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Puerto Rico crowd welcomes Louisville, Minnesota

Puerto Rico crowd welcomes Louisville, Minnesota

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 15, 2014

They hung beneath canopies of palms and amid laundry drying on pegs. They were tucked into garages, crammed onto front porches or left teetering unsteadily on the villages’ dimpled streets. Some had the audience of construction workers. Others, horses.

Wherever you looked — from Aguadilla to Isabella — hung hoops of various sizes, some with nets, some without, some well-kept, others rusty.

Puerto Rico, it seems, loves basketball.

On Friday, the tropical U.S. territory laden with makeshift courts played host to the matchup that college basketball fans all across the mainland were watching: Minnesota vs. Louisville on national TV — the first college game of the fresh season.

“It’s a big deal,” Jeankarlo Lugo, an Aguadilla resident in attendance said. “Everybody has [a basketball hoop]. We’re very competitive in everything here on the island.”

Three hours before No. 8 Louisville beat Minnesota 81-68, helicopters baked in the early evening sun with temperatures approaching 90. Inside the concrete dome, another chopper and a cutter sat adjacent to each bench set up along the newly installed wooden floor.

By 7 p.m. local time, the sun had set behind the far set of bleachers as local fans in skirts, shorts and T-shirts, friends and families in team colors and uniformed members of the Coast Guard drifted in. Soon the crowd of approximately 1,400 hovered over the court, snapping pictures and cheering.

“Completely different,” seaman Adam Arnett said, surveying the airplane hangar, which was converted to a basketball venue in about 48 hours.

“I think it’s pretty awesome that they allowed the Coast Guard to show what we do around here, and just give us the opportunity to support college basketball around here.”

Some rooted for Louisville — Arnett claimed the Cardinals because he’d met more players in red and white when they came to tour the boat he helps crew a day earlier. Others, like Lugo’s wife, Mileixa, cheered for Minnesota.

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