The Palestra has hosted the most college basketball games of any arena ever built in the United States.
The facility has housed 52 NCAA Tournament contests, countless big time high school contests and nearly every home University of Pennsylvania game since the building’s opening in 1927.
In addition, the city’s Big 5 schools descend on the facility for a series of games each winter that pit Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, Villanova and La Salle against each other for braggin’ rights the city and its fans do not take lightly.
Big 5 games at the Palestra are some of the hardest tickets to get in Philadelphia each winter
Countless legends have suited up on that hallowed, hardwood floor.
Wilt Chamblerlain. Jerry West. Oscar Robertson. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James.
The list goes on and on.
Fans can spend hours wandering the Palestra's hallowed halls
This sense of history and an awareness of the storied tradition was not lost on the 2016-17 George Mason University basketball team.
Riding a 6-game winning streak and an increasing level of confidence, the Patriots made the trip up I-95 in early December with a chance to leave their own mark on the famed arena.
Little did Mason fans know that the team’s Dec. 10 game against the Quakers would not only rewrite Patriot record books, but also feature a performance that’s been rarely matched inside the Cathedral of College Hoops.
The Green & Gold headed up I-95 a little earlier than usual for a Saturday game in the City of Brotherly Love. Head coach Dave Paulsen eagerly asked director of basketball operations Ted Rawlings, a Penn graduate and former employee in the Quaker Athletic Department, to schedule practice at the Palestra on Friday morning rather than on campus in Fairfax.
Rawlings, as outstanding a director of basketball operations as you’ll find in the game, is a Philadelphia man through and through. Paulsen often remarks that “nobody loves Philadelphia as much as Ted.”
Director of basketball operations Ted Rawlings (left) planned a memorable trip to the City of Brotherly Love for the Patriots.
So needless to say, Rawlings was up to the task.
He set up an extended practice for Mason inside the Palestra and made sure the Patriots got authentic cheesesteaks for their post-game meal on the bus (no Pat’s or Geno’s was to be found on the #MasonExpress).
The Patriots entered the arena at roughly noon and took time to marvel at the lovable quirks of the ancient building.
The 70 degree, aggressively steep tunnel from the concourse onto the playing floor.
The cracked, covered windows, arched skyward in a style more textile mill than Barclays Center.
The Patriots enjoyed a memorable Friday practice at the Palestra.
After changing into practice gear in the locker room – certainly a departure from the spaciousness and luxury of facilities modern – Mason student-athletes hit the floor for a memorable, albeit frigid practice in the drafty Palestra.
From there, the Patriots departed the University of Pennsylvania campus and arrived at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, which featured beautiful views of City Hall and the surrounding metropolis.
Mason enjoyed skyline views from the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown
The players watched film, ate dinner around 7 p.m. and retreated to their rooms for a good night’s sleep.
With tip scheduled for 1 p.m., another round of film breakdown was set for 10 a.m. Saturday, where the Patriots would go over defensive schemes and personnel reports. After breakfast, the team departed for the arena around 11 a.m.
Earlier that morning, a packed bus of Mason fans began the trek up to Philadelphia for the game, and a number of other alumni and fans in the area also purchased tickets.
#MasonNation represented inside the Palestra
#MasonNation always represents on the road, but this was one of the better turnouts of the year. In fact, the first topic Marquise Moore mentioned in the post-game press conference was his appreciation for the support the fans provided throughout the game and how thankful he was for their mobilization in Philly.
The game itself provided a number of twists and turns. The first half featured entertaining back-and-forth action, with the Patriots taking a 38-36 advantage into the break.
The second half was a different story. Much like the Green & Gold had done just three days earlier in Happy Valley, the Patriots dominated the second half. Mason held a 41-24 scoring advantage in the period and cruised to a 79-60 victory – the program’s seventh in a row.
As much as the actual victory continued to shape the narrative of Mason's turnaround season, the game itself will most likely be remembered for a once-in-a-program individual performance.
Marquise Moore put up a myriad of mind-boggling stat lines for a 6-2 guard over the course of the season.
But this one was something special.
The members of #MasonNation that managed to snatch up a halftime box score could sense the possibility.
To the casual fan, Moore’s first half didn’t warrant anything special. He was 3-of-7 from the field and had six points at intermission. But upon further review, the senior also had collected six rebounds and SIX assists.
Much like a no-hitter, the words “triple-double” aren’t usually mentioned during a game for fear of the dreaded announcer or fan jinx.
But there was that stat line and its enticing potential.