Game #9-065: Auburn at Charleston CougarsNovember 16, 2012 7:30 pm
Every team has suffered injuries of some sort. No matter if you play 4th grade basketball where the score often doesn't hit 20 or on the NBA champion Miami Heat, if you play basketball, you have suffered a problem of some sort, either on or off the court.
Every college basketball team has had injuries which have impacted their team's seasons. The College of Charleston is a team that has been through more of these than most other schools. If you read the article from the UNCG game at TD Arena last year (Linked here), CofC has had many injuries to its star players that have hurt their chances of being a SoCon champion.
Last year in that game, freshman star Anthony Stitt suffered a freak finger injury that left him out for over a month. The Cougars were just behind Davidson for the division lead before that game and 11-4 overall. The Cougs went just .500 from that game on, missing out on a postseason bid.
This game was an important one for the Cougars. CofC doesn't host many SEC teams, even though this is only a tournament. Last year's win over Tennessee was one of two in the last four seasons. The Cougs hosted Auburn one previous time, in 2004-05. This game was at the North Charleston Coliseum because John Kresse Arena was too small to host a team of that caliber. An Auburn team led by Toney Douglas won by 15 in a game that wasn't even that close.
The Cougs were hoping to bounce back from Thursday's game in this one. A problem was that two of the team's top players were injured. Andrew Lawrence, the British Olympian who is the team's top PG and probably best player, had to get 2 IVs in him overnight after the St. John's game, and had a bad stomach virus. He was so sick that he couldn't watch the game, sleeping through it in TD Arena's training room.
A bigger crowd was at this one. Murray State and St. John's had a spirited game just before this one, with Murray State winning in an RLU. Murray State had more fans than St. John's, just like they had in both of their other games in the tournament.
This game, due to it being later on a Friday night, had a bigger crowd than the St. John's game. There were still bunches of empty seats, but the students came out pretty well. The first few rows of the section were filled for this game. There was a connection in this game.
Rob Chubb, Auburn's starting center, has a sister, Elyse, who was one of the best volleyball players in College of Charleston history. Elyse graduated last year from CofC after three straight Southern Conference first-team honors, while Rob is a senior at Auburn.
CofC, strangely, were the visitors for this game on their own home court. CofC had the bench closer to the students, came out first, and had their fans behind their bench. Auburn was the home team, and had their HS band (Stall, one of the best in the area, in front of their basket). This affected the game, as the band was in the stands as the free throw background for the CofC players while they were shooting important free throws at the end of the game.
This game was close from the very beginning. In the first half, neither team had a lead of more than five. The Cougars had a 8-2 run to earn a 23-22 lead at halftime in a game that some of the students complained about because it was so low-scoring. Most fans are used to high scoring games like what we saw with Bobby Cremins.
They are not used to defensive games like this one was. They should be prepared for more of these this year.
The second half was a very exciting one. Frankie Sullivan had 20 points in the half, and both teams kept it very close. This time, another big injury happened for the Cougars. With about four minutes left, Trent Wiedeman, the Cougars best post player and probably the second best player on the team, tripped over his own feet running down the court. He sprained his ankle, and had to be carried off the court after the game. He is out for what looks to be several weeks.
Even without their two best players, the Cougars still kept the game very close. It was within five for almost the entire second half, and CofC cut it to 52-49 with under :20 left. Auburn, however, made five of their final six free throws to win the ball game.
The Tigers won 55-51, impressing the contingent of Auburn fans who traveled with the team, and some local alums from the Charleston area. Even though Auburn probably has one of the smallest basketball fan bases in the 14-team SEC, these fans still supported their team. However, they were behind several of the mid-majors in fan support for this tournament.
CofC fell to 1-2 on the year, and the fans who have been used to winning every year started to grumble about what Coach Wojcik was. In fact, one of the people I follow on Twitter said: "My god our team is a joke. Wojcik was a horrible hire."
The team has only played eight games with Coach Wojcik (counting the BC game). They had 3 games in Canada in August (without Andrew Lawrence who was in the Olympics), an exhibition game, and these regular season games.
It is too early to make assumptions about how a season will go. That's why a team plays a full season. To improve.