Gazette Feature: Cage Returns To Its Glory - UMass Athletics

Gazette Feature: Cage Returns To Its Glory

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Check out Matt Vautour's story in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the Cage's return to glory.

The T-shirts and jerseys were summoned from the backs of closets and the bottoms of old drawers, called into duty for the first time in over a decade.

Among the crowd of 3,395 fans Saturday were T-shirts that read "Final Rage in the Cage," "Sweet Sixteen '92" or "Refuse to Lose." Other fans had old replica tank tops of Marcus Camby and Lou Roe.

Most didn't seem to fit quite as well as they probably did when they were purchased. But nostalgia trumped comfort. Heck, nostalgia trumped pretty much everything Saturday as the Minutemen moved back up the hill for one day.

Cage returns to its former glory at UMass

AMHERST

The T-shirts and jerseys were summoned from the backs of closets and the bottoms of old drawers, called into duty for the first time in over a decade.

Among the crowd of 3,395 fans Saturday were T-shirts that read "Final Rage in the Cage," "Sweet Sixteen '92" or "Refuse to Lose." Other fans had old replica tank tops of Marcus Camby and Lou Roe.

Most didn't seem to fit quite as well as they probably did when they were purchased. But nostalgia trumped comfort. Heck, nostalgia trumped pretty much everything Saturday as the Minutemen moved back up the hill for one day.

• Related stories: Minutemen hold on in first game at Cage since '93

Carter re-energized with vital role off the bench

Playing at the Cage was a success by any definition. A game against an 0-4 team with the students still gone for Thanksgiving likely would have played to an empty-feeling Mullins Center. Instead, the game felt like an event, something to circle on the calendar.

Without students, it was definitely an older crowd, certainly not as noisy as old times in the Cage when the students increased the decibel level. But when the game got a little tighter than expected late, the crowd got louder and helped will the Minutemen to 6-0.

The victory capped the perfect merging of the memories of the program's former glory with the Minutemen's upstart present.

The hoop band did its part to add to the atmosphere. The J. Giels Band's "Rage in the Cage," a staple of the ensemble's set list in the early 1990s, was dusted off before this season and returned to the rotation. They played the horn-heavy tune four different times to mark the occasion.

Even the UMass players, who were in elementary school the last time the Cage housed the Minutemen, appreciated the experience. "It was a great atmosphere. I had a lot of fun out there today," said senior guard Anthony Gurley. "In the small gym. It reminded me of high school playing back at Newton North."

Sean Carter agreed.

"I know there's a lot of history. Way before all of our time," he said. "With no students on campus all the community came out, which I really appreciated. People are starting to realize that we're putting a lot of hard work it. People are starting to recognize that we're winning games and working hard."

If they return to the Cage again, the school should build on the event's natural homecoming atmosphere. Perhaps a short scrimmage either before the game or at halftime among alumni players. The athletic department missed a chance for some easy revenue by not selling some commemorative T-shirts.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg hoped there would be a sequel. Even his team's late game sputter that made the win much closer than it should have been didn't dampen his enthusiasm for the event.

"That was unbelievable," Kellogg said. "That was one of the best days we've had in a long time. To walk out and see the place jam-packed, I think the fans were excited to be here. I've had more people calling and emailing wanting to come to the Cage game. It's something that's going to happen as long as the university and John McCutcheon is behind it."

McCutcheon, the athletic director, said the school would look into playing another game there next season.

"I think it worked out really, really well. At a time where there's no students it got extra attention and extra excitement. I think a lot of folks here are having some fond memories of some great experiences in here," he said. "We're not committed to having a game here every year, but we're not opposed to it either. We want to get our crowds so big that we can't have it over here."


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