Game #9-092: Virginia Commonwealth at Winthrop EaglesNovember 17, 2012 2:00 pm
Most early season games in college basketball often run into problems of lacking parity or a good basketball atmosphere. Our mid-majors most often play guarantee games at this year, either on the road above the Red Line or against teams below the Black Line at home
. Then we also have the Charleston Classic and other multi-team events going on at this time of year, which are generally more evenly played games but not home games for most schools involved.
But on this off day in the weekend of the Charleston Classic, Winthrop would be playing at home against the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth. This was not quite what some schools like College of Charleston have done in getting a big name team above the Red Line
. But Virginia Commonwealth has achieved the mid-major dream
after reaching the 2011 Final Four. The Rams usually have a sellout for every home game in Richmond, and VCU has moved to the Atlantic 10 in part of that conference's effort to become a super mid-major basketball conference. VCU also has a traveling fan base, although not as large as that of new A-10 rival Dayton
And for these reasons I decided to buy a ticket online the night before the game after getting back from the Charleston Classic. Winthrop has only sold out their 6100 seat arena a few times in its history, and the Winthrop Coliseum is usually mostly empty unless the Eagles are having success like they did under Gregg Marshall. But I anticipated that a large presence from visiting fans might make the ticket office line, and it would be hard to get good seat selection. I decided to buy a baseline seat for only six dollars, a good deal only three rows from the court. At some arenas baseline seating is not a good option because the basket support structure gives your seat an obstructed view. But that's not the case at Winthrop, with the basket support coming out of the rafters. It's the same as at the Millis Center in High Point, and I never had trouble watching the game as a HPU student with an unobstructed view of the court. This kind of baseline seating is especially good when the players are at your end and attacking the basket, which is why professional photographers usually sit on the court at the baseline area. And it's a ticket option that makes sense for half the price of a sideline seat at Winthrop.
VCU did bring more fans than your typical away team as expected. But what I did not anticipate was that Winthrop fans would be apathetic to a game against far higher competition than what usually plays at the Winthrop Coliseum. Aside from Gregg Marshall's 2007 team when they faced Stephen Curry's Davidson Wildcats, a team at the level of VCU never comes to play in Rock Hill. But Winthrop fan support was no better than that of an average WU game. The arena was barely more than a quarter full to see Winthrop take on Shaka Smart's mid-major powerhouse. The alumni groups who showed for Homecoming the week before meant that Winthrop had more fans to see them play a bad NAIA team
than to see the Eagles face a big-time Atlantic 10 program. VCU had a decent turnout, with one group behind the Rams' bench and another on the baseline a section over from the Winthrop student section. The latter VCU fan group was led by legendary Rams fan Chris "Pavarotti" Crowley
complete in his Ram outfit, although I did not see Bally with him like I did at the Charleston Classic a year ago.
Winthrop's teams under Gregg Marshall and Randy Peele were known for their defensive approach that always kept them in games. But Pat Kelsey's Eagles had nothing to stop VCU from getting their shots in the first half. The Eagles had a respectable game on offense, but could not match the hot shooting of the Rams. At the final media timeout of the first half, VCU had shot their way to 43-21 lead. The halftime score would end up being 48-26. For the dedicated Winthrop fans who did make their way to the Winthrop Coliseum this Saturday afternoon to see their Eagles challenged, it would be a frustrated struggle.
And I would have the privilege of catching the spit from one of these frustrated Winthrop fans that was in the seat behind mine. He seemed to be the Winthrop version of "That Guy"
, an intense screaming fan who seemed to be too invested in seeing Winthrop getting back to the prominence they once had in Our Game. I can often get the same way at times when rooting for High Point. But this Winthrop fan was clearly proud of the way he was acting. While I have yelled for players to do various simple tasks, this Winthrop fan was yelling for the Eagles to do various complex plays and be ready for the plays VCU was doing. He seemed to think he was knowledgeable enough to coach college basketball, and at one point joked to a friend of his who came by that he was "trying to coach (Winthrop) to a win". He also bragged once about his recent experience at a WU women's game where he got into a back-and-forth shouting match with a referee on the court. If I got into an argument with an official at a basketball game, I would be quite frankly embarrassed. But this Winthrop guy seemed proud of himself for having done so. With that said, he's not the worst fan to sit by at a basketball game. I would rather sit by any fan who knew what was going on in the game than by a fan that kept getting up and down out of his or her seat and was only there to hang out with their friends. Also, you need fans lie this Winthrop guy to teach you how not
to act at a basketball game. You just need to compare yourself to people like that and make sure you look better than they do.
At the start of the second half, it seemed that Winthrop and their fans might get some hope back. The Eagles started firing threes to quickly cut VCU's lead to 14 early in the second half. It did not seem at that point like Winthrop would come back and actually win, but rather make it a competitive basketball game. But ultimately that did not happen either. VCU with about eight minutes left in the game went on a 19-0 run to push their lead over 30 points to make the game uncompetitive in the final minutes. Pat Kelsey tried his best in calling multiple timeouts during the run, looking completely flabbergasted at the defensive performance of his players. As everybody expected, Kelsey will have to use the whole season to get his young team to excel. As for now, they are still far behind elite mid-majors like VCU, who would go on to get a resounding 90-54 road victory.
It was a learning experience for Winthrop. And while as a High Point fan I would like this to be representative of how things will turn out for conference play, Winthrop will get better from playing in a mismatch like this at home. The foundation for Winthrop's success came with the 1982 construction of the Winthrop Coliseum and came to fruition under Gregg Marshall. Pat Kelsey may not be Gregg Marshall, but they have the resources that will keep them competitive against Big South teams. But the next step for any good Big South program is to be competitive in games like this against elite mid-majors. Their fans certainly hope that they will eventually be back to that level. VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 90, at WINTHROP 54
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 2-1 (0-0) -- J. Reddic 7-11 3-4 17; T. Daniels 4-7 0-0 11; T. Graham 4-6 4-4 14; D. Theus 3-4 1-2 9; B. Weber 4-7 2-2 14; T. Okereafor 0-1 0-0 0; M. Johnson 4-7 2-2 12; R. Brandenberg 1-7 3-4 5; D. Haley 2-2 0-0 4; J. Guest 1-1 0-0 2; J. Tuoyo 0-2 2-2 2; D. Hinton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 17-20 90.
WINTHROP 1-2 (0-0) -- D. Henry 6-15 7-10 23; A. Smith 3-14 1-1 8; L. Brown 3-7 0-0 6; J. Bourne 2-2 3-4 7; G. Gamble 1-4 0-0 2; J. Jerome 1-3 1-2 3; S. Johnson 1-1 0-0 3; C. Farmer 0-2 0-0 0; S. Diop 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 18-50 12-17 54.
Three-point goals: VCU 13-25 (T. Daniels 3-4; D. Theus 2-3; J. Reddic 0-1; R. Brandenberg 0-4; B. Weber 4-6; T. Okereafor 0-1; T. Graham 2-3; M. Johnson 2-3), WINT 6-18 (G. Gamble 0-1; D. Henry 4-8; A. Smith 1-5; L. Brown 0-1; C. Farmer 0-2; S. Johnson 1-1); Rebounds: VCU 29 (J. Reddic 7), WINT 25 (J. Bourne 8); Assists: VCU 19 (D. Theus 7), WINT 7 (A. Smith 3); Total Fouls -- VCU 20, WINT 16; Fouled Out: VCU-None; WINT-J. Bourne.