The first time I went to The Citadel and McAlister Field House was a very memorable experience that I soon forgot.
I know that may not make much sense, but let me explain. It was two years ago almost to the day when I made the trip down to McAlister to watch Michigan State take on The Citadel. The place was packed and the Citadel's cadets were all riled up for a Big Ten foe. I grew up as a MSU fan and had copious amounts of alcohol in my system, so needless to say I was not on my best behavior and was being quite the drunken fool. I even got a "Guido!" chant from the crowd because at the time I had the hair fully gelled and slicked back for the game. It was a fun time and while I got my fair share of ribbing from the cadets, they were a great group and knew it was all in good fun; some even came up to me after the game for a congrats. I was interested to see how my experience would be this time around, minus beer and shots, when Coastal Carolina came to visit.
The drive was mostly smooth sailing as I got to leave work an hour early, hoping to arrive in Charleston to check out a few good restaurants before I hit up the game. A combination of rush hour traffic, construction, and one-way streets deterred my plans and it was probably for the better since I didn't really know where to park when I got to The Citadel campus. I pretty much took a driving tour of the entire campus in the dark to find out where to go, but I eventually made it to McAlister.
I bought my ticket and made my way to the concessions. I don't really care what they use to make hot dogs, all I know is I have to get one at every arena I go to. I was shocked to see the $4 price tag. This was the highest I'd seen all season, and it wasn't even that good (UNC-Wilmington is still the leader in the clubhouse). I was one of the first few to get to the arena and I saw a lot of familiar faces amongst the few that were already there as several CCU season ticket holders made the trip as I did. The seat I bought was general admission, so everyone was spread out a bit. Actually, after the place filled in towards the start of the game, the whole arena was spread out. There weren't too many cadets there other than the band, as I'm guessing a lot were prepping for upcoming finals.
I should also mention that the sound is terrible in McAlister when it is that empty -- the place is big, and the PA speakers are one giant echo. I really couldn't understand anything the announcer was saying the entire night, which really detracts from the whole experience.
As the game started I was expecting a hot start from the home team as is common, but that didn't come. The visiting Chanticleers controlled the game from the beginning and methodically started to stretch their lead. The Citadel had been relying heavily on their big man Mike Groselle for much of the season, and he had been averaging a double-double. Coastal wanted anyone else but Groselle to beat them as they applied a zone and were double- and triple-teaming him any time he touched the ball. The Bulldogs were unable to bust the zone on the other end as none of their 3's were falling in the early going. Meanwhile, the Chants were almost scoring at will with points in the paint as they cruised out to a 20 point lead at the half.
At halftime there was a weird competition where a bunch of the cadets had to decorate a golf cart in Christmas decorations to create their own float. Some were pretty bad with a few Christmas lights just hanging from the edges, which their fellow cadets would boo. Some were more creative with one having a reindeer on the roof, while another was a full sleigh with Santa and the Grinch in it. They also had The Citadel Bulldog in front of it "pulling" the sleigh (and by pulling I mean there was people pushing it in the back because I don't think the golf cart worked). While this odd competition was going on I also took the time to say hello to fellow 800GPer Ian McCormick.
As the 2nd half started I noticed the cadets in the band had taken an interest/disliking to CCU guard Anthony Raffa. Raffa is one of those guys that you love to have on your team, but you can see why opposing teams' fans dislike him. He's a Jersey kid that transfered from Albany a few years ago that has a lot of cockiness to him. I've seen several occasions where he'll smile or look at the opposing student section, or hit a 3 in front of the other team's bench and pose for a bit. He'll gamble at times on defense for the steal and is known for overacting on calls. He'll also loudly "WOOP! WOOP!" whenever he's open on offense and calling for the ball.
The instance that got the students started on him tonight was when there was a pileup on the floor, there was no ballboy to wipe up the sweat. Raffa got his own towel from the bench and threw them in the direction of a Citadel player as if to say "clean this up." Raffa ended up wiping the floor himself, but the cadets were irritated with it. They really got on him after the Bulldogs went on a mini-run after Raffa was swatted leading to a layup on the other end. While this could have swung the momentum of the game it didn't affect Raffa as he came out and scored 10 of Coastal's next 11 points en route to a career high 28 on the night to seal the game.
While I was an antagonist 2 years ago, it's not as if I had anything to do with MSU getting a victory that night. I was just a fan with a big mouth and too much booze in my system. Anthony Raffa may be an antagonist to opposing teams and while he was inconsistent last year with some poor decisions, he's backing everything up this year while leading the team in scoring and helping the Chants out to an 8-1 start.
COASTAL CAROLINA 80, at THE CITADEL 58 12/06/2011
COASTAL CAROLINA 8-1 (2-0) -- C. Smith 0-2 0-0 0; C. Gradnigo 4-15 4-4 12; A. Raffa 13-19 0-1 28; K. Greenwood 5-8 0-0 10; J. Pack 2-2 4-8 8; W. Gillis 4-5 0-0 8; D. Moore 3-3 0-0 8; S. McLaurin 1-3 0-0 2; B. Crawford 1-1 0-1 2; J. Griffin 0-3 0-0 0; B. Addey 1-1 0-1 2; C. Ashford 0-0 0-0 0; R. Berry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-60 8-15 80. THE CITADEL 2-6 (0-2) -- B. Smith 4-9 4-4 15; M. Groselle 4-12 0-0 8; D. Wright 4-8 0-1 10; P. Horgan 1-3 1-2 3; L. Miller 2-6 0-0 6; A. Moore 2-6 2-2 7; M. Harris III 1-3 0-0 2; C. Bray 1-1 1-2 4; B. Holston 0-1 0-0 0; C. Morabbi 1-4 1-2 3. Totals 20-53 9-13 58.
Three-point goals: CCU 4-11 (C. Gradnigo 0-3; A. Raffa 2-4; D. Moore 2-2; J. Griffin 0-1; W. Gillis 0-1), CITA 9-20 (C. Morabbi 0-2; B. Holston 0-1; B. Smith 3-5; D. Wright 2-2; C. Bray 1-1; M. Harris III 0-1; L. Miller 2-4; A. Moore 1-4); Rebounds: CCU 35 (J. Pack 8), CITA 21 (B. Smith 5); Assists: CCU 9 (A. Raffa 4), CITA 10 (M. Harris III 3); Total Fouls -- CCU 16, CITA 13; Fouled Out: CCU-None; CITA-None.