The College of Charleston had one of their toughest losses in years on Thursday night. They lost to UNCG, a team that won two games prior to this weekend. They lost by seven, and lost one of their freshman guards, Anthony Stitt for six weeks. Now, they were at 3-2 in the league, two games behind Davidson, and in third in the division, when only the top two teams get a bye.
This was troubling for many fans, who thought it would be an easy win. The Cougars couldn't focus on the bad loss for long though. After losing late Thursday night, they played Saturday night against the Elon Phoenix.
The College of Charleston and Elon have had a rivalry going for several seasons. The schools couldn't be more unlike each other. CofC is the large, public university in a major city with most students from SC or the Northeast, while Elon is a small private school (5,000 students, but was below 4,000 and non-D1 till the late 90s) that has lots of well-heeled students, mostly from NC, but others are spread across the country.
Their basketball rivalry has been heated. CofC played Elon in its last year in Division II (when CofC made the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament), and was losing in the first half before winning by only nine.
In January of 2009, Elon limited CofC to just eight points in the first half at home, including just two for the first 18 minutes of the half! If the Cougars hadn't gone on a 6-2 run at the end of that half, they would have had the lowest ever scoring output for a half in the shot clock era. CofC lost by seven. In 2008-09, they lost to Elon on the road in double OT, and they also forced them out of the conference tournament in 2007-08.
But Elon's baseball rivalries, especially with the Cougars, are just as good. Monte Lee, CofC's baseball coach, was interviewed on their radio network at halftime, causing a connection. College baseball in the Charleston area is probably bigger than any other place in the nation.
South Carolina (two-time defending national champions) and Clemson have state-wide followings. They are playing one game in early March at Riley Park (the minor league baseball stadium here), and several local columnists have said that it will be the toughest sports ticket in Charleston sports history (tougher than the Ryder Cup and this year's PGA Championship).
The Citadel and Charleston Southern are big also. CofC also has a big following, producing New York Yankees OF Brett Gardner and several other pros. Last year, when South Carolina went to CofC to play, people were actually SCALPING tickets to get in.
All of these teams' home games have highlights shown on the local news. The Southern Conference baseball tournament is a big deal here (usually held in Charleston or Greenville), and it usually gets capacity crowds. In 2008, CofC lost to Elon in the championship.
In 2010, in the SoCon Tournament, one of the wackiest games in state history occurred. The Citadel played the Phoenix in a winner's bracket game in front of a crowd of almost 3,500. Elon was up 2-1 going into the ninth inning. The Dogs were stuck in a rut. They scored two runs in the top of the ninth, but not before a huge brawl ensued, as a Citadel player ran over Elon's catcher. Elon's starting QB at the time, Scott Riddle, initiated the fight. Several players threw punches, and The Citadel's head coach separated his shoulder.
Last season, Elon played one of the longest games in college baseball history. The game lasted twenty innings, coincidentally on the same night that a Phillies game went nineteen innings. Western Carolina won 10-7, in a game that started at 5pm, and didn't end till past 11:30 at night. Thousands of fans were there to watch the College play Georgia Southern after the Elon game. Few stayed.
CofC had to start their game against Georgia Southern at 12:30 in the morning. The Cougs lost in a game that didn't end until after 3 in the morning, then had to play again later that day against Elon at 1pm. CofC eliminated Elon that day, causing the tourney favorites to miss out on an NCAA bid.
Now, back to basketball. CofC and Elon played a very good game, but CofC got out to an early lead, holding Elon to just seven points in the first 14:28, which was very important for their psyche. Elon tried to cut the lead under double digits, but CofC had a ten-point lead at halftime. Most fans were delighted, except for the couple of dozen Elon fans.
At halftime, the college honored the 25th anniversary of the college's business school. Mayor Joe Riley, Governor Nikki Haley, and Head Coach Bobby Cremins all had recorded messages talking about how important the business school is to the college. Several alumni of the business school also came out.
This replaced the normal dance team performance. The dance team, nationally recognized, was competing in Orlando.
Elon could never cut it closer than the ten-point margin it had at halftime. The lead got out to as much as 25 before Coach Cremins put in his bench players, who had not played that much this year. Pat Branin, a fan favorite, made a shot, and it was one of the loudest ovations of the night. Even though in the 2nd half, many people's attention was on the Saints-49ers game, the fans were still loud and the student section was about 90%-95% full.
CofC ended with a big win, 63-44, with both Trent Wiedeman and Adjehi Baru having their best games of the season. This started a new home winning streak. Winning cures your ills. This rivalry though will be one that will continue for years to come.
at CHARLESTON 63, ELON 44 01/14/2012
ELON 8-8 (3-2) -- S. Koch 1-11 0-0 2; L. Troutman 4-12 1-4 9; J. Isenbarger 2-7 3-3 7; A. Hamilton 2-8 2-2 7; R. Beaumont 0-7 1-2 1; B. Ervin 2-7 0-0 5; D. Spradlin 1-5 0-0 3; K. Blake 2-4 2-2 6; R. Winters 1-1 0-0 2; E. Edomwonyi 0-4 0-0 0; J. Bonney 1-1 0-0 2; R. Dugas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-67 9-13 44. CHARLESTON 12-5 (4-2) -- A. Wiggins 6-15 0-0 13; A. Lawrence 3-7 1-4 8; A. Baru 6-11 6-9 18; T. Wiedeman 4-6 2-4 10; J. Scott 1-5 0-0 3; N. Johnson 2-4 0-0 6; M. Sundberg 1-6 0-0 3; T. Dixon 0-4 0-0 0; J. Carlton 0-1 0-0 0; P. Branin 1-1 0-0 2; B. Benton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 9-17 63.
Three-point goals: ELON 3-22 (D. Spradlin 1-2; B. Ervin 1-5; R. Beaumont 0-2; J. Isenbarger 0-3; S. Koch 0-6; A. Hamilton 1-3; K. Blake 0-1), COFC 6-24 (A. Wiggins 1-5; M. Sundberg 1-4; A. Lawrence 1-5; N. Johnson 2-4; J. Scott 1-4; T. Wiedeman 0-1; T. Dixon 0-1); Rebounds: ELON 34 (B. Ervin 6), COFC 53 (T. Wiedeman 17); Assists: ELON 3 (A. Hamilton 2), COFC 13 (A. Lawrence 7); Total Fouls -- ELON 18, COFC 18; Fouled Out: ELON-None; COFC-None.