Game #9-034: Kennesaw State at South Carolina State BulldogsNovember 12, 2012 7:30 pm
SHM Memorial Center
Tonight would be the home opener for the South Carolina State Bulldogs against the Kennesaw State Owls. The Bulldogs came in trying to still shake off a very bad end to last season. Kennesaw State has also struggled in the Atlantic Sun since joining Division I. Last season when these teams met in Kennesaw, the game went to double overtime with the Bulldogs narrowly escaping with a victory. After the month of November however, the season began to unravel for SC State. The Bulldogs started the season 4-2, with wins coming over non-Division I Claflin and Webber International as well as Kennesaw and Gardner-Webb. But after that win in Kennesaw Thanksgiving weekend, SCSU went 1-24 the rest of the season, with the lone win coming over Longwood. The Owls finished with an even worse overall record on the year, going 3-28. Neither team here won a conference game during the 2011-12 season. This was a game where the teams would be fighting for respect.
And in Our Game, respect can be hard to fight for even amongst ourselves. When I read message boards from Big South and SoCon schools, you see some complain about guarantee games against non-Division I teams
. But then some fans counter that playing MEAC teams would be even worse. Playing SC State will hurt your RPI, whether you beat them or not. Playing St. Andrews
will do not do anything to change your RPI since according to the RPI those games do not count. This leaves teams in Our Game like SC State in a bad position where few want to schedule them. And while the same holds true with weak schools in other conferences like Kennesaw State, SC State faces a particular challenge as a MEAC team. The first time I went to Orangeburg last year, I advocated for more matchups between HBCUs and other mid-majors
. Some fans of even low-level mid-major teams feel that the MEAC is beneath them, and HBCUs in general. And this same mindset also drives some HBCUs in scheduling mostly either money games or rivalry games.
Kennesaw State's challenge is that of being a relatively new Division I school. Just prior to joining Division I, the Owls won a Division II national championship. But they joined Division I while rebuilding, which left Kennesaw State in a bad position as a new Atlantic Sun team. Owls coach Tony Ingle was fired
in the middle of these struggles for poor academic progress officially. Since Ingle (who won that Division II championship for Kennesaw) was fired, the Owls have declined even more. Kennesaw State's challenge is similar to another newcomer in USC Upstate, who also joined the Atlantic Sun from the Division II Peach Belt Conference. Many fans see these schools and have never heard of them so they assume they must not be very good, as my Hopping Cats teammate James Squire had thought of Upstate
before seeing them in St. Louis. And the same thing is true with prospective players, who may be hesitant to join a program that is not well established. The recent moratorium by the NCAA against new Division I members was in part motivated to stop small colleges from making a quick and ill-timed jump to Division I. Kennesaw State had been a great Division II program, but has struggled to get respect in the ever-changing Atlantic Sun.
While most of our readers have been able to see that we are together in struggling below the Red Line, there are still plenty of fans in Our Game who look down on others from within it. To me, playing a MEAC team is worth a lot more than a game against a NAIA team. The games count more, even if the flaws of the RPI minimize the meaning of a Division I win. And the only way we can have more mobility in the RPI is if we see more games between two teams below the Red Line, regardless of conference affiliation. If MEAC teams had more opportunities at winnable games rather than mostly guarantee games, perhaps their RPI standing would improve. The teams of even weak conferences like the MEAC have the goal of all our teams, and that is to make the NCAA Tournament and dream of a national title. And schools like Kennesaw State also need to be accepted as well as Division I schools. They moved up in part to chase the dream that all of us below the Red Line are chasing. The ambition of a new Division I school as they are struggling is worth admiring.
Tonight would be the home opener for South Carolina State. The Bulldogs had opened the season three days prior at Division II Claflin, an away game so close that it was practically down the sidewalk rather than being on the road. As they had last year to open the season, SCSU won the title of the best team in Orangeburg with an easy win over Claflin. When I arrived 45 minutes before tip-off, there were a good number of students early, which isn't typical for SC State games. The students were there to get a free T-shirt that read "I'd Tweet That!" SC State actually was able to use the t-shirt giveaway to get a really solid student section together like you see at a lot of other schools. Most games here the student section is spread out across the general admission seating and only gets excited when the Greek organizations start impromptu dance competitions. But tonight we had a student section that was for the most part passionate about Bulldog basketball, even though the famed Marching 101 band was not in attendance tonight.
But their Bulldogs would make a huge mental mistake even before the 7:30 tip time. One little known rule in basketball that I have seen enforced before is that you cannot do an #OMGdunx
in the 30 minutes prior to tip-off when the game officials are conducting the official warm-up period. But SC State did, and this picture here:
preceded this picture here.
The Owls were up 2-0 as a result of the administrative technical as the game tipped off. In a game between two evenly matched teams, this would be quite big. Kennesaw State led the entire first half, but SC State was able to use their homecourt edge to chip away gradually at the Owl lead and were only down 5 at halftime. The hot shooting of SCSU newcomer Adama Adams put the Bulldogs ahead shortly into the second half, and SC State was able to lead most of the second half. But SCSU could not make the big lays down the stretch to put the game away, and a bad foul shown here by Adams on a three-pointer with under 30 seconds left allowed KSU to make 2 of 3 free throws to tie the game.
SCSU would then hold for the last shot, but could not convert and the game would go to overtime. In OT the Owls came out quickly to go ahead by four points, but SC State came back to tie the game again. But this time it was Kennesaw State that would be able to hold for the last shot, and with one second left they would be able to convert as shown in this video here
. KSU would get the respect tonight with a 67-65 win.
KENNESAW STATE 67, at SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 65
Maybe if the Bulldogs had played a little smarter, they could have gotten the respect instead. If that pregame technical on a warmup dunk had not been called, maybe SCSU would have won by two. Or if they had not fouled a three-point shooter with less than 30 seconds left they could have won there as well. But it was another "if" moment for South Carolina State on Monday night. In going 0-16 in the MEAC, there were plenty of chances for the Bulldogs to have broken through with a victory. They were not as bad as their record showed a year ago, but they could never deliver a big conference victory. And these are the losses that hurt when you know you could have won and gotten closer to respect. But while the Owls won in overtime tonight, the Bulldogs won in double overtime last year in Kenesaw. Maybe these teams' fortunes will change. Maybe Kennesaw will be closer to respect they are longing for as well. KSU lost by only nine points to Tennessee to start their year. And maybe the MEAC on the heels of another 15 over 2 upset by Norfolk State a year ago will also get more respect. The MEAC has won three Round of 64 games in the last 16 years, all by 15 seeds. Maybe someday the MEAC winner can finally get respect and see a 14 seed or better.
KENNESAW STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Love 4-15 5-7 16; A. Anderson 6-9 0-0 12; M. Cummings 8-14 2-3 18; M. Hamilton 2-6 0-0 5; Y. Brown 0-4 2-4 2; N. Pruitt 1-5 3-4 5; A. Osemhen 0-1 0-0 0; B. Dawson 2-5 0-0 4; J. Montgomery 2-4 0-0 5; C. Hobbs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 12-18 67.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- A. Adams 8-13 8-12 26; K. Toombs 4-9 1-3 11; M. Hezekiah 6-13 2-2 14; D. Palmer 1-4 0-0 2; S. Mitchell 4-7 0-2 9; P. Myers 1-7 1-2 3; L. Radovic 0-0 0-0 0; D. Youmans 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 12-21 65.
Three-point goals: KENN 5-19 (D. Love 3-10; Y. Brown 0-2; M. Hamilton 1-3; J. Montgomery 1-3; N. Pruitt 0-1), SCST 5-14 (K. Toombs 2-5; A. Adams 2-2; S. Mitchell 1-2; P. Myers 0-2; D. Palmer 0-3); Rebounds: KENN 27 (A. Anderson 11), SCST 35 (M. Hezekiah 10); Assists: KENN 11 (D. Love 4), SCST 12 (K. Toombs 6); Total Fouls -- KENN 21, SCST 15; Fouled Out: KENN-None; SCST-None.