The Citadel Bulldogs and the College of Charleston Cougars have been playing basketball for 110 years, and have been two of the biggest rivals in mid-major college basketball for years.
The schools are only 2 or so miles apart, and are so close that Citadel athletic department people often eat at local restaurants near the College of Charleston campus. They have had a strong relationship for many years. Until a few years ago, C of C cheerleaders cheered at Citadel football games. Some C of C students still take classes at the Citadel. Many C of C graduates go to The Citadel for graduate school.
Each team has its own strong fan base, even though College of Charleston has a stronger fan base in basketball, and has for many seasons. The Citadel have cut into it in the past few seasons. First under Ed Conroy, the Dogs brought what was a morbid program averaging just a few hundred a game to a team that won 20 games in 2008-09, and getting over 4,000 fans on a Thursday night against Furman.
Chuck Driesell, Lefty's son, replaced Conroy last year as Conroy headed to Tulane. After last year's team of seniors lost in the first round of the conference tournament, they were replaced by a large crop of freshmen. Eight of them dot the Bulldogs roster, and several of them contributed in the first few games.
This, however, was each team's first big conference test. For the first time ever, the College of Charleston and The Citadel played the first conference game of the season. The game was on the first day of December, and it was a historic night, as it was the first telecast of the College of Charleston's Cougar Sports Network, which airs on ESPN3.com and the local My Network station in Charleston. It was the first OTA telecast for the Cougars in over a decade. It was also the first game to have an 8pm tip in many years in Charleston.
For the first telecast, they had some hiccups, losing audio for a few minutes, but it came back eventually.
The atmosphere was great. Students packed the bleachers at TD Arena almost an hour before tipoff, and 20 minutes before the game the section was filled. The section was very loud all night, with their own signs and lots of cheers. The game sold out before tip-off, as a crowd of 5,101 packed TD Arena.
The game was a good one. The Cougars won by 19 points, but the game was much closer than indicated. CofC missed their first three shots, and were actually behind by four to the heavy underdogs from across town. However, the Cougars soon regained their shooting touch. They led by 8 at the half, and soon pulled away in the 2nd half, but it was a fight. Neither team underestimated the other.
Mike Groselle had 20 points and 19 rebounds, in his 7th straight double-double.
CofC has many contests in between media timeouts and at halftime. One of these was during a timeout in the 2nd half. They have a contest with Papa John's Pizza where they give out free pizzas to people who shoot the ball from a certain distance. It's 5 pizzas for a layup, 10 for a 3-pointer, and 20 for a half-court shot. A student decided to try a half-court shot to get 20 free pizzas.
He hit nothing but net on the half-court shot. The arena went crazy, Citadel and C of C fans. They all saluted his accomplishment, as he became the star of the night for his shot.
The game ended, and fans from both teams streamed out into the cold Charleston night to talk basketball and life. The arena cleared out easily, and both teams prepared for interesting Saturday games: The Citadel at Wofford, and the College of Charleston hosting Chattanooga.
This game answered some questions. But, there's a first time for everything in the Southern Conference. The freshmen players from The Citadel suffered their first taste of a tough SoCon road atmosphere tonight.
at CHARLESTON 83, THE CITADEL 64 12/01/2011
THE CITADEL 2-4 (0-1) -- T. Freeman 9-16 9-12 28; M. Groselle 7-17 6-6 20; B. Smith 5-11 0-0 10; D. Wright 3-11 1-2 7; C. Bray 4-7 2-2 10; A. Moore 4-9 0-0 10; L. Miller 2-7 0-0 5; B. Holston 0-1 0-0 0; M. Harris III 0-1 0-0 0; J. Robertson 1-1 0-0 2; P. Horgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-65 9-10 64. CHARLESTON 6-1 (1-0) -- A. Wiggins 9-19 1-2 20; T. Wiedeman 11-16 0-0 22; A. Lawrence 6-13 0-0 14; A. Stitt 4-11 0-2 10; J. Scott 1-3 0-0 2; M. Sundberg 2-4 0-0 6; A. Baru 3-5 1-1 7; J. Carlton 1-3 0-0 2; T. Dixon 0-0 0-0 0; N. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; P. Branin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-74 2-5 83.
Three-point goals: CITA 3-14 (D. Wright 0-2; C. Bray 0-1; L. Miller 1-6; A. Moore 2-5), COFC 7-28 (A. Wiggins 1-8; M. Sundberg 2-4; A. Lawrence 2-7; J. Carlton 0-1; J. Scott 0-2; T. Wiedeman 0-1; A. Stitt 2-5); Rebounds: CITA 37 (M. Groselle 19), COFC 32 (T. Wiedeman 10); Assists: CITA 13 (M. Harris III 4), COFC 12 (A. Lawrence 7); Total Fouls -- CITA 9, COFC 11; Fouled Out: CITA-None; COFC-None.