College of Charleston's campus is located in the middle of downtown Charleston, one of the most historic areas of South Carolina. C of C was established in 1770, and for its first 200 years was a small private school. But over the last 40 years, the campus has become home to a fast growing public university, the third largest in the state. But in downtown Charleston, growth is limited as spaces are very tight. While the Cougars get to play on campus at TD Arena, the outdoor sports teams have to play at an athletic complex at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, across the Cooper River from Charleston. There simply isn't enough space for those teams to have facilities on campus.
Charleston is a very good city to walk around. Everything in the downtown area is close by, and there are plenty of sidewalks and crosswalks to help get around the city once you are in it. Unfortunately, getting into it can be a problem. The streets of Charleston are very narrow, as they were constructed at a time where cars did not exist. This can be a problem in making traffic very dense and bottlenecked into tight spaces. Shortly after I got off Interstate 26 to head towards tonight's game, there was an ambulance parked in the road. The ambulance did not have the ability to pull off the road to better pick up its patient, as there are no driveways coming off Meeting Street. I had to get in another lane and constantly look over my shoulder, and once I could turn my head forward I saw that I was going through a red light.
At least that was not as bad as when I went to see the Cougars nab a RLU against Tennessee back in December. I had to park in the George Street Parking Garage, and spotted a space labeled for compact vehicles. I have a small car, so I tried to see if I could get in the space. And sure enough I got my car into the tight space. Unfortunately after the game, the angle I had to park in did not let me back out of the tight space, nor could I pull forward. I had to remove my right side rear view mirror and force the car out of the tight space once traffic had cleared from the garage.
So needless to say, parking is a big problem in Charleston. Whenever I head to TD/Carolina First/Something Bank Arena, I always make sure to get there early. I got to downtown Charleston around 6:30 even though the game was not until 8 PM. The streets around the arena are very narrow, and buses unloading next to the arena often make George Street a one-lane road that cannot handle two-way traffic. Fortunately, there were spaces available in a street lot at this time. I spent several minutes trying to straighten my car so I could have an easier time getting out. I was parked next to a bush, a softer object than the concrete barrier in the parking garage, but still a potential obstacle. Fortunately, as I was trying to park the car in the space in front of mine backed out, which enabled me to pull forward and be able to pull out straight after the game.
With parking taken care of, I headed to TD Arena to pick up my ticket. With doors not opening for another ten minutes, I looked for a place to eat. The King Street shopping district is less than two blocks from the arena, and has some places to eat. But my favorite place to eat there, the Ye Olde Sandwich and Ice Cream Shoppe, closed its downtown location last summer. So I headed north on King Street to find a new place. I saw a pizza pub as well as a Kickin' Chicken (a local sports bar chain that specializes in chicken), which both might have made sense if I had more time and more cash. But I managed to find a simple restaurant, the Pita Pit. I have never had a pita before, but I do like most sandwiches so I decided to give it a try. It was pretty decent, although the barbeque sauce was a bit too strong for my taste.
So now it was time to head to the game. The Cougars have been in a bit of a tight space of their own lately. After a great start where they appeared to be the best team in the state, C of C had a very rough January. The Cougars have faced injury problems, mostly recently to Trent Wiedeman. Head coach Bobby Cremins had to leave with problems due to exhaustion, leading to rumors of him possibly retiring in the near future. The Cougars came into tonight's game with a 6-7 SoCon record after appearing to be one of the favorites in the conference early on. It seems that the graduation of Andrew Goudelock has caught up with C of C later than expected.
College of Charleston's opponent was Western Carolina. The Catamounts have really been struggling as well, coming into tonight's game with a 4-8 SoCon record. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the season for WCU came when they beat tiny Toccoa Falls, 141-39. Since then, they have five of their last six coming into Charleston. Both teams would be looking for somebody to step up and help get a much-needed win.
The first half was very ugly. Neither team could attack the basket well, and had to depend on getting fouled and making free throws to generate offense. The Cougars got fouled more, but struggled to make free throws. The Catamounts had fewer free throws, but shot better, and led 28-24 at halftime. But sophomore Nori Johnson became an unlikely hero for the Cougars in the second half. Johnson hit big shots that helped the Cougars get the lead and hold it for most of the second half. The last charge by the Catamounts was held off by Andrew Lawrence, who was able to make his free throws which other Cougars struggled to do. College of Charleston held on to win 62-58, and gave the home fans a win for the first time in a while.
Downtown Charleston is a great place to visit, but it is an expensive place to visit often. It is a city that emphasizes its history, setting back the new modern arena behind a stone wall on Meeting Street so as to not take away from the historic buildings. But navigating tight spaces is difficult, and it is expensive. During the Charleston Classic, the parking garages charge their usual rates, which can be as much as $12. Ticket prices can often be $20 or $25, although it was $15 tonight. And that does not come with free concessions like Furman. Everything in downtown Charleston is expensive, which is why most middle-class neighborhoods are in the surrounding communities like Summerville, Goose Creek, James Island, and West Ashley. Yet the Cougars have been able to build up fan support with a large college that cares most about basketball. The atmosphere is very good, with the fans caring about the game more than at most places in South Carolina. And I am glad I can go there a few times a year. That can't be said as much for Kimbel Arena at Coastal Carolina, whose tight spaces inside the arena prevented me from being able to see my High Point Panthers upset the Chanticleers tonight. So a C of C game is a good experience to have, but a bit more expensive than at most schools below the Red Line.
at CHARLESTON 62, WESTERN CAROLINA 58 02/09/2012
WESTERN CAROLINA 10-16 (4-9) -- T. Sumler 5-11 0-0 11; B. Boggs 5-17 4-5 15; K. Cole 4-9 1-2 12; H. Mutombo 3-12 0-1 7; I. Hollis 2-6 0-0 4; P. Ross 1-3 0-0 2; T. King 2-6 1-2 5; K. Hall 1-2 0-0 2; T. Tankelewicz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-66 6-10 58. CHARLESTON 15-10 (7-7) -- A. Lawrence 2-12 7-8 12; A. Baru 1-8 7-15 9; N. Johnson 5-11 3-4 17; A. Wiggins 5-13 4-8 15; J. Carlton 1-6 0-0 2; J. Scott 1-5 1-2 4; M. Sundberg 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 16-59 22-37 62.
Three-point goals: WCU 6-20 (K. Cole 3-7; H. Mutombo 1-4; T. Sumler 1-2; B. Boggs 1-5; I. Hollis 0-2), COFC 8-24 (A. Wiggins 1-4; M. Sundberg 1-3; A. Lawrence 1-5; N. Johnson 4-8; J. Scott 1-4); Rebounds: WCU 38 (T. Sumler 7), COFC 46 (A. Baru 17); Assists: WCU 8 (K. Cole 2), COFC 9 (A. Lawrence 6); Total Fouls -- WCU 25, COFC 16; Fouled Out: WCU-I. Hollis; COFC-None.