Thursday night was a night which was laden with great finishes throughout college basketball. This included one at Charleston Southern just up the road which involved a 35-foot three-pointer to win for Liberty.
The College of Charleston's game was much different. The Cougars were banged up. That was an understatement. In addition to being without Willis Hall and Anthony Stitt, players who have been out much of the season, the Cougars had lost one of the best rebounders in the Southern Conference, Trent Wiedeman.
He had sprained his ankle in the last game against Appalachian State. The Cougs won that game, but Wiedeman had trouble healing up during practice earlier in the week. This was the first game he was out for in his CofC career, as he has played in every game of his career so far until Thursday night.
Western Carolina came in looking for an upset. This year, they are known for defeating Toccoa Falls by 102 points. They also blew out UNC-Asheville, the top team in the Big South, by 19. They were 4-8 in the conference going in.
Without Wiedeman, the task for the Cougars was much harder. This Thursday night game also was hurt somewhat by the small crowd. A crowd of only about 3,500 showed up at TD Arena, smaller than normal. It was tough to attract fans with a team that doesn't usually bring a lot of fans, on a weeknight.
Western didn't bring many fans, but one of them was very loud. He was the father of Preston Ross, one of Western's starters, and came all the way from Fayetteville, N.C., for this game. He was trying to rile up the student section by getting them excited and trying to get them to yell during CofC free throws, jumping up and down after every Western basket, and yelling at the students.
The game was the beginning of the Cougars' homecoming celebration. The homecoming theme is Charleston, Cougars, Cremins, Cougar Nation, obviously portraying to Bobby Cremins, CofC's coach who is out on a medical leave of absence.
Homecoming for basketball is a big deal for the College, since there is no football program at the school. Several events were planned for the weekend, including a Homecoming concert to close things out on Saturday night.
The basketball players, however, couldn't feed off the energy early in the first half. Six minutes into the game, CofC was down to Western 12-3, and most fans had the feeling of "here we go, again." The Cougars had not won a Thursday game since Dec. 22, a total of five straight Thursday losses. However, the short-handed Cougs answered, despite only playing seven the entire game.
They immediately came back with a 14-0 run, which gave them a 17-12 lead, led by several threes from Nori Johnson. It was a hard-fought battle throughout the first half. James Carlton blocked a shot, and then ran into the plexiglass advertisement board near the basket. He had to go to the locker room for a few minutes in the first half. Matt Sundberg had a lower-leg injury in the first half, and was out for the second half.
The Cougs were down four points at the half, 28-24. At the half, they did the promotion for this year's Homecoming Court. They will be named at halftime of the Davidson game.
The second half was very exciting. Neither team had a lead of more than five points, and that was at the end when CofC was trying to stretch out the lead. It wasn't as if the teams were exchanging shots left and right. The Cougars only made 16 field goals on the night, but made 22 free throws, which gave them the advantage they needed. CofC pulled it out in the end, winning by four, 62-58, in an important, gutty win.
Now the Cougars had to string it together and get ready for Saturday afternoon against Davidson.
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.