Less than a week into the season, I began to make plans for attending my first games of the season. So I sent Kyle a message using The Form to get my Bally Club password that I had forgotten from when the Bally Club message board was first started. Kyle got back to me fairly quickly, which was good because at the time I did not know that you had to add a game to the wishlist in advance of recapping it. I had thought that the wishlist/"I Will" list people were talking about had to do with figuring out who was covering which game. Fortunately, I was able to get this taken care of and added my first game at the Citadel several hours before tip-off.
I then soon after added the Charleston Classic games I went to the following day, and planned for the rest of the season. Earlier when I had down time from my internship I plotted the upcoming basketball season and what games I would attend at all levels. For the Division I games I looked at StatSheet's daily scoreboard, which allowed me to look at what games are available by state each day. From this plan, I put an initial total of 41 games on my "I Will" list.
A few times this season I have added a game not initially on my "I Will" list. When visiting family in North Carolina, I initially expected to attend a local high school American-style football playoff game. But earlier that afternoon I decided visiting historic Reynolds Coliseum for a NC State-Elon game would be a better thing to do, and added that game. In December I had expected to attend a junior college game as part of my internship, but I had already completed its requirements by that time which freed me to go to a game at Wofford. And like everybody else, I had to wait until later in the season to add a BracketBuster game. As I mentioned in my previous recap, I had considered Charleston Southern until I saw that Matt Cayuela would be covering it. As a result, it would be more beneficial to the 800 Games Project to go to Gardner-Webb instead.
Only one game that was on my original "I Will" list did I remove later from my schedule. That was a game between UNC Greensboro and Furman that was originally scheduled for noon. But Furman moved the game up to 3 PM for the SoCon Network broadcast, which conflicted with a game at 6 PM where my grad school South Carolina would face top-ranked Kentucky. So I removed the game from my "I Will" list, which would prevent an assignment from being missed and free someone else to potentially take the game (which nobody did). I hated missing Furman, especially after the great time I had a couple days earlier. So to replace that missed game, I chose an extra game at SC State tonight rather than a local junior college game like I had planned.
And yet despite although this time devoted to the project and planning it, I am not doing as much as Kyle ever did. For that matter, going into tonight's game there were two others with more recaps than myself. This shows that while some people I know think I am crazy, there are others who have the same interests I do, which has made this project fun. There are times where school and volunteer duties conflict with being able to go to a game, but not much lately as I am still in the process of looking full-time job. I still schedule weekends around team loyalties, and will pick a non-Division I or high school game if it would be too expensive or out of the way to attend a Division I game. I also do not attend a game if it appears unlikely I will be able to see it in its entirety. I had considered going to a Gardner-Webb game after a game at Winthrop, but I thought it would be too much of a stretch to make a 7:30 tip-off when my game ended at 6:15 PM. It is over 60 miles to Gardner-Webb from Winthrop, so I decided it would be best to not try to rush to a game. When I am statistically tracking a game, I like to be able to do it from the start.
So I picked this game at S.C. State, and saw that Matt Cayuela was already planning on being there. While I wanted to get a game in that nobody else would be covering so we can get to 800 games, I began to look forward to this. I have encouraged us all to go to more games at HBCUs, and I was looking forward to reading another perspective on SC State basketball. But late in the women's game, I received a tweet from Matt saying that he was not able to make it to the game out of work. So even when another game is covered, it still often works out to attend the game as well. You can either have a great 800GP meetup, or help cover for somebody if they can't make it.
Tonight was Greek Night at SC State, which ensured a quality atmosphere with fraternities and sororities performing their stepping shows at halftime. But few Bulldog fans made it for the majority of the women's game that tipped off at 5:30 PM. Even much of the Marching 101 was missing until late in the first half of that game. The women's team of Florida A&M was able to take advantage of the weakened home court advantage and storm out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half. The SCSU women played much better in the second half as fans began to arrive for the men's game, but could not come all the way back from an 18 point deficit. FAMU clinched the game in bizarre fashion: the SCSU women had the ball with ten seconds to play and down four, but turned the ball over when a Bulldog running after a pass from a teammate collided with a referee. FAMU likely would have won anyway, but you don't want to lose the ball when an official gets in your way.
The men's game also figured to be tough for the Bulldogs. SCSU had lost all 12 MEAC games entering today's contest. SC State has only been averaging 1,000 fans per game, a number mostly carried through student support as community support for Bulldog basketball has been lacking with the team's decline in performance. SC State would look to be competitive in this one, and led most of the first half. The Greek step teams performed, and some students left after the halftime festivities (although I have seen worse).
After leading by five at halftime, SC State quickly gave up the lead in the second half. It looked for a moment that FAMU would then cruise to an easy victory. But SC State caught back up again, and the lead went back and forth in the last few minutes. The Bulldogs were up one with less than 30 seconds left when they hoisted a three that was missed. After several missed putbacks and offensive rebounds, eventually FAMU had to resort to fouling. But SC State missed the front end of the bonus, giving the Rattlers another chance. A 3-pointer with five seconds left would be missed by the Rattlers. But all game long SC State had missed on getting back defensively, and this allowed for a Rattler to glide in with the rebound and put in a layup that gave FAMU an 83-82 lead with a second left. All SCSU could do was throw up a wild shot that went off the scoreboard overhead, and the Bulldogs had lost another game. While I have no rooting interest in SCSU, I felt bad seeing the closest mid-major to me lose a heartbreaker that denied its first conference victory.
Hopefully while the Bulldogs came up short today at the end, our project will prevail at the end with 800 games. Planning is part of the process, and is why we must put our assignments on the "I Will" list in advance. Not counting the postseason games, I am likely going to attend Wednesday's game at the Citadel, Saturday's game at USC Upstate, and next Monday back at SC State. I also plan to add another game either Thursday or Saturday night to the mix, which will give me 45 recaps going into the postseason. Planning is both useful for us and the teams we follow to reach our goals at the end of the season.
FLORIDA A&M 83, at SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 82 02/20/2012
FLORIDA A&M 8-19 (6-7) -- D. Hanlen 5-9 4-6 18; A. Stevens 7-13 4-5 18; R. Lewis 5-8 0-0 12; Y. Crowder 2-6 0-0 4; C. Watson 4-6 3-3 11; A. Moore 5-11 2-3 15; N. Drayton 6-8 1-3 13; D. Bullard 3-7 0-0 6; J. Kennings 2-3 0-0 4; J. Dean 0-1 0-0 0; M. Teal 0-1 0-0 0; B. Hosley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-64 10-14 83. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 5-22 (0-13) -- B. Riley 10-20 4-4 24; D. Joint 4-9 0-1 10; K. Toombs 3-11 2-4 8; O. Sanders 5-11 4-5 14; J. Ikhinmwin 5-13 1-2 11; S. Barber 2-11 4-4 8; P. Bell 2-4 3-5 7; L. Radovic 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-80 18-25 82.
Three-point goals: FAMU 5-18 (A. Moore 3-9; C. Watson 0-2; R. Lewis 2-4; J. Kennings 0-1; D. Bullard 0-2), SCST 2-10 (K. Toombs 0-2; B. Riley 0-3; D. Joint 2-5); Rebounds: FAMU 32 (A. Stevens 13), SCST 44 (O. Sanders 10); Assists: FAMU 16 (A. Moore 5), SCST 14 (K. Toombs 6); Total Fouls -- FAMU 18, SCST 13; Fouled Out: FAMU-None; SCST-None.