Video: Taylor University's Silent Night tops itself yet again

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

(Read our 2011 story on the history of Taylor's proud, lovable, boisterous tradition. See the 2010 version here.)

For as long as basketball is played, this tradition will never get old.

Taylor University, an NAIA school in Upland, Ind., is known nationally for just one thing: college kids losing their damn minds while dressed like they just broke out of the loony bin. It's all because of their "Silent Night" tradition, the one-time-a-year celebration when the whole gym goes bonkers after total quiet from the crowd. The silence gets smashed to smithereens when Taylor scores its 10th point.

And for the fourth year in a row, Casey Coons, now a senior, was the one to do it. This guy is now a legend in that town. Best of all: He finally didn't break the mute on a foul shot. After three years of inaugurating the frenzy via the free-throw line, this time he broke the barrier in the best way: on a 3-pointer.

"It was a lot less nerve-wracking," Coons said of hitting the 3, adding that it was all only coincidence (mmhmm) that he was the lucky one to move the crowd in 2009, 2010, 2011 and again this year, for his last Silent Night game.

"The play truly came up naturally," he said. "We never talked about [who would get the chance] as a team. Some of the guys even joked about making sure I didn't touch the ball after getting to seven or eight points. It was just the right place at the right time."

Coons had an open look following a loose ball and let it fly when the team was up 8-0. The jamboree began with 17:12 left in the first half. Speaking of that, if you want another vantage point, former Taylor sports information director Eric Smith had this perspective. Absolutely hilarious. The students take full advantage of the lunacy that's encouraged -- once a timeout is inevitably called. You'll notice Coons actually runs off with the basketball. But it's not for the reason you might think. Watch the video first.

So, get the ball into the locker room for safe keeping right? Not exactly. It turns out the officials actually selected "one of our worst balls" as the official game ball Friday night, according to Coons. So at the first full timeout, the zebras let him take the ball and hustle into the locker room as switch it out for another. I suggested, since the ball's not all that great anyway, he might want to actually ask the school if he can have it for good right now and take it immediately as a memento. Four times in four years is pretty special, you know?

"I might run in there and sneak in there and snag it now," Coons said.

The other thing I wanted to know: How does the team react in the huddle and pre-game in the locker room when they've come back together after seeing how everyone looks and the costumes chosen?

"Every year there's always a huge buzz around campus, even the whole week building up to it," Coons said. "With it being such a small campus, the vast majoirty of people you see dressed up are people that you know. A lot of the guys give spoiler alerts leading up to it."

Taylor's victim this year -- the school always tends to take the Homecoming route and schedules an easy-to-beat opponent -- was Akron-Wayne. The Trojans finished with a 90-58 win. Coons had a team-high 21 points. The size of the gym also adds to the element; it's a squish for more than 2,500 people to get into the place, so the bandbox feels like a sweatbox -- and that adds to the bombast. Friday night's announced attendance was 2,717.

The party did not end on Coons' big 3. Get a load of the halftime entertainment. Again: everybody on the floor! Including ... wait, is that Donald Duck? YES IT IS.

This carnival of kooks has now caught on elsewhere, too. Illinois emulated it earlier in the year. The Illini's student section orchestrated the mimic of Taylor's tradition because new head coach John Groce is an alumnus of TU.

I loved this touch from the Taylor students this year: "silent applauding" before being allowed to lose their minds. The building was again packed to its max, and of course the line grew early.

And at the end, when it's all over, the students lock arms and sing the song the night's named after. It'd be cheesy if it weren't so uplifting.

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