My main reason for being in Asheville was the Big South Tournament, since it had been the conference I had followed the most during the year. I also have seen a fair share of Southern Conference games this year, and it just so happened that there was a day off between the semifinals and finals of the Big South Tourney. This worked out perfectly, as the first round of the SoCon Tourney was on that day off. I wouldn't be seeing the best teams of the SoCon, but it was a perfect opportunity to add 4 games to the 800GP.
The tournament was being held at the Asheville Civic Center and getting to it wasn't hard, since it was just a few miles from where I was staying. Parking was an issue, since I couldn't find the right garage to go to. I thought I had found the right one, but volunteers said it was only for people affiliated with the tournament. I was pointed in the right direction, but that direction would have been the wrong way on a one-way street. I ended up having to make four right turns to finally get to the garage and pay my $5 to leave my car there for 12 hours. Not a bad deal considering the higher prices in other cities.
The SoCon Tournament was making its return to the Asheville Civic Center for the first time since 1995. Concerns over conditions of the arena were the reason the SoCon left, but with ongoing renovations, the SoCon decided to come back for the next three years. As a way to help in renovations, the new name of the arena is now the U.S. Cellular Center. At least, that's what I think it is, because the arena itself is called the ExploreAsheville.com Arena. I don't know which is correct, so I'll just stick with calling it the Civic Center.
The Civic Center is an old building and is in need of the aforementioned upgrades. It is a very ugly arena, with its yellow and brown seats that are showing their age with the rust and dirt accumulating on them. I was told that the scoreboards at each end of the arena were new, but I'm pretty sure this was the first game I had been to without a center scoreboard. The Big South and SoCon women definitely got the better of the deal when they got the brand new Kimmel Arena to host their tournaments.
When I made my way to my seat, I knew I had a problem; I was going to be unfamiliar with most of the teams I'd be seeing on the day so I'd better buy a program. I ponied up the $2 and tried to get some familiarity with the teams I's be seeing. I had no problem recognizing the College of Charleston, who I had seen three times this year, but I didn't know much about Appalachian State. I only recognized one name, Omar Carter, who had transferred from Charleston Southern several years ago.
It was a good thing I did have the program though, since ASU was very balanced from the get go. Carter, along with Tab Hamilton and Andre Williamson were the keys in the Mountaineers getting out to a 26-17 lead. Trent Wiedeman had been solid in all the games I had seen the Cougars to date, and he continued that play for CofC.
ASU was also losing badly in the turnover margin when they coughed it up 12 times in the first compared to the Cougars' one. You'd think with that disparity that Charleston would have soar to a lead, but Carter and Hamilton hit key jumpers to keep the advantage at 33-30 for the Mountaineers going into the half.
The Cougars were able to tie the game on a couple of occasions early in second, but Mike Neal started heating up for ASU. He was able to get in the lane several times for some easy looks, and thanks to that and some help from Williamson, the Mountaineers had the score at 57-47. Andrew Lawrence scored four quick points to give hope for CofC, but Carter knocked down to back to back threes to start a big run for ASU. It would be a 19-7 spurt for the Mountaineers, capped off with an emphatic Neal dunk.
It looked like an easy upset win for the Mountaineers, but with a mixture of missed free throws and turnovers for ASU, they let Charleston come back. Three-pointers from Nori Johnson, Anthony Stitt, and Antwaine Wiggins had CofC within eight with two minutes to go.
The pressure was on for ASU to not let the game slip away and Neal and Carter answered the bell nailing their free throws. The desperation threes from the Cougars stopped falling, and Charleston's season would come to an end. It had to be a very frustrating season for CofC as they looked to be the class of the conference early in the season, but here they were the first team from the SoCon to be eliminated.
Appalachian State scored an amazing 60 points in the second half, and had a great balance with their whole team. If they could have kept up that same offensive efficiency they would have had a strong chance at taking down UNC-Greensboro in the next round. It would not come to fruition though, as they were knocked off the next day by the Spartans.
APPALACHIAN STATE 93, CHARLESTON 81 03/02/2012
APPALACHIAN STATE 13-17 (7-11) -- I. Butts 4-8 3-6 11; M. Neal 9-13 2-4 21; O. Carter 6-11 4-4 19; A. Williamson 5-11 0-0 10; T. Hamilton 6-10 2-2 17; M. Woods 1-4 3-4 5; N. Healy 2-5 3-4 7; J. Trice 1-2 0-0 3; G. Vilarino 0-0 0-0 0; P. Hausley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-64 17-24 93. CHARLESTON 19-12 (10-8) -- A. Lawrence 7-17 2-2 16; T. Wiedeman 9-19 1-3 19; A. Wiggins 7-11 1-2 16; A. Stitt 6-11 0-2 14; A. Baru 1-6 4-6 6; N. Johnson 3-8 0-0 9; M. Sundberg 0-2 1-2 1; J. Scott 0-1 0-0 0; B. Benton 0-0 0-0 0; T. Dixon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-76 9-17 81.
Three-point goals: APST 8-15 (O. Carter 3-5; J. Trice 1-2; N. Healy 0-1; T. Hamilton 3-5; M. Neal 1-2), COFC 6-24 (A. Wiggins 1-3; M. Sundberg 0-1; A. Lawrence 0-6; N. Johnson 3-7; T. Wiedeman 0-1; T. Dixon 0-1; A. Stitt 2-5); Rebounds: APST 45 (A. Williamson 15), COFC 29 (A. Baru 8); Assists: APST 13 (M. Woods 3), COFC 11 (A. Lawrence 4); Total Fouls -- APST 15, COFC 18; Fouled Out: APST-None; COFC-N. Johnson.