I didn't have very high expectations when I decided to check out a Charleston Southern game. I had never been to CSU, but generally everything I had heard about the place was never positive. Granted, this was usually coming from many people associated with Coastal Carolina, a main rival, but I had never heard different from anyone else.
Charleston Southern is in North Charleston which isn't exactly where all the tourists are flocking to. Most people visiting go downtown into Charleston where the College of Charleston and The Citadel are located. My only previous encounter with North Charleston was to pick up someone from the jail, so not quite the best first impression.
I had known for some time that the smallest arena in D-1 was the CSU Field House, or the Buc Dome, depending on who you ask. I was already used to a tiny arena with the numerous games I had gone to over the years at CCU's Kimbel Arena and was interested to see how much smaller the place might be.
Gone from this new CSU team this year was the all time leading scorer, Jamarco Warren, who I had watched the better part of the last four years essentially have to carry CSU on his back. I had seen a bit of CSU against power schools Kansas State and Florida State this year, and while they hung around with the Wildcats for a while, they were put away in the end.
Visiting them was Erskine College from Due West, S.C. I didn't know Due West existed, so I was guessing that Erskine was a pretty tiny school. Upon doing a bit of research, I found that they were a D-II school that wasn't doing so well this year with a 1-6 record, and only winning three games last year. It was going to be my seventh and final Non-D1 matchup of the year, and it didn't seem like a Black Line Upset was going to be possible.
I made my way south after work to North Charleston, and I do appreciate the fact that CSU starts the home games normally at 7:30 p.m. on the weeknights, giving me plenty of time to make the two-hour drive down.
Charleston Southern is right off an exit of Hwy 26, so I was spared having to drive around clueless as to where the Field House was. It was easy to find and people were right in saying how small it is. When players were warming up, I think they had to make sure not to trip over the feet of the fans in the front row.
With it still being holiday break, there were no signs of the usual college atmosphere. There weren't any students that I could tell and there weren't even any stragglers in the band or cheer squad that appeared either. What did show up was a Hoops for Hope youth group from North Charleston. Some people may complain about these non D-I games and what the purpose of them might be, but if you can have these games and have the kids come out and have a great time, as these kids did, then I think it serves its purpose.
The down part to all of it may have been that everyone in attendance was going to see a huge blowout, but the Flying Fleet of Erskine had other ideas. While the Buccaneers started the game with a mini run, Erskine didn't fold easily. They were matching CSU with jump shots of their own to go along with well-executed backdoor cuts that were beating the Buc's pressure. Erskine managed a seven-point lead with about seven minutes to go in the half, while CSU was only staying in the game because of their size advantage and ability to clean up missed jumpers.
The Bucs pulled the game back towards the end of the first and into the early stages of the second half. You are almost always waiting for that "magical" run to start for the favorite over the underdog. That "magic" is usually spurred on by a coaching adjustment, as CSU stopped pressing and were forcing Erskine into bad shots late in the shot clock. That would lead to fast-break opportunities, along with the Bucs' Kelvin Martin finally deciding that he could just jump over everyone, as he was the best athlete on the floor. A tie game with 15 minutes to go turned ugly quick, as CSU fired up the exuberant youth group with dunks and layups.
Erskine played well for about 25 minutes, but CSU was too much for them in the end. The very young Buccaneers have some really talented freshmen, led by Arlon Harper and the diminutive Saah Nimley. They may not be the next Jamarco Warren, but they're a step in the right direction.
That's a two-point dunk shot! (the first I was able to capture this year!)
at CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 96, ERSKINE 69 12/28/2011
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 8-4 (2-0) -- A. Hymes 7-12 0-0 17; K. Martin 8-10 4-7 20; A. Harper 7-12 4-4 22; M. Muo 1-6 0-0 3; S. Nimley 4-9 1-2 12; S. Strickland 2-5 1-1 5; J. Sexton 5-8 1-2 14; C. Bowen 1-1 0-0 2; P. Gombwer 4-4 2-3 10; M. Deter 1-1 0-0 3; G. Dorleus 1-2 0-0 2; M. Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0; T. Odom 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 35-59 13-19 96.
Three-point goals: - , CHSO 13-26 (J. Sexton 3-4; M. Muo 1-5; M. Deter 1-1; T. Odom 1-1; S. Strickland 0-2; A. Harper 4-7; S. Nimley 3-6); Rebounds: , CHSO 36 (K. Martin 10); Assists: , CHSO 14 (S. Strickland 3); Total Fouls -- , CHSO 15; Fouled Out: -; CHSO-None.