.

Then, it was off to the game. I was not expecting much from the Pizzitola Center, but tiny Ivy League facility is more than adequate for this Brown team. It only seats about 2,800, but the seats on the baseline opposite the benches have chair backs, which is more than I can say about other low-major gymnasiums. As the game wore on and it became clear that it would come down to the final minute, the intensity of the crowd grew. Brown doesn’t have a robust student section, but the group that was in attendance was rowdy, complete with taunts, foot stomps, and plenty of jumping.

Brown led by 12 at halftime, but gave up the lead almost immediately in the second half as the Bulldogs opened the frame with a 17-3 run. The two teams went back-and-forth with Steven Spieth (you may know his brother) and Miye Oni trading clutch baskets down the stretch.

This shot from Spieth tied the game with six seconds left:

On the next possession, however, Tavon Blackmon committed a foul far from the basket to put Yale’s Alex Copeland on the line. Copeland hit one of two to give the Bulldogs the lead. JR Hobbie for Brown missed what would have been the game-winner, and Yale escaped by one.

Day One Summary:

Distance traveled: 177 miles
Dunkin Donuts visited: 1. We hit one in the Bronx before starting the trip, but have the Mecca of the Dunkin planned for tomorrow.
Weird thing I learned: Brown’s cheers include “let’s go Bruno,” which is a nod to the school’s mascot. Their hashtag is even #GoBruno. Go figure.
Fun thing that gave a fan $5,000:A halfcourt shot during a timeout in the first half. I love when they go in!
Historical artifact: This is center court from the old Marvel Gymnasium, where Brown played from 1927 to 1989.

Up next: We’re hitting Dartmouth-Harvard tomorrow in Cambridge. It’s a 2 p.m. tip-off, but will visit the original Dunkin Donuts first in Quincy, Mass.

Game summary from sportspassport.com