South Carolina State University and Gardner-Webb University are two very different mid-major schools. Gardner-Webb is a predominantly white Southern Baptist school in North Carolina, and SC State is South Carolina's lone state-supported historically black college or university (HBCU). Tonight, these two schools would come together to meet on the basketball court in SC State's Smith-Hammmond-Middleton Memorial Center. The arena is named for the three students who were shot and killed in 1968 while protesting the segregation of a bowling alley in Orangeburg. This incident is widely known as the Orangeburg Massacre. It is nice to see an arena name that serves as a historical memorial rather than a corporate sponsorship.
Gardner-Webb and SC State, despite wide cultural differences, are very much on par with each other on the basketball court. All too often we see at this time of year mid-majors bypassing the chance to play each other. While the schools are only about 100 miles apart, geography is often not used in making schedules at the Division I level. Given the differences in the background of each school, they have little tradition of facing each other. Most colleges prefer to schedule schools that share similar cultural backgrounds as well as games that make money. Most small Christian schools for example prefer to only play other small Christian schools. For many HBCUs like SC State, they prefer to play other HBCUs who they have traditional and cultural ties to. This is why of the 25 HBCUs who play Division I basketball, only Tennessee State and Chicago State play in conferences not made up of other HBCUs.
Of course a notable exception to this comes from guarantee games, where HBCUs help fund their athletic programs (particularly football) by playing the local power conference school. In internet forums, many fans of MEAC and SWAC schools feel that this brings down their record and hurts them in comparison to other mid-major conferences. The MEAC and SWAC are often in Conference RPI behind every Division I conference. But is the basketball that is played here really that far behind the rest of Our Game? Games like this one tonight between the two different Bulldogs could serve as a measuring stick in comparing the MEAC and the Big South.
Before the men's game started, the SC State women played another Big South opponent in Presbyterian. The SC State women go by the traditional moniker of "Lady Bulldogs". The SCSU PA announcer would then refer to Presbyterian as the "Lady Blue Hose" before catching his mistake and correcting himself. The PC women, like their men, are simply just the Blue Hose. More schools are catching on and finding gender specific names for women to be demeaning. Why can't a woman be a Bulldog rather than a Lady Bulldog? While many schools have noted this, SC State and many of their MEAC counterparts adhere to tradition and refer to their women's team either with the prefix of Lady (team name) or the suffix of (team name)ettes. Eventually the SC State announcer gave up and referred to the Blue Hose as simply Presbyterian.
SC State, like many HBCUs, is well known for their marching band. The Marching 101 as they are known usually performs at basketball games, but missed the game as they were performing at the the Bulldogs' football game at Savannah State that afternoon. The cheerleaders were also absent for much of the evening, but arrived at halftime along with the football players who cheered on their fellow student-athletes.
Both games would prove to be competitive. The women came up just short against Presbyterian, and the men's game would also be a back and forth contest. SC State had many chances to pull away from their fellow Bulldogs, but poor shooting especially at the free throw line kept Gardner-Webb in the game most of the way through. But SC State got hot when it counted and scored 22 points in the final three and a half minutes to pull out to a 73-68 win. While this was at home against a team that has not fared well in recent years in the Big South, any out of conference win against a Division I foe is an important win for the MEAC.
But what is also important is the ability college basketball has to bring people from different backgrounds together. This is much in the spirit of the Olympics in bringing together people from different cultures, and even when the teams are only 100 miles apart they can still be quite unique and put on a good basketball game when they meet.
at SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 73, GARDNER-WEBB 68 11/19/2011
GARDNER-WEBB 2-2 (0-0) -- M. Landis 6-11 2-3 18; S. Johnson 2-9 0-1 4; J. Dawson 4-13 2-2 12; L. Buggs 3-7 0-2 6; K. Hartley 3-6 1-3 9; T. Strange 1-4 0-0 3; M. Byron 2-4 1-2 5; S. Butler 1-2 1-1 3; T. Newsome 2-5 1-2 6; D. Harper 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-63 8-16 68. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 3-1 (0-0) -- P. Bell 5-10 5-8 15; K. Toombs 5-10 10-13 21; A. Martin 3-6 8-11 16; D. Joint 2-8 1-2 7; S. Barber 2-6 2-3 6; J. Ikhinmwin 3-9 1-2 7; D. Wooten 0-0 0-1 0; L. Radovic 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 20-51 28-42 73.
Three-point goals: GWB 10-26 (J. Dawson 2-7; T. Newsome 1-4; D. Harper 0-1; T. Strange 1-3; M. Landis 4-7; K. Hartley 2-4), SCST 5-17 (K. Toombs 1-3; S. Barber 0-3; P. Bell 0-1; D. Joint 2-6; A. Martin 2-4); Rebounds: GWB 37 (S. Johnson 11), SCST 37 (K. Toombs 9); Assists: GWB 11 (T. Strange 4), SCST 9 (K. Toombs 3); Total Fouls -- GWB 31, SCST 16; Fouled Out: GWB-L. Buggs; SCST-None.