All teams have their games that they sleepwalk through, and they believe that a win will just come easy to them. Teams, often when a lesser game is sandwiched between two big ones, forget how important the game in between is.
For the College of Charleston, this was true. The Cougars had just beaten Tennessee, in front of a national audience on ESPN2, and then would be playing the top-five ranked Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday night in Louisville. However, before they could think about bigger games ahead, they had to focus on one of their closest rivals, Charleston Southern.
The Buccaneers have always been the "forgotten" team in the Lowcountry. While CofC basketball and Citadel football and basketball always get a couple of minutes of highlights on the local TV news every game and their own beat writers in the newspaper, CSU sometimes does not get highlights aired, especially on the road, and their writer usually just covers home games, and is freelancing after writing high school football articles.
With the smallest gym in D1, at less than 1,000 seats, their athletic department relies on being a sacrificial lamb for numerous big football programs. The Bucs football team finished 0-11 this year, and had one of the hardest schedules in FCS.
Their first three games were against Florida State, South Florida and UCF, to provide their Florida players (more than half of their roster) with games in their home state. They also lost by 12 on homecoming to Wesley College, a D-3 school in Dover, Del.
Their basketball program, however, has gotten much better. Coach Barclay Radabaugh has led the Bucs from being an afterthought in the Big South and not making the conference tournament to nearly beating Kansas State in the season opener this year. Their other two losses were to Wichita State and Florida State.
Their team is led by several freshmen, including guard Saah Nimley, who is a nimble 5-foot-7, and is one of their leading scorers.
The atmosphere favored the Bucs. The students, which were one of the main factors in Charleston's wins over Chattanooga and Tennessee, were mostly gone. About 50 of them remained, and other seats in the section were taken by some of the families of the professors. Also, a big holiday basketball tournament was in town at Porter-Gaud School.
Several of the teams went to the game, including a couple Christian schools. Some rooted for the College, but since Charleston Southern is a very conservative, Baptist school (they used to be called Baptist College), the Christian school players rooted for the Bucs, giving them an edge they wouldn't normally have.
The game turned out to be a game of runs. The Cougars burst out to a 5-0 start; CSU added six to give them a 6-5 lead.
CSU and CofC played a different type of game. While the Cougars went inside for layups, the Bucs shot a lot of three-pointers, and made them, keeping them close in the game. The Cougars got out to a seven-point first-half lead, but Charleston Southern came back, and they cut the CofC lead to only three points at the half, 34-31.
It was a turnover-filled game for the Cougars. They had 19 turnovers, while Charleston Southern had five the entire game. The turnovers that CofC had were turned into 28 Buccaneer points. This was the only reason that the Bucs stayed in the game. And stay in the game they did. The Bucs were down 10 about midway through the second half, but CSU kept cutting into the lead.
The lead was cut to seven. To five. To four. Kelvin Martin's layup with 1:44 left cut the deficit to two. The ending of this game was going to be hotly contested. All of the fans in attendance were on their feet. A few more Charleston Southern fans could be heard. Martin's layup with about 45 seconds left tied the game at 68.
Antwaine Wiggins tried a three. He missed. Trent Wiedeman fought for a rebound on the floor along with two CSU players. Wiedeman got it, then threw it to Wiggins, who slammed it with :10.2 left to give the Cougs a 70-68 lead. CSU called timeout, and set up their final play. A two would send it to overtime, and a three would give the Bucs a pretty improbable win after being down 12 in the second half.
Coach Radabaugh set up his play. It looked good. They crossed the timeline. But the defense was better. They swarmed through, and the pass to Saah Nimley, the 5-foot-7 freshman, was made, and he couldn't get close on a desperation three over the 6-foot-7 Wiggins. CofC escaped with a hard-fought two-point win.
Most fans applauded everyone for a good game, even in the student section which was less than half-filled because of exams. Each team now had a road test: CSU at Stetson and the College of Charleston at high-ranked Louisville.
at CHARLESTON 70, CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 68 12/17/2011
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 6-4 (2-0) -- K. Martin 8-16 0-2 16; A. Harper 7-15 0-2 18; S. Nimley 4-16 1-2 10; S. Strickland 0-8 0-0 0; M. Muo 5-11 0-0 15; C. Bowen 3-6 0-0 6; P. Gombwer 0-1 1-2 1; G. Dorleus 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-75 2-8 68. CHARLESTON 9-1 (2-0) -- A. Lawrence 6-11 1-2 14; A. Wiggins 7-14 1-2 18; A. Stitt 4-7 5-8 16; A. Baru 3-5 2-8 8; T. Wiedeman 1-4 2-2 4; M. Sundberg 1-3 1-2 4; J. Scott 2-4 1-2 6; J. Carlton 0-1 0-0 0; N. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 13-26 70.
Three-point goals: CHSO 10-25 (M. Muo 5-11; S. Strickland 0-1; A. Harper 4-8; S. Nimley 1-5), COFC 9-20 (A. Wiggins 3-6; M. Sundberg 1-1; A. Lawrence 1-5; N. Johnson 0-1; J. Scott 1-2; A. Stitt 3-5); Rebounds: CHSO 35 (P. Gombwer 10), COFC 42 (A. Wiggins 11); Assists: CHSO 13 (S. Nimley 6), COFC 13 (A. Lawrence 5); Total Fouls -- CHSO 22, COFC 13; Fouled Out: CHSO-M. Muo; COFC-None.