12/12/05 — Opinion - Another win in the 'Big Barn'

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Opinion - Another win in the 'Big Barn'

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on December 12, 2005 2:07 PM

Sometimes, you have to see and experience a venue in person to understand exactly how meaningful it is.

That appreciation happened to me the first time I walked into the Dean E. Smith Center as a youngster, then almost two decades later when I took in a game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The two are vastly unique venues to watch a basketball game, but both are oozing with history.

Saturday was another one of those days.

Reynolds Coliseum, the home of N.C. State basketball from 1949-1999, hosted the Wolfpack's annual "Heritage Game" on Saturday against Appalachian State.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off, I made sure to get to the venerable on-campus site in plenty of time to take in the scene. Reynolds didn't blow me away from the outside. Then again, I wasn't really expecting that. It's brick structure looks a lot like the rest of N.C. State's campus.

The inside is a different story.

I didn't go immediately to the media room, opting to take a full walk around the place.

The front lobby reminded me a lot of Cameron, except the trophy cases are now dedicated to the Kay Yow-coached Wolfpack women's team and N.C. State volleyball. Understandably so, because it's their house now.

Still, a rustic, bronze plaque dedicated to legendary coach Everett Case is on the left side of the front lobby, while a similar dedication to Wolfpack great, Ronnie Shavlik, lines the right wall. Stepping inside and glancing up, all of N.C. State's honored jerseys and championship banners from the men's program are gone and now hang in the RBC Center. Again, understandably so.

The floor level and top sides of the venue look a lot like Cameron and that makes sense. When Reynolds was under construction in 1948, the original 9,000-seat design was modeled after Duke's venue. The main difference is Reynolds is much deeper behind the baskets than Cameron, as Case eventually talked the powers-that-be into a 12,000-seat coliseum -- the premier indoor venue in the Southeast at the time.

But, the lack of men's banners and the "Wolfpack Women" label on the floor were about the only signs on Saturday that N.C. State's men no longer called the "Big Barn" home. It didn't take long to get that feeling that fans, both young and old, players and coaches and yes, the media, felt more than comfortable in Reynolds.

"I love coming back here. This is my favorite place to watch a game," one writer told me before the tip-off.

No, there weren't any high-tech player introductions before the game with red and white laser lights shooting in every direction. There are no instant replays after every basket. In fact, there are no replays at all. And, if you want the score of the game, you've got three places to find it -- on the over-hanging scoreboard and the two boards on the side walls. You can find the score in just about every nook-and-cranny of the RBC.

As someone who covers a lot of high school hoops, it was surprisingly-refreshing watching a college game that had somewhat of a prep-feel to it without all the modern technology college and pro fans have become accustomed.

The sound? One word: loud.

In a venue where there literally isn't a bad seat in the house, you could tell Pack fans -- especially the student section -- relished a game where they could be in tighter quarters and make a ton of noise. Also, it was almost like State's fight song was written especially to be played in Reynolds by the Pack's band. It simply sounded better.

As far as the game, State put five players in double figures led by sophomore Andrew Brackman's 16 and dominated in the second half with a 92-68 win over the over-matched Mountaineers of the Big South Conference. Over 7,000 people witnessed the 25th-ranked Wolfpack improve to 6-1 this year and 4-0 the last four years in Heritage Games.

"We felt the spirit of our old players in here, so we wanted to go out and show the tradition and thank them for what they've done," senior guard Tony Bethel said. "It's much louder in here. The young guys enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it too. I wish we can't play games more in here, because the number of seating. We love the RBC Center and that's our home, but this was our first home."

It was honestly my first chance to see State play this year, either live or on TV, and its deep mixture of experience and youth should have the Pack poised for a solid finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. As always, the games between the "Big Four" -- all in the current Top 25 -- look poised to be tightly-contested contests.

I agree with Bethel, it's just a shame none of those battles will be in Reynolds.