Game #9-128: Louisville at Charleston CougarsDecember 4, 2012 9:00 pm
Carolina First Center
The College of Charleston prides itself on testing themselves during the non-conference portion of the season. They are not afraid to play a variety of high-profile teams in a given year and they often knock off several of those opponents above the Red Line. In recent years, they have knocked off South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Even this year, the Cougars have had a very ambitious schedule in the early going. They were part of the Charleston Classic where they had losses to St John's
, but were able to get a win against Boston College
. A week later, they were also able to get another RLU in Waco against Baylor. While the string of opponents from above the Red Line ended in the next two games, they were battles nonetheless. They beat crosstown rival Charleston Southern on the road and also went to Elon and beat them in their Southern Conference opener.
All of this led to the showdown on Tuesday with 2012 Final Four participant and Top 10 ranked Louisville. The Cougars put a scare into Louisville on the road last year, so a big time upset on their home floor was not out of the question.
I saw this game scheduled well in advance and knew it would be my best chance to see a high profile team at a decent price. I was able to get a ticket as part of three pack of games which also included games against Old Dominion and Coastal Carolina. Being a CCU fan and getting to see an albeit down ODU squad would be a no-brainer of a bargain. The game was also being televised by ESPNU and had a later start time of 9 p.m., giving me plenty of time to get to Charleston after work and walk around a bit.
When I arrived in Charleston, you could sense the buzz in the air of the big game. Almost everyone that walked by in their C of C garb was talking about the chances the Cougars had. King Street had a good amount of people as I walked up and down looking for a place to stop in and have a few drinks before heading to TD Arena.
Charleston has no lack of bars, but since the buildings are so old, every place is relatively small and skinny inside and has a small bar area of 8-to-10 seats. I hate being the only one standing when I'm out alone, so I kept walking into place after place, only to be denied a seat. I decided to give up after going into eight or nine places with no luck and ended up going to Burns Alley Bar, which is right behind the arena. This two-level hole-in-the-wall was packed with fans about to go to the game. The anticipation level was rising as the Cougar fans were really hoping Charleston could knock off the Cardinals.
It was obvious that the game was sold out, but the ticket line at will call and to get into the arena reaffirmed that. When I made it to my seat, the general seating was only half full but filling in quickly, while the students were already there in full force.
Before the Cougars were introduced, a video package was shown of the team and their recent wins over the years of the aforementioned teams from the BCS conferences. This whipped the crowd into a frenzy as a thunderous roar arose when the Cougars appeared from the tunnel. Only if they had known that would be the highlight of the evening for the Cougars.
Louisville is a REALLY good team and might be the best defensive team in the country. The Cougars were having troubles with turnovers as of late and this played right into the hands of the pressuring Cardinals. Charleston could not get any open looks and were playing very tight at the start. If they were not turning it over, they were getting a tough shot late in the shot clock. The Cougars were holding their own on the defensive end, but still found themselves down 14-5 10 minutes in.
Louisville was relentless with the defensive pressure and forcing turnovers. They starting getting to the line every trip down the floor and were slowly making this a blowout. Leading the charge for the Cardinals were the usual faces of Wayne Blackshear and Peyton Siva, who seems like he's been there for about 10 years now. The energized crowd was taken completely out of it as the Cougars were down at the half 36-16 while having the same amount of turnovers as points.
Everyone in the stands was hoping for some signs of life from the home team coming out of the half and they got it with a 10-4 run. The offense was still not fluid as six of those points were from Anthony Stitt's forced deep threes that happened to go in.
The momentum could have changed for the Cougars, but Louisville showed why they are so highly regarded and scored the next 13 points; killing any chance of a big comeback. From that point on, the disappointed crowd started to thin out little by little at each timeout. Louisville kept pouring on the points and defensive pressure until the final buzzer and an impressive 42-point drubbing.
What can you really say about games like these? Tons of guarantee games are played every year, but they are usually on the home court of the team above the Red Line. This was no guarantee in theory with it being on Charleston's home floor and their recent history of knocking off big teams, but it was obviously deflating for everyone involved. C of C is a better team than this and there may be plenty of reasons for their performance, but hopefully they can use it as a learning experience heading into the conference season.