The Cornell men’s and women’s basketball teams tipped off their seasons side by side along with the rest of the country, holding their very own Midnight Mania. It was the first time ever the women’s team was involved in the event. Despite featuring the women’s squad and new men’s head coach Steve Donahue, Newman Arena was not packed for the event.
“It was alright,” senior tri-captain Ray Mercedes commented. “I thought there were going to be more people. Only half the fieldhouse was full.”
Senior Breean Walas agreed. “I expected more people,” she said.
Friday night saw the Big Red Bear donning a skirt as well as a slew of games, prizes, and missed dunks in front of over a hundred rabid fans. The event also gave the fans their first look at two teams with many new faces, both on the court and on the sidelines.
Most conspicuous, of course, is Donahue, the new men’s head coach. He is joined by assistant Michael Burden, a former assistant at the University of Maine.
The first event involved a shoot-out in which three fans were selected from a random drawing to score a lay-up, a foul shot, a three-point shot and a halfcourt shot within 30 seconds. The contestants were shooting for two free airline tickets to anywhere in the United States.
Ballot–stuffing by the Big Red Pep Band resulted in one member’s name being called over five times. Other contestants included Alan Land and Chris Parin. Land came the closest to completing the task, reaching the halfcourt shot, but was unable to connect.
The dunk contest gave fans a chance to imitate Dr. J. Eight contestants dunked it out for the rights to an official Midnight Mania T-shirt. The winner, Ross “Pistol Pete,” threw down a one-handed reverse dunk from the sideline.
Asked if he could out–dunk “Pistol Pete,” senior tri-captain Ray Mercedes laughed and responded, “of course . . . easily.”
The teams were then introduced to raucous cheering.
“We appreciate everyone who came out,” Donahue said. “Hopefully when we show you we’re for real, we won’t have any empty seats. “
Both men’s and women’s teams played out a five–minute scrimmage. The women tied 6-6 while the men’s red team edged out the white team in a 9–8 thriller.
“I’m really proud of my team,” women’s head coach Marnie Dacko said. “I’m sure they’d rather be sleeping, because we have practice at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning.”
In the final event of the night, two fans (who had won a trivia challenge conducted earlier) attempted a three–quarters court shot to win a Land Rover. The first contestant, in spite of sporting a backwards UNC hat, barely got the ball past halfcourt.
The second contestant took his time at the line. Eyeing the rim over 50 feet away, he dribbled the ball a couple of times, took a few steps forward then launched the ball into flight. With a beautiful arc, the ball headed for the rim, only to be misdirected by a crosswind, falling harmlessly off the backboard. The Land Rover was sent away homeless.
According to Mercedes, give him 15 shots and the Land Rover would be his.
It was the first Midnight Mania for a number of freshmen on both teams, including Lauren Kilduff.
“It was pretty exciting, but a little different than the ones I’ve seen on T.V..,” Kilduff astutely noted. “I didn’t think anyone would be there.”
Her favorite part of the mania included introducing the team to the fans. “After six weeks of practice and drills, we are ready to go.”
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin