After High Point's final loss at UNC Asheville, it was time for one more game, the fourth of the day. Charleston Southern would play Liberty, and it would be a good way to relax at a basketball game I cared less about. After High Point's final losses when I was a student, I did not get this opportunity. We just instead got on the bus and went home. Trying to talk about what the final loss meant with other students was also challenging. While I like to talk about basketball and all things good and bad, a lot of students try to tune out bad things such as the death of a season. So trying to talk to students about the end of our season was challenging and not fun at all. A lot tried to catch up on sleep while Superbad played on the bus for the 100th time again. The trips back from Rock Hill in 2006 and 2007 and Asheville in 2008 were not fun.
But this would be better. There would be more basketball left in Asheville this week, and while the season was dead for my team it would not be dead for me. As the fans cleared from the previous HPU-UNCA game, the fans from Liberty and Charleston Southern took their seats. My seat was no longer in the High Point section, but now in the Liberty section. I decided to move to a more open area, and looked for Matt Cayuela who had also moved from his seat in the front row. I found Matt, who had left me alone knowing what I had been through in the previous game. So I came over and talked with him about the day, with both of our teams having been eliminated earlier. We both had one more game to look forward to that day, between two more Big South teams we were familiar with.
Going to several games in a day is something I have done before. I did four games in the Charleston Classic back in November, writing three recaps the following afternoon during down time in my internship. This would be more exhausting, with Asheville twice as far as Charleston. I would leave my home at 7:30 AM and not return until 1:30 AM, 18 hours of no sleep and non-stop driving and watching basketball. But I have done more basketball before. Most years I attend the high school state championships in Columbia, where eight games are played over two days (including six in one day). The most games I have attended in one day is seven, which came just over a year ago at a high school tournament in Myrtle Beach. I noticed one high school tournament where I was going just after Christmas in Illinois had eight games in one day, but that would not be possible to do when traveling with family. Of course, high school games are 20 percent shorter than college games. The most I have heard of for college games in one day is five, which Kyle did once at a tournament in Daytona Beach a couple years ago. I might have had the chance to do this later at the first round of the MEAC Tournament, but with the Southern Conference Championship having a 9 PM start the night before that would not be possible.
But this is all possible to do, with basketball being a timed sport. You can usually get two games in less than five hours. For sheer craziness, try going to four baseball games in one day. The Southern Conference tries to do this for the first two days of its tournament, with extremely wild results. A baseball game goes 50 percent longer than a basketball game, and with more field work required between games they cannot be played as back-to-back as with a basketball doubleheader. The first two days of the SoCon baseball tournament start at 9 AM and usually do not end until midnight. And of course the timeliness of a baseball game cannot be predicted either. This can be further impacted by the stretching of pitching staffs during the course of a long tournament. Many crazy things have happened at the SoCon baseball tournament in Charleston, often involving Elon as Joe Wright has noted. Elon won a tournament in 2008 where the average number of combined runs scored per game was about 20. In 2010 while I was at the Big South tournament, Elon got in a brawl with players from the Citadel. And last year, the top-seeded Phoenix were upset by Western Carolina in 20 innings. That game started just after 5 PM and did not end until after 11:30 PM. And yet the SoCon had one more game to be played that evening, as College of Charleston and eventual tournament champion Georgia Southern played a game that ran from 12:30 to 3 AM. So as extreme as all day basketball sounds, it does not compare with baseball.
Instead, the basketball tournament here got off smoothly. This game was originally scheduled to start at 8 PM, and it just about did. Blowouts in basketball tend to make games run much more quickly, with less fouling and timeouts being called compared to close games. And today was full of blowouts. Both Matt and I hoped to finally see a competitive game between #4 seed Charleston Southern and #5 seed Liberty. And it was easy to pick a team to root for here. The CSU campus is only 90 minutes south from my house, and games are always fun to watch at what may or may not be Division I's smallest arena. On the flip side, Liberty is a school that is trying to continue building an empire started by Jerry Falwell that wishes to be the destination school for Evangelical Christians, much like BYU is for Mormons and Notre Dame is for Catholics. Charleston Southern is a good representative of mid-major basketball, while Liberty has aspirations to move above the Red Line. These were two Baptist schools with two very different missions in what their schools are expected to accomplish.
Charleston Southern, despite its disadvantages, had the upper hand on Liberty most of the season. But LU played much better in the second half of conference play than CSU did. So I figured that all four teams I had been pulling for today would all end up losing. But the Buccaneers would start quickly. Charleston Southern had a double-digit lead most of the first half before LU would make it a close game again at halftime.
I expected the energized Flames to take over in the second half. And Liberty did come out looking better, cutting CSU's lead to one a few times. But CSU persevered and through the leadership of exciting senior Kelvin Martin and promising freshman Saah Nimley, CSU began to pull away again. Once the shots started falling late for the Bucs, they would be able to cruise to the win. After waiting all day to see a team I wanted to win get a victory, CSU came through with an 88-74 win.
The games may not have all been exciting, and the 14-point game here would be the closest of any of the four games here today. And this was the only game of the day where the team I wanted to win won. But four games is always an interesting experience to see. And with the games I had now been to 140 basketball games at all levels, the first time I have ever done so. It was nice to see the top eight teams from the Big South, the first time in ten years the Big South has played four men's basketball games in the same place all day. And it was four more games to write about, a challenge to get all these games recapped when resting and going to more basketball games later in the weekend.
at CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 88, LIBERTY 74 02/29/2012
LIBERTY 14-18 (9-9) -- D. Minaya 6-20 2-2 17; J. Sanders 6-10 1-1 14; T. Speaks 2-3 2-2 6; A. Burrus 5-11 4-4 14; J. Sanders 5-12 0-0 11; J. Vander Pol 2-2 0-0 4; A. Smith 1-1 3-4 5; T. Gielo 0-1 0-0 0; C. Phillips 0-0 0-0 0; E. Layer 1-1 0-0 3; W. Aikens 0-0 0-0 0; K. Assinesi 0-0 0-0 0; T. Hoyt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-61 12-13 74. CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 19-11 (11-7) -- K. Martin 7-10 4-6 18; S. Nimley 7-13 1-2 19; A. Harper 6-12 3-3 18; P. Gombwer 1-3 0-0 2; J. Sexton 4-11 4-7 13; M. Muo 2-6 4-4 9; S. Strickland 4-6 0-0 9; C. Bowen 0-0 0-0 0; C. Grier 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-62 16-22 88.
Three-point goals: LIB 6-19 (D. Minaya 3-7; J. Sanders 1-2; A. Burrus 0-1; J. Caleb Sanders 1-7; T. Gielo 0-1; E. Layer 1-1), CHSO 10-22 (J. Sexton 1-4; M. Muo 1-3; S. Strickland 1-1; A. Harper 3-6; S. Nimley 4-8); Rebounds: LIB 32 (J. Sanders 8), CHSO 29 (K. Martin 9); Assists: LIB 13 (J. Sanders 7), CHSO 14 (J. Sexton 7); Total Fouls -- LIB 20, CHSO 11; Fouled Out: LIB-None; CHSO-None.