Of all the incredible traditions in college basketball, Taylor University's annual "Silent Night" has to be one of the most original.
Pajama-clad students, faculty and alumni packed Odle Arena on Friday night for Taylor's home game against Ohio State-Marion. They remained dead silent until guard Casey Coons scored Taylor's 10th point at the free-throw line and then they erupted in confetti-filled mayhem for five straight minutes, as though the tiny NAIA Indiana school had just captured a national championship.
"Because of the uniqueness of no noise, there is a lot of pressure on our guys to get that 10th point," Taylor coach Paul Patterson said in a statement. "And then it gets to be kind of a normal basketball game in a great environment."
Taylor hosts the "Silent Night" game every year on the Friday before fall semester finals week begins. Students afterward attend a campus-wide Christmas party where they eat cookies, listen to the school president read a Christmas story, compete in gingerbread house and cookie-decorating competitions, and watch kids from the community tell Santa what gifts they want.
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Taylor sports information director Eric Smith said a former assistant coach concocted the idea for the Silent Night game more than two decades ago. The event was already an automatic sellout by the time Smith was a student at Taylor in the mid-to-late 1990s.
"It's become one of the premier events on our campus, probably the athletic department's biggest event from an overall attendance standpoint and a student interest standpoint," Smith said. "There are not many students that are left in the dorms that night. It's become one of the things you can't miss as a student."
In past years, students have arrived in costume and created a full nativity scene in a vacant spot behind one of the baskets. This year, several Taylor students hid inside a hastily constructed giant wooden box covered in wrapping paper and leapt out when Coons sank his free throw to get the all-important 10th point.
What surely made this year's Silent Night even more special for students was that Taylor blitzed Ohio State-Marion, 112-67. As the Trojans approached the 100-point mark, students motioned to each other to be quiet again and then erupted when the team eclipsed 100 just like they had at 10 points earlier in the night.
In the waning moments of the victory, the entire Taylor crowd stood and sang the Christmas song "Silent Night" unison.
(Thanks, College Hoops Journal)
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