"Pack the Mac." This is the new slogan for The Citadel basketball team when they play at McAlister Field House. They've tried to get fans into the arena for many years now, and this year they have some new gimmicks. The arena has added some new touches this year, into one of the oldest arenas in the Southeast.
They have added a new PA announcer, as the old guy retired after 27 years at the mic, Sam Evans. He was known for his staccato voice, and he also did football and other Citadel events for most of these years. His most well-known moment was when The Citadel hosted Duke on the night of the Gulf War in 1991, and he announced that the war had begun.
Before the season, the Dogs had tryouts for a new PA announcer. Thirty people applied. They included several local radio personalities, including the morning guy at one of the local country music stations. A local high school baseball PA guy was selected, Jimmie Guyton.
The team has stumbled to a 2-5 start this year, losing their first two conference games at the College of Charleston and Wofford. They had a big challenge this night, playing Coastal Carolina, probably the best team The Citadel has played all season, along with Clemson. They have beaten LSU and Clemson on the season.
McAlister has a brand new court, a renovated locker room, and new VIP seats (over 50 of them), lining the court. Last year, new carpeting was put in, right next to the court to liven up the experience. The Citadel is one of the few courts in the country to have carpeting next to the court.
For the first game, it worked. They came within 900 fans of selling out (6,000) for Clemson. It is very tough to get the just over 2,000 cadets to go to basketball when it is not the most popular sport on campus. The biggest crowd before that was when they nearly beat Michigan State in 2009.
Until two or three years ago, it was the third-most popular sport on campus (behind football and baseball). The Citadel lost to Clemson, but fought hard for most of the first half. Then they faced minnow Florida Christian, and attendance went back down to about 800.
Tuesday nights are some of the hardest nights to get fans to the games. High school basketball is in full force around the Lowcountry, it's a school night, and The Citadel is not as popular as other teams, behind at least Clemson, College of Charleston, South Carolina, and maybe one or two others.
A crowd generously estimated at around 1,400 showed up at McAlister. I estimated maybe a thousand, perhaps less. About a hundred of those were Coastal fans, maybe more. There might have been 125 cadets. Coastal dominated the game from the beginning, getting out to a 23-point lead in the first half and leading big at halftime.
Several contests were held in order to excite the fans. Cadets and young kids were involved in most of them.
The Citadel has a contest every game where a cadet has a chance to win his class ring and Wendy's for the rest of the semester. Of course, the shot was not made tonight.
There was one during a media timeout in the 2nd half which was funny. Two kids had to put on oversized basketball shoes and jerseys, and run down to the left basket to see who would make their shot first. One little kid who was heavier than normal for his age was trying madly, and nearly ran into Coastal's huddle. He kept missing his shots while the other boy made his, and when he finished, he slipped on the court.
This was the embodiment of the Bulldogs' night. They lost 80-58, and were dominated in most phases of the game. Several fans had left; so many that we got home within 15 minutes of the final whistle. To be honest, this was one of the Dogs' hardest opponents so far.
Hopefully, the Dogs will get better before SoCon play, and the very young team (only one senior) will gel before the end of the year.
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.