Game #9-076: Boston College vs. Charleston CougarsNovember 18, 2012 12:00 pm
Carolina First Center
Charleston is one of the best towns for basketball in the Southeast. Three local mid-majors, Charleston Southern, The Citadel, and the College of Charleston, provide for a very good brand of basketball from November to March each year. Since 2008, the Charleston Classic has been a part of the Charleston sports landscape.
This tournament has quickly grown. Most people do not know that the first event at the then Carolina First Arena was not a College of Charleston home game. In fact, it was an early-afternoon game Charleston Classic game on a Friday between TCU and Western Michigan.
This game was held in front of just a few hundred fans. Shawntes Gary of Western Michigan scored the first points in the arena, but TCU won the first game, 67-63 over the Broncos. Later that night, CofC played SIU-Edwardsville, a team who was in its very first Division I game. This game was a big deal in the St. Louis area, airing on their main sports talker and on TV there.
Edwardsville led late in the second half before CofC pulled away to win 72-66. Later in the tournament, CofC beat TCU, and narrowly lost to Temple, a team who won the Atlantic Ten tournament that season.
The tournament had a Friday-Saturday-Sunday format in the first season (Clemson won), before changing to Thursday-Friday-Sunday in 2009. This year had one of the best attendance numbers for the Thursday and Friday sessions because the homestanding Cougars were in it. They lost both games though, to St. John's and Auburn respectively.
This game against Boston College became a very important one. Neither team wanted to go 0-3 in this tournament, especially the hometown Cougars. The problem was that there would be a small crowd at this game.
Teams in this area rarely play on Sunday because of church obligations. Charleston Southern is owned by the Baptist Church, and the only time CofC and The Citadel have played on Sundays are in these tournaments.
A noon-time start proved havoc for parking. Many of the spots which are usually available for College of Charleston games were taken because of nearby churches who use it every Sunday. Other spots closer to the arena, in something I didn't know, are reserved for members of the Cougar Club. Therefore, I had to pay seven dollars to park in a spot that was reasonably close because of the soaking rain that had pounded the area for most of the morning.
Because it was a Sunday early game, this game had one of the lowest attendances for a CofC game at TD Arena. At the beginning of the game, the arena was about half-filled in its 5,100 seats, and that may be a liberal estimate. As expected for a early game, few of us (students) came. Maybe 50 students were in the arena at the beginning of the game. As the Dayton fans packed in for their game after CofC's, the crowd began to grow. A crowd of 4,262 was announced for the session.
The Cougars would be without Trent Wiedeman for this one, after the ankle injury he suffered during Friday's loss to Auburn. This game, however, would be different from the previous two for the Cougars.
Adejhi Baru started the game in Wiedeman's place. Both teams were short-handed, as Boston College's best player, Ryan Anderson, was out of this game as well.
CofC got out to an early lead on Willis Hall's 3 pointer, but each team traded baskets for the first six minutes. BC then went on a run, eventually going out to a seven-point lead. The Cougars were in a danger zone for a few minutes. Their shots wouldn't fall, and Boston College's did.
The Cougars though cut into the deficit by halftime. They were still down 34-29 at halftime to BC. The halftime break was important to Coach Doug Wojcik and the Cougars.
Both teams played with some fight in the second half. Boston College probably had fewer fans than the other seven teams, but still played an inspired game. At the 14:28 mark of the second half, Boston College's Patrick Heckmann ran into me trying to get a loose ball. This was only the second time that I had touched a player on court; last year at a Charleston Southern game one of their players reached over and accidentally touched me after a foul toward the end of the game.
He played an inspired game as the leading scorer off the bench with 18 for the Eagles. The game was back and forth for most of the second half, but CofC took a lead with about 12 minutes to go and never relinquished it. CofC led by as much as eight points late in the game, but the Eagles fought back. They cut the lead to just one several times, but Andrew Lawrence hit several important free throws at the end of the game.
He hit 10 of 12 free throws, including two huge ones to ice the game for the Cougars with less than 10 seconds left, providing for the winning margin for the maroon and white.
Even though it was an ugly game, and Boston College only shot 40%, it was still an exciting win over an ACC team at home, something that the Cougars have only done one other time in their history, the 82-79 W over North Carolina in 2010 that is still probably the most exciting game ever played at the College.
Also, it is a much different feeling finishing 1-2 in your tournament instead of 0-3. Many College of Charleston fans were ready to be apathetic about their new coach, especially if they had lost this game. Now, instead of a 1-3 start with the only win over Towson, after losing probably the team's second best player, the Cougs are 2-2 heading into a game at Baylor this Saturday night.
After this, they have an important stretch of three games in six days, starting on Wed. Nov 28, where they go to the tiny Buc Dome to face Charleston Southern, begin the conference schedule at Elon Dec. 1, and host probably the highest-ranked opponent in their history at home, Louisville of the Big East on Dec. 4.
Different feelings indeed.