MILWAUKEE — In a matter of moments, Saturday’s basketball game between Providence and Marquette went from a Big East battle to a battle with a little beast.
With 11:23 left in the second half, a bat made its first appearance of many that wreaked havoc at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Repeatedly, officials stopped play while waiting for the bat to leave the court area. The second time it appeared, Providence forward Sidiki Johnson was nearly hit in the face and fell to the floor while trying to defend himself from the flying menace.
“I think everyone was scared the bat was going to bite them,” Marquette point guard Junior Cadougan said. “At one point we got so mad that everybody was throwing towels at the bat. We were all scared, even the refs were scared.”
In all, the game was delayed four times as the bat dive-bombed the court, fearlessly flying close to players, referees and fans. During one stoppage, the majority of players and coaches were on the court along with arena officials trying to throw towels and warm-up shirts at the bat. Providence coach Ed Cooley took that time to run around the court with his clipboard, trying to swat the bat out of the air.
At the under-eight-minute media timeout, Bradley Center officials decided to turn off all of the arena lights — including the main scoreboard and ribbon board — to coerce the bat to flee the court area. The Bradley Center DJ got creative and played Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as the arena looked like it was hosting a concert when fans took out their cellphones and swayed them like lighters.
After the lights were turned down, the bat — which already has a Twitter account — disappeared from the playing area.
Though the bat may have been funny to some, Marquette felt the constant stoppages killed its momentum. Up 58-42 following two Davante Gardner free throws, the Golden Eagles allowed Providence to go on a 6-0 run right after the bat’s first appearance, and eventually the Friars cut the lead to 61-55 with 7:36 to play.
Four minutes of clock time took nearly a half hour to complete.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Marquette guard Trent Lockett said. “It was almost frustrating because we felt like we had momentum, and every time we had a play going our way that dang bat came back. It’s definitely an experience and I have a story to tell now.”
Lockett credited Marquette coach Buzz Williams for ignoring the bat during the stoppages and focusing on the game. Williams wasn’t so sure he did his best coaching, however.
“I probably didn’t handle it right,” Williams said. “I’ve coached in a lot of bad gyms, but I’ve never seen a bat in a gym. It was kind of funny to begin with, but then it was like: Damn the bat, we have to win. There’s going to be a winner and a loser in the record book, and they aren’t going to put an asterisk (saying) there was a bat.
“I thought our kids handled it like kids initially. I thought we got back a little bit in a groove, but I don’t think we ever got back to where we were at.”
The Golden Eagles eventually took control of the game and regained a 16-point lead with 2:21 to play. They ended up winning, 81-71.
Clearly frustrated with his team’s performance, Providence coach Ed Cooley sat at the podium and quickly answered “no” when asked if there were any bright spots in the loss. The more he thought about the question, he eventually found one.
“There wasn’t one bright spot in the game other than Batman and Robin flying around the damn building,” Cooley said. “That actually was pretty funny. That was really comical. I think the officials were more afraid than anybody. It was a momentum breaker. I think Batman took their crowd out of the game a little bit. I think that helped us there.”