College basketball is a game where there is a big difference in between the largest schools, mid-majors and tiny schools in the smallest D-1 conferences. This can be offset, by one of several factors. These factors include: shooting three-pointers, how you play on a certain night, and the loudness of your fans.
Wednesday night at TD Arena was one of the loudest environments I have experienced in any arena. CofC brought Tennessee in town, for the last year of a two-for-one. The Cougars beat the Vols last New Year's Eve, in one of the most memorable wins of the year.
As Ian McCormick said in his recap, the Lowcountry does a good job welcoming these teams in. CofC has hosted one each year in their new arena, and the atmosphere in each has been excellent. This year, Tennessee was the team that the Cougars hosted in their place.
Compared to the Chattanooga game, where the only difference was a shade of yellow, and only three local writers (one from Charleston and 2 from Chattanooga) came, press row was bustling for this game.
Several Vol beat writers and tweeters traveling from Knoxville sat up in the concourse. Four NBA scouts were in attendance, including former South Carolina coach George Felton scouting for the Spurs. TV cameras lined the sideline. ESPN2 covered the game, with Jon Sciambi and Adrian Branch on the call. The game was shown around the world on ESPN America and AFN.
Big-time referees did the game, including Mike Kitts, who had just worked the Kentucky-Indiana game four days prior.
The students showed up in full force. Even though exams had ended that day, and 30-40% (maybe more) of the student body had left campus, the student section was full more than 20 minutes before tip-off. Students were walking over others in order to get the best seats for game time.
The College's swim team squirmed into the front row, with one guy wearing a U.S. flag on his body and another the South Carolina flag (state pride). Several hundred Tennessee fans crowded the arena. With Charleston being such a big military town, and all of the transplants, almost every major Southern team has a presence.
Those fans were speckled around the arena. The game turned out to be a surprise in the first half. Tennessee was making their shots; the Cougars were not. It went much like their game against the Mocs. It didn't look like it was going to be like that game.
The Vols were up 28-15 going toward the later stages of the first half. The game looked like it was getting close to being out of reach. The Cougars, however went on a long run.
Many people thought the Cougs would win if they pulled it within five points at the half. The game was within four, at 37-33, a lead for the Vols. The arena came unglued. One of my friends on Twitter got a noise decibel reader on his iPhone, and he said it went up to 120 dB. Only five more decibels and pain would begin. Pain began for the Vols in the second half.
The Cougars treated it much as any other halftime, with the same promotions as every other game. Nobody won the contest for free laundry.
The second half was a tussle. Tennessee scored first on a dunk off of an unforced turnover by PG Andrew Lawrence. The lead was six. Fans thought, "Here we go again." The Cougars kept the game close through the first media timeout, with Tennessee leading 45-41 there.
After a steal by Antwaine Wiggins at the 13:25 mark, and a beautiful jumper that caused a foul that tied the game, the Cougars went on an 11-0 run. With nine minutes left, it was suddenly 56-47 Cougars. The place went crazy. Students were jumping all over each other. With the band not taking their spot behind the cheerleaders, all 1,000 seats were filled by students who were going crazy at every moment they could.
Even when the local TV cameras came on, the fans jumped up. The end was very exciting. The Volunteers cut what had been a 14-point deficit to only three, led by four 3-pointers. Tennessee was driving, down 69-65 to cut the deficit to two or perhaps even one in the final 45 seconds, when Jordan McRae was called for a charge. The game was pretty much iced from there, with a couple free throws.
The final was 71-65, and some of the students "rushed" the court. About half of the students stormed the court, but it wasn't a real court-storming like when the College beat North Carolina in 2010, when most of the lower deck stormed onto the court.
Here, it was only the students. Two of our local sports anchors did interviews with Wiggins and Coach Cremins on court after the game, but that's all they could get because of the quick 10-15 minute turnaround between the end of the game and the 11pm sports. People complained because this Tennessee team was now 3-6. The complaints were justified, because Tennessee had lost to Austin Peay the Saturday before.
The College had a lot to be proud of this night, however. They got two hours of nationally televised promotion; trended on Twitter worldwide, saw their team offense gel, shooting a third of the 3s that they had shot against Chattanooga, and they found their strengths inside. They also had their 17th sellout crowd at TD Arena. Next up: Charleston Southern.
at CHARLESTON 71, TENNESSEE 65 12/14/2011
TENNESSEE 3-6 (0-0) -- T. Golden 4-8 0-0 9; J. McRae 6-12 3-4 19; J. Maymon 4-6 1-2 9; J. Richardson 1-2 0-0 2; S. McBee 3-8 0-0 9; C. Tatum 1-6 0-0 2; K. Hall 1-1 0-0 2; D. Miller 6-8 0-0 13; R. Woolridge 0-5 0-0 0; Y. Makanjuola 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 4-6 65. CHARLESTON 8-1 (2-0) -- A. Wiggins 10-12 1-5 24; A. Lawrence 3-12 7-10 14; T. Wiedeman 3-7 2-6 8; A. Stitt 3-7 2-3 9; A. Baru 3-4 2-2 8; M. Sundberg 3-5 0-0 8; J. Scott 0-4 0-0 0; N. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-51 14-26 71.
Three-point goals: TENN 9-29 (C. Tatum 0-4; R. Woolridge 0-2; D. Miller 1-2; S. McBee 3-8; T. Golden 1-4; J. McRae 4-8; J. Richardson 0-1), COFC 7-15 (A. Wiggins 3-4; M. Sundberg 2-4; A. Lawrence 1-2; J. Scott 0-2; A. Stitt 1-3); Rebounds: TENN 33 (J. Maymon 8), COFC 24 (A. Wiggins 8); Assists: TENN 14 (T. Golden 5), COFC 13 (A. Lawrence 4); Total Fouls -- TENN 20, COFC 8; Fouled Out: TENN-None; COFC-None.