After watching Appalachian St. eliminate College of Charleston, I decided I wanted to get some food before the next game between The Citadel and Western Carolina. I was sitting on the far side of arena from the entrance and was disappointed to see that the concessions weren't open on my side of the arena. I had to walk all the way around to get something to eat. When I got to the one concession stand it was mobbed with a long line. I'm not the most patient person in the world so I decided to wait until afterwards to check out some Asheville eateries.
When walking around, I saw VMI's coach Duggar Baucom along the concourse. I made sure to to say "good luck tomorrow, coach" since his Keydets were in the Big South Championship the next day. He gave me an appreciative nod and wave as I went on my way.
During the previous game there was plenty of purple in the stands. Western Carolina is about an hour away from Asheville so they would end up with a good contingent of fans. The Citadel, who never has had a really good following, only had a few dozen people there to root them on along with the band. WCU would counter with their very energetic band that was verbally taunting the cadet band anytime they played. It seemed a bit arrogant to me for another band to make fun of another, but WCU was pretty good and would prove their mettle later on.
I had some experience watching both these teams earlier in the season. I had seen the Citadel twice before and while they lost both, Mike Groselle looked impressive in both games. The Bulldogs had a very poor season, but did end up winning two of their last three games for some form of momentum. The only time I had seen the Catamounts was when I went to Raleigh and had my worst experience of the season when they were destroyed by NC State. I didn't learn much about WCU during that game and was interested in seeing more from the Catamounts since they were winners of 4 in a row leading up to the tournament.
From the tip you could tell easily what each team wanted to do offensively. The Citadel wanted to run everything through Groselle in the post and they made sure he would get a touch on almost every possession. They were only getting moderate success doing this since none of the other Bulldogs were making their shots when Groselle would dish out when the double teams would come. The Catamounts were going up against a Citadel zone and were gladly trying to shoot over it and while this got WCU out to a 12-4 lead, it became less effective when the 3s stopped falling.
The game was starting to take its toll on me. It was very boring as the score was 15-12 for WCU with less than 6 minutes to go. Both teams were missing a ton and the arena was pretty dead. It took 15 minutes for the Catamounts to score their first 2 point basket and it would be the only one of the half for them. Fortunately for WCU they did make seven 3s to have a 24-17 advantage at the half.
At the half, the Western Carolina band was able to display why they had so much braggadocio. They were able to put on one of the best halftime shows I've seen all season. The Purple Thunder drum line teamed up with the WCU cheerleaders to get the small crowd at the Civic Center on their feet with an awesome musical, dance and acrobatic performance.
Even though I had seen a great show at the half, I really didn't want to sit through another half like the first. I was getting hungry and almost fell asleep at times. I was hoping for a little more offensive excitement. My prayers were answered as the Catamounta made a focused effort to get the ball inside and add some scores from Harouna Mutombo and Trey Sumler. The Citadel killed their shooting woes as well when DeVontae Wright knocked down a few shots opening things up for Groselle in the paint.
While WCU was making sure to mix up their offense it was a quick barrage of 3-pointers that helped the lead grow for the Catamounts. Groselle did all he could, but all of his makes were being countered with 3s from WCU.
Western Carolina maintained its double digit lead throughout the rest of the half. The Bulldogs just didn't have enough shooters to help out a great game from Groselle and couldn't get the needed stops on defense. It looked like the Bulldogs were ready to get the season over with since they weren't fouling near the end of the game and didn't use all of their time outs like you'll see many teams do when they are down big late.
WCU avoided the upset and I figured that it was an ok win for the Catamounts. Mutombo had a good game, but I didn't think they would be able to get past Wofford the next day, but the shooting picked up and WCU is now in the semifinals. This could be a surprise team in the SoCon and could very well be in the championship finals on Monday.
WESTERN CAROLINA 68, THE CITADEL 56 03/02/2012
THE CITADEL 6-24 (3-15) -- M. Groselle 8-14 5-9 21; D. Wright 4-6 0-2 9; J. Robertson 3-5 1-2 7; B. Holston 0-2 0-0 0; A. Moore 2-5 2-2 7; L. Miller 2-5 0-0 5; M. Harris III 0-2 0-0 0; C. Bray 2-2 0-0 5; C. Morabbi 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-42 8-15 56. WESTERN CAROLINA 15-17 (8-10) -- T. Sumler 6-11 2-3 18; K. Cole 5-12 0-0 14; H. Mutombo 6-12 7-12 21; B. Boggs 2-7 0-0 6; T. King 0-1 0-0 0; K. Hall 3-3 0-0 6; J. Sinclair 0-1 0-2 0; P. Ross 1-1 1-2 3; T. Tankelewicz 0-0 0-0 0; D. Dunford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 10-19 68.
Three-point goals: CITA 4-11 (D. Wright 1-2; C. Bray 1-1; M. Harris III 0-2; L. Miller 1-4; A. Moore 1-2), WCU 12-27 (K. Cole 4-11; H. Mutombo 2-5; T. Sumler 4-6; B. Boggs 2-5); Rebounds: CITA 21 (M. Groselle 6), WCU 23 (T. King 6); Assists: CITA 10 (B. Holston 4), WCU 16 (K. Cole 6); Total Fouls -- CITA 17, WCU 18; Fouled Out: CITA-B. Holston; WCU-None.