ARLINGTON, TX — Sometimes, the best way to tell what the atmosphere of a sports environment will be by observing how the ushers and security treat even the opposing fans.
I wandered down the steps trying to find the media room, worried as hell that I would get stopped just for wearing green, I immediately knew I was in good hands.
The sweet lady in the bowels of the College Park Center gave me detailed instructions, to go straight and it would be on my right, and if I saw a mens restroom, I had definitely gone too far.
If only she could have given the Mean Green directions on an easy victory over the pesky UT- Arlington Mavericks. More on the game later, though.
I have seen some people mention on Twitter that they thought the crowd was about a 50-50 split between Mavs and Mean Green fans, but to this biased/slanted/ reporter, it truly looked and sounded like it was a majority Mean Green crowd.
The Mean Green Maniacs packed multiple rows behind the UNT bench and stood the entire game just like they would at the Super Pit.
Ahhhhh, the Super Pit.
The Super Pit is a decent basketball arena, but I was truly shocked by how new the College Park Center felt, and even more surprised when I learned it’s actually ten years old. The Park Center makes the Super Pit feel one hundred years old with its updated video boards and pro-level second deck — even if those upper-level seats were curtained off.
Those fancy amenities don’t mean jack if you can’t win basketball games, and the Mean Green were coming in to beat a cross-town opponent, in what felt like a rivalry game during multiple stretches.
As the game got down to the wire late in the second half, a UTA fan in front of the press row was sitting on top of her seat, bellowing cheers as the Mavericks inched closer and closer to the Mean Green. Her enthusiasm and passion were replicated throughout the arena, with fans getting especially contentious as the refs started to play a major factor in the game.
The Mean Green were horrendous from the three-point line, only hitting 6 of their 24 attempts, a 25% clip that brought down their season average to 33.8%.
What they missed from the three-point line, they more than made up for on the offensive glass, pulling down 19 offensive rebounds.
Two plays that will get overlooked were offensive charges drawn by the Mean Green defense, with one incensing UTA head coach Greg Young so much he practically sprinted across the court at the refs, screaming and flailing his arms, and received in the technical in the process.
As the game down to the wire, the environment of the Park Center started to truly show its effect, with the smaller building producing a deafening roar every time a team scored. The Mavericks fans were not going to be outdone by the Mean Green fans who had traveled from Denton.
The arena exploded when Aaron Cash drove to the hoop and converted a layup to bring the Mavericks to within one point with nine seconds left, but the ever-heroic Tylor Perry — who had left the game with what UNT head coach Grant McCasland described to MGN after the game as an “ankle injury” — stepped up to the free throw line and knocked down his two shots.
The Mavericks tried to tie it with a Kyron Gibson three from the corner, but Mean Green guard Kai Huntsberry closed out well and forced an awkward shot from Gibson, which hit the side of the rim as time expired, and the Mean Green faithful celebrated loudly throughout the stadium.
The atmosphere the Mean Green fans brought to the arena is nothing new to anyone who has stepped foot in the Super Pit, but it is something that a the program needs to replicate throughout the season, especially when the program moves next season to the American Athletic Conference with more primetime games on ESPN.
Coach McCasland knows what it can do for his team overall.
“It was awesome to have our fans here,” Coach McCasland said. “That’s what championship teams do, they just find a way in close games, especially on the road in tough environments.”