Every team has been through tough times. Even the best ones like Duke lose home games, and it depends on how your team can get through these.
The College of Charleston, having to replace three seniors last season, including Andrew Goudelock, who is now in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, are one of the hardest teams to figure out. College basketball, for most teams except the top ten or fifteen schools, is a very fragile game. The Cougars are a good example of this.
At one point this year, the Cougars were 9-1. They could (and still can) compete with almost any team in the country. With 15 minutes to go, CofC led by eight points at what was the #4 team in the nation at the time. They lost by seven. After beating Coastal, they lost to George Mason and at Wofford, but won big at Furman.
Then, the season changed. Anthony Stitt, the Cougars freshman guard, who had just earned a starting spot, got hurt against UNCG. The Cougs lost the game. UNCG has won 5 straight since, while CofC has been in a tailspin. They lost to Davidson and Georgia Southern, and now had Furman, a team they hadn't lost to at CofC since 1953.
A smaller crowd than normal showed up for this game. Fans are starting to grow a little tired of the losing. Students showed up en masse, but some weren't in attendance because of a couple sorority events.
Thursdays have been a curse for the Cougars this month. Three out of their four conference losses have come on Thursday nights. This is bad news when your conference plays a mostly Thursday/Saturday schedule.
CofC got out to an early lead of 4-0. They were leading or were tied for most of the first ten minutes of the half. Furman, however took the lead at 19-18 at the 6:43 mark of the first half, and they never lost it. Furman kept running it, and with well-timed shots, quickly got out to a seven point lead. CofC cut it to four points near the end of the half, but Bryson Barnes's layup gave them a six point lead at the half.
This was not promising for the Cougs so far. However, a six-point deficit was doable. The dancers performed, the ball boys made a couple of half-court shots, and it was a good halftime show.
The beginning of the second half might have determined the game. Bryant Irwin made two huge 3s in the first 45 seconds of the half. This made a six-point deficit twelve, and David Brown's layup made it 41-27. CofC tried to cut the deficit back, and cut it to six in the last few minutes, but missed a barrage of threes at the end to lose by six points in a very tough game which took the Cougars down to 4-5 in the SoCon with Wofford on Saturday at home.
I am shortening my normal recap in order to give reflections on Bobby Cremins, the College's head coach, taking an indefinite leave of absence on Friday because of health problems. Mark Byington, who is a good coach in his own right. He has been in Charleston for nine seasons, including all six with Bobby Cremins. Cremins is a wonderful coach and person, and he is one of the most beloved figures in college basketball.
Cremins has taken the college in a very good direction. Before, when Tom Herrion was coach, the program was in a desperate time. Players were getting arrested; the fan base was eroding, and his teams weren't producing results, including a home loss to Towson his final year. The arena had been put off for several years, and fans were tired of his act.
He is always out in the community, walking around the downtown streets; building the program, going out to local schools to talk to students and motivate (something I experienced several times),
After a flirtation with Gregg Marshall, Cremins was hired, and he brought immediate dividends, making the SoCon tournament final his first year with none of his own recruits. For four of his last five seasons, the team has been in the hunt for the NCAA tournament, and this season with only one senior beat Clemson and Tennessee.
He basically built the TD Arena, bringing Charleston a feeling of big-time basketball it had not experienced since the glory days of John Kresse. He is also a great people person, bringing in recruits that probably would not have come to the College without a new arena. He also brought the Charleston Classic into town, a quickly growing early-season tournament which will involve the Cougars again next year.
I have gotten the opportunity to meet and talk to him a few times and he has always been gracious, talking to fans and in the one time when he visited my high school and spoke to the senior class (to motivate the football team the week of a big playoff game). Hopefully, he will come back in due time.
My next recap will be an important one, with the first game in a head coaching career for Coach Byington in a game against one of their team's biggest rivals.
FURMAN 69, at CHARLESTON 63 01/26/2012
FURMAN 10-10 (4-5) -- J. Loyd 2-7 2-4 6; B. Sebirumbi 5-10 5-8 15; B. Irwin 5-7 0-0 14; C. Reddick 4-8 3-4 12; B. Barnes 2-7 3-6 7; B. Austin 1-1 0-0 2; C. Reddick 4-8 0-1 8; C. Toler 1-5 0-0 2; D. Brown 1-3 0-0 2; D. Early 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 25-57 14-25 69. CHARLESTON 12-8 (4-5) -- A. Lawrence 4-15 5-6 15; T. Wiedeman 4-9 2-4 10; A. Wiggins 4-15 4-5 12; N. Johnson 2-3 2-2 7; A. Baru 2-5 2-3 6; M. Sundberg 3-7 1-2 7; T. Dixon 2-4 1-2 6; J. Scott 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 17-24 63.
Three-point goals: FURM 5-11 (B. Barnes 0-3; B. Irwin 4-5; C. Reddick 1-2; D. Brown 0-1), COFC 4-23 (A. Wiggins 0-4; M. Sundberg 0-3; A. Lawrence 2-10; N. Johnson 1-2; J. Scott 0-1; T. Wiedeman 0-1; T. Dixon 1-2); Rebounds: FURM 38 (B. Sebirumbi 9), COFC 32 (T. Wiedeman 11); Assists: FURM 8 (J. Loyd 2), COFC 9 (A. Lawrence 6); Total Fouls -- FURM 20, COFC 21; Fouled Out: FURM-C. Reddick; COFC-None.