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Coach K and the IZOD Center. A different night in Jersey.

POSTED December 20, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Omar Calhoun played his first game of the season in UConn's loss to Jahlil Okafor and Duke Thursday night.

TORRINGTON: He’s a coach who has won nearly 1,000 games (993 to be exact) in his amazing 40-year career at the helm for the Duke Blue Devils men's basketball team.

He’s a guy who has thrown boatloads of players to the NBA and good citizens to the world over that same time frame.

Thursday night in the vast weirdness of the IZOD Center (more on that after), Coach K and his Blue Devils bedeviled the University of Connecticut Huskies by a 66-56 score before a crowd that gave the night an NCAA Tournament game type feel.

Jahlil Okafor, a player I hope you see him a few times on television while he is a college athlete because he will be in the NBA next year, and a very talented group of top notch players had just enough to get by a Huskies team that has a boatload of trouble finding any offense unless it comes from a guy named Boatright.

Ryan Boatright that is, the one man offensive machine who is simply begging for someone else to share the stat sheet in the column that matters most, scoring.

Coach K was terrific after the game when talking to the media, his passion for the game and his players has not dulled after four decades on the job.

Patrick Tiscia (our UConn men’s beat writer) and I took the drive down to the vast emptiness of the complex known as the Meadowlands.

It’s a place that just looks like something out of the “Land that Time Forgot”, complete with an unfinished mall, a blue and white wall that screams late ‘80’s culture and an indoor ski jump (yes, I said indoor ski jump) that was never completed but sits high above the area as you enter the main IZOD building.

Now, IZOD is a clothing company (I also was out of the loop on that one) so the male models that are pictured on either side of the sign kind of confused me. I thought maybe a fashion show was going on and we had the wrong place but no, we were in the correct location.

I remembering spending far too much time in the Meadowlands during my late teen and early 20s at the old Giants Stadium with my cousin Jack watching Pele’ and the Cosmos dazzle us with soccer.

On this trip though, there was this big shiny green building that looks like it has either aluminum foil or saran wrap around. Oh wait, that’s the new Giants Stadium but the New York Jets would be playing there this weekend as they continue the countdown to the day Rex Ryan is fired as head coach.

We found our way into what seemed to be an entrance at about 4:30 (for an 8 o’clock game, yeah we like to be early) and found that the place wasn’t really ready for us just yet. We got to Jersey and it wasn't open yet. Hate when that happens!

So, we waited as the bomb sniffing dog made its way around and the media line opened at about five.

From the day the schedule came out, this just seemed like a strange place to play such an important game.

Duke/UConn usually cries out for Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center but neither was available because Billy Joel may have playing his 1,00th straight sell out in Manhattan and Beyonce may have been doing her hair at Barclays.

Taking these trips to historic venues is about all that is left for UConn fans and writers. No American Athletic Conference foe is within driving distance like there used to be when the Huskies played in the Big East.

Last year, trips to the Garden and the Barclay were on the schedule. This is it for 2014/2015 though.

The IZOD, the XL Center, Webster Bank Arena and Gampel are the only local venues the men will play at this season.

Sorry, Patrick.

While the AAC Tournament will be played in Hartford, no regional NCAA Tournament games will be played in the area.

Have to say though, even though the place is somewhat dated and strange on the outside, the folks at the IZOD took very good care of us with quality seats in the hockey press box at center court.

Good spread, little chicken parm, little pasta, kielbasa and salad made for an early meal that lasted the night.

Little coffee for the late night ride and we were in good shape.

So while the night did not turn out the way the Huskies may have wanted, the game gave all those who attended (nearly 17,000) or watched on TV a great bang for their buck.

Too bad we won’t actually see any local NCAA Tournament games in March, December will have to do.

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