Game #9-111: Rider at South Carolina GamecocksNovember 19, 2012 7:00 pm
After having taken trips of about two hours each way per day for the previous four days to see a whopping 14 college basketball games, it was finally time to take a day off. And by day off, I mean going only
45 minutes to see only
one game. This game would be at South Carolina, a SEC school that is the closest Division I team to my home. For the lucky members of Hoops Nation, 45 minutes would be a long drive. When I was at High Point my senior year, there were a total of six Division I teams within 45 minutes of me (Winston-Salem State has since gone back below the Black Line). But for me, the only college sports within 30 minutes of me are a NAIA school and a JUCO. And I am a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Master's degree, so it makes sense to still go there frequently even though USC is above the Red Line.
For the last three seasons while I was getting my Master's degree, I was able to get into all South Carolina games for free. For the first semester last year, I was able to go to games for the 800 Games Project by stopping over after doing stuff at school and get in to the game free with my student ID. Now I am another graduate and a regular paying customer again. I must pay at least $15 for an upper deck seat or get a lower deck seat for $18. For a school above the Red Line, that is not bad. Charlotte charges more per ticket unless you sit in upper level baseline seating and College of Charleston also charges slightly more for weekend conference games. And considering that there is less gas for me getting to Columbia, a USC game is still as cheap as any game I attend among those I write about on here.
The other big difference between now and last year is that I am no longer sitting in the student section. I probably still could if I wanted to however. Well-known Gamecock basketball fan Carlton Thompson, best known locally as "Baseline Jesus", still is prominent in the USC student section even though he has not been a student in 40 years. I could wear my old Garnet Army shirt and fit right in with the students, since I still am not too much older than some of them. And before conference play starts, there is also usually a lot of empty space in the student section. There are 3,000 seats at Colonial Life Arena out of 18,000 reserved for students, and unless the Gamecocks are playing a highly ranked team there is usually less than 1,000 students at the game. About 1,000 of these seats are in the corner of the upper deck and are seldom ever used. 1,500 more of these seats are in the corner of the lower deck, mostly on the baseline. But there are 500 seats there are in the seven rows directly behind the courtside seats and press row at midcourt. And if you get there early enough, you can get pretty close to the court. Not as close as you can with a general admission ticket at Charleston Southern, but still closer than some of the student seats at High Point. Unlike at South Carolina football games, the student section is not rigidly enforced at Colonial Life Arena. For games like this game against Rider of the Metro Atlantic, pretty much anybody could walk down and grab a seat there. But I decided to instead take the view in the upper deck instead.
Upper deck seats are always available at South Carolina, so it is still pretty easy for anybody to sit at mid-court there. When the arena was first built ten years ago, season ticket holders who were assigned there complained about how high they were above the court compared to the old 12,000 seat Carolina Coliseum. But even in the upper deck you are still much closer to the action than you would be at a professional arena most of the time. The view of the game is actually pretty good sitting low in the upper deck at mid-court. That is why the television cameras were stationed on the opposite side of the court from me. The only problem you get there is that it looks too much
like TV. It looks less like you are at the basketball game itself, and more like watching the game on an extremely giant television screen that in reality isn't there. The only thing I had to remind myself from where I was sitting that I wasn't watching the game on TV (besides there being more people around me) was that the court logos were facing away from me. But at least you also do not have to worry about that view going away during commercials, and you can also look out over the rest of the arena as well unlike TV. It's still a better seat than sitting down low behind the basket, and I have had both views four years ago back before I started grad school.
This is the experience all college basketball fans have after graduating. Some of us stick around, and buy season tickets. I would not want to commit myself financially to South Carolina, especially not when I enjoy mid-major basketball more. Likewise, I would not buy a season ticket for High Point (even though I care more about them) since the HPU campus is three hours away. And when you go back, you often long for the past as you see you and your school drifting apart.
That's not the case as much with South Carolina, but my ties there were never as deep as they were at High Point. So part of me wondered who I would root for in this game between the Gamecocks and Broncs. I do want to see USC basketball do well for a school above the Red Line, but it also might be fun to see my sixth Red Line Upset in five days.
Once the game tipped off, I decided that what I most wanted to see was to see well-played basketball, regardless of who won. And by midway through the first half, the team that was playing better was the South Carolina Gamecocks. USC's offensive attack that was well-distributed among its players got off to a 35-23 lead at the under 8 media timeout of the first half. At this point, I once again found myself rooting for South Carolina. They were playing better than I ever saw them last year, and wanted that to continue. While I wanted a well-played game, I did not necessarily want it close either. I wanted to see either a USC win or a RLU as quickly as possible to avoid ambiguity.
But Rider did manage at times to threaten a Bronc charge to the finish. I had known of Rider mostly through them recently producing a NBA player in Jason Thompson. But a very different Thompson in Jonathon Thompson helped keep the Broncs in the game. South Carolina's first half foul troubles made them tentative on defense in the second half, as Thompson was able ride to the basket for Rider pretty easily. The leading scorer on the game was Nurideen Lindsey, who quietly was able to put up 26 points on the night. Rider hung in during the second half, keeping the Gamecock lead to around 10 most of the half. Yet even though I like mid-majors, the Gamecock fan in me wanted to see good basketball. And the way Rider hung around was a result of bad defense which I did not like. I was also frustrated at times when USC made some careless passes trying to break a desperate Rider defense. But I was pleased to see the Gamecocks uncharacteristically shoot well. I wanted to see some potential so after their mid-major slate is finished; USC can challenge the teams I do not like in the SEC. Most of how I watched the game was still from the standpoint of a Gamecock fan, even though I love a Red Line Upset as much as anyone. So I was pleased that the Gamecocks shot their way to 88 points, but not pleased that a weak defensive effort allowed 76 points. It was still better basketball than what I am used to seeing at Colonial Life Arena.
My view of the game was different this Monday evening, and I would have a similar view Wednesday evening. It was a viewpoint I will have to get used to again, although I still might visit the student section during the holidays when there is nobody in it. But still for the most part, my viewpoint did not change. While the Gamecocks are above the Red Line, they still manage to get kicked around by the big schools as much as those in Hoops Nation do. But unlike many USC fans, I know about teams like Rider and where they are coming from, and appreciate all basketball that is played. That is a view of mine that will not change, no matter where I may be. at SOUTH CAROLINA 88, RIDER 76
RIDER 2-2 (0-0) -- T. Simpson 10-23 2-2 25; A. Myles 5-14 0-0 13; N. Lindsay 9-15 7-9 26; D. Stewart 2-2 3-4 7; J. Thompson 5-10 3-4 14; J. Fortunat 3-4 1-2 7; Z. Sadler 2-4 2-2 6; T. Pereira 1-4 0-0 3; D. Nd-Ezuma 0-0 0-0 0; S. Valentine 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 16-21 76.
SOUTH CAROLINA 3-0 (0-0) -- B. Williams 7-12 3-3 22; L. Jackson 7-8 0-0 14; M. Kacinas 8-11 1-2 18; B. Richardson 2-5 3-3 8; E. Smith 2-6 2-4 6; L. Page 4-9 0-0 12; R. Slawson 0-3 2-2 2; D. Leonard 2-6 0-0 6. Totals 32-60 11-14 88.
Three-point goals: RID 6-14 (J. Thompson 1-2; A. Myles 3-6; T. Pereira 1-3; N. Lindsay 1-2; Z. Sadler 0-1), SC 13-27 (L. Page 4-6; B. Richardson 1-3; R. Slawson 0-1; E. Smith 0-3; D. Leonard 2-5; B. Williams 5-8; M. Kacinas 1-1); Rebounds: RID 21 (D. Stewart 8), SC 31 (L. Jackson 7); Assists: RID 13 (J. Thompson 4), SC 22 (B. Richardson 6); Total Fouls -- RID 12, SC 20; Fouled Out: RID-None; SC-None.