Georgia Southern and the College of Charleston are two universities which are somewhat alike. Both are large state-run campuses that have over 10,000 students, Georgia Southern now over 20,000 students as of this school year. The similarities pretty much stop there.
CofC is the public university which has developed into a major economic force for the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and its big sports are basketball and baseball. Georgia Southern has always been a power in college baseball, making the College World Series in 1990 (weirdly, the same year as The Citadel).
Georgia Southern, meanwhile, is a general university, with most of its focus with the football program. Georgia Southern football has a huge following across the southern half of Georgia, #2 behind UGA. Even in the Atlanta metro, there's a big following. They get 15,000-20,000 fans on average for FCS football.
Georgia Southern basketball, not so much. While Eagle football is on a 100,000-watt FM station in Savannah (starting this year) and has a network stretching throughout Georgia, Georgia Southern basketball is on a 6,000-watt FM west of Statesboro that isn't even clear in a large part of the area.
Until this season, not all of their games were broadcast on radio. GSU basketball struggles to get coverage on Savannah local news, behind UGA football, GSU football, the Falcons and the Jaguars, and other sports, but it's getting there with the good vibes coach Charlton Young has had.
Georgia Southern had their usual large amount of fans that they usually have when they go to Charleston. They didn't have as many as when they played the Citadel, but I saw many of the same faces that I saw at that game. The game wasn't a sellout. In fact, it was over 1,000 tickets short of a sellout.
It was a great night at TD Arena. Seniors Antwaine Wiggins and team manager Ben Walsh were honored. Wiggins has been part of the program for a long time. He was the last player to play in the old arena, John Kresse Arena. He was most known for blocking Stephen Curry's three-point attempt at the buzzer at Davidson in 2008-09, on ESPN2 with Dick Vitale in the house. However, he was a leader for most of his time here.
This year, he had to step up with Willis Hall being out for the season and last year's CofC's illustrious senior class leaving. He has led the team thru most of their games this season, being one of the team's captains. Bobby Cremins showed up for this game, which excited the crowd. Wiggins got a standing ovation, and it was well-received by the crowd.
CofC got off to a very good start. They were up 13-0. The Cougars had a block from Adjejhi Baru that was the #5 play on SportsCenter's top plays. It was a majestic block, with lots of height on it. The crowd went in a frenzy.
Georgia Southern would not give up though. The deficit was cut down to only seven at halftime, 30-23, and it could have been closer, but GSU missed some shots. They fought hard. GSU still is in the running for a bye in the Southern Conference tournament, amazing to believe after they were one of the worst teams in college basketball last season.
The game was a very chippy one. Three technical fouls were called: two on CofC, and one on Georgia Southern. Andrew Lawrence and Trent Wiedeman got the Ts for CofC, Wiedeman by yapping at an official and Lawrence for showing up at the officials, both in about a 30-second span. GSU made two of the four free throws, then got a three, cutting into what had been a nine-point halftime lead.
GSU never had a lead in the game until the final four minutes, but their fans were very vocal into the game. They were one of the only teams to start a chant in the arena, chanting "Go Eagles." Their fans got very loud, and the CofC fans had to yell to try and get their team back.
It was a well-played final five minutes. No fouls were called from the 4:52 mark all the way to 19 seconds left, as the refs let the game be decided on the court. The final media timeout was taken then, one of the latest that you'll see this season.
Anthony Stitt came back during this game after breaking his hand during the home game against UNCG (which led to the Cougars' fall from the top of the division and UNCG's leap to first in the North). He didn't have much of an impact, but when he did, he was huge. He made a huge three with about two and a half minutes to go which gave CofC a one-point lead at 52-51. Without that shot, the game probably has a much different trajectory.
Even with bad free-throw shooting, the Cougars clinched the game in the final ten seconds, bringing the lead to five points. GSU badly missed a layup which would have cut the game to just two, and after that, it was about all she wrote from TD Arena.
This season has flown by. When one minute it was November 11, the season opener against Holy Cross when college football still ruled in the area, now there's only one game left in the regular season, the battle for Charleston against The Citadel at McAlister Field House. Then there's the Southern Conference tournament in Asheville, where the Cougars have clinched the fourth seed in the South Division.
Georgia Southern now has a huge game against Davidson on Saturday, which will determine if they get a bye in the SoCon tournament. This will be one of their most important games in years.
Glory for the winning team was warranted in this battle of attrition, something all basketball teams aspire to.
at CHARLESTON 58, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 53 02/23/2012
GEORGIA SOUTHERN 14-13 (12-5) -- B. Drayton III 4-9 0-0 10; W. Powers III 8-12 0-0 17; J. Hewitt 0-8 2-4 2; M. Baynham 2-4 0-0 4; E. Ferguson 3-6 2-4 8; J. Pernell 1-3 0-0 3; C. Baskerville 1-1 0-0 2; T. Bussey 2-4 0-0 5; T. Brown 1-1 0-0 2; K. Dunnican 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 4-8 53. CHARLESTON 18-11 (9-8) -- A. Lawrence 2-6 4-7 10; A. Wiggins 3-7 2-6 10; T. Wiedeman 8-13 2-5 18; N. Johnson 2-5 1-2 5; A. Baru 2-5 0-0 4; A. Stitt 1-6 0-0 3; M. Sundberg 2-4 0-0 5; J. Scott 1-1 0-0 3; J. Carlton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 9-20 58.
Three-point goals: GS 5-16 (W. Powers 1-3; B. Drayton 2-4; E. Ferguson 0-1; J. Hewitt 0-4; T. Bussey 1-2; J. Pernell 1-2), COFC 7-17 (A. Wiggins 2-5; M. Sundberg 1-2; A. Lawrence 2-4; N. Johnson 0-2; J. Scott 1-1; A. Stitt 1-3); Rebounds: GS 29 (E. Ferguson 7), COFC 23 (A. Baru 6); Assists: GS 9 (W. Powers 4), COFC 14 (A. Lawrence 7); Total Fouls -- GS 16, COFC 8; Fouled Out: GS-None; COFC-None.