Game #9-157: Charlotte at Davidson WildcatsDecember 5, 2012 8:00 pm
In the most populated county of the Carolinas in Mecklenburg County, there are two Division I schools: Davidson and Charlotte. With the local professional sports teams struggling, the basketball teams are the biggest things going in Charlotte area sports. And that is why I expected it to be a hot ticket when the Charlotte 49ers made the ten mile journey across the north suburbs of Charlotte to Davidson to take on the Wildcats. Davidson and Charlotte represent two very different sides of Charlotte, just like is the case with the three Division I teams in Charleston County
. Davidson represents the old establishment, an old private school with a lot of retirees in their fan base. Davidson is also a small prestigious liberal arts college that attracts students nationwide to its small campus of 2,000 students. UNC Charlotte represents the fast growth going on in the Charlotte metro area. The school is less than 70 years old, and has only been a full four-year institution for about 50 years. Most of the alumni you see at UNCC games are quite a bit younger than those you see at Davidson games. Charlotte's campus is on the fast growing northeastern corner of the city, and has nearly ten times as many students as Davidson with a large portion being urban commuters staying close to home. This matchup would be an interesting showdown with the winner the best in Metrolina.
Davidson has a much longer history than Charlotte. Davidson has had a competitive program in the SoCon since before UNCC existed. But while Davidson has the edge in the quantity of history, Charlotte has the edge in the quality of its history. While Davidson has had plenty of good SoCon teams, only Stephen Curry's teams have been relevant on the national stage for the Wildcats in the past 40 years. Charlotte has only been Division I for 40 years, yet has had made far more NCAA Tournaments and won far more games there. Charlotte also has made it to the Final Four back in 1977, while Curry's Wildcats were stopped just short of getting there in 2008. Charlotte has also risen past the level of the SoCon, having treaded the Red Line in recent years. You could argue that when Charlotte was in Conference USA with Memphis, Louisville, Marquette, and Cincinnati that they were above the Red Line then. But they aren't now in the Atlantic 10, and their move back to Conference USA might be a step down with the elite C-USA teams defecting to the Big East. Like Davidson, the 49ers were trying to fight for local respect here. And one historical fact relevant to this matchup is that Charlotte has dominated it. Coming into this game, Charlotte had won 27 of 38 games against the Wildcats. Davidson did not agree to face the 49ers until 1979, when Charlotte had risen to prominence as an elite mid-major. Since then, Charlotte has had the upper hand in the rivalry.
But despite the differences between the schools in age and the quick rise of the 49ers in the 1970s, Charlotte has not kept its dominance of local college basketball lately. Charlotte has had four losing seasons in the last six years. It has now been eight years since UNCC's last trip to the NCAA Tournament. And Davidson has won the Hornets' Nest Trophy three times in the last eight years after a decade of UNCC dominance. Perhaps Charlotte has lost its focus on basketball as it attempts to grow other programs, with a football program coming next year
. Or UNC Charlotte has peaked as an athletic program, and the Sports Bubble has held the school back as the city obtains professional teams while the ACC teams thrive elsewhere in North Carolina. The reason the sports teams prefer to not use the UNC part of the school name is to try to build some detachment from the University of North Carolina system. Charlotte is as independent from UNC Chapel Hill as NC State is, but many prospective students and the general public often do not know this, and that may also hurt the growth of the basketball team as well. Meanwhile, Davidson has gotten back to its roots as a mid-major power. Only Curry's teams have done well nationally, but Davidson won the SoCon just before he arrived and has won it since he left as well. Charlotte came in eager for another Hornets' Nest Trophy to regain their local prestige.
And based on the way these teams have played in November, this had the potential to be a classic game. Charlotte is off to its best start in many years, winning its first seven games including the Great Alaska Shootout. Most of those wins came against lower level mid-majors, and a win at Davidson would give the Niners the big win they needed for a true good start. Davidson only entered 4-3, but has already had two RLUs against Vanderbilt and West Virginia to reach the final of the Old Spice Classic at Disney World. They also played New Mexico close on the road as well. We would have a heavyweight matchup of two strong local mid-majors facing each other in Belk Arena tonight.
I expected tickets might be hard to get for this game, so I put in a backup plan of the UNC Wilmington-Coker
game that Matt Cayuela was at. Given the quality of the teams and what was at stake for a local rivalry game, I expected Davidson would sell out easily. Matt did see the Hornets' Nest battle last year at Halton Arena of the UNCC campus
, but Belk Arena at Davidson is not much more than half of the capacity at Halton. There are plenty of seats on the sidelines at Davidson like at Charlotte, but little baseline seating. But even though I waited until two days before the game to buy a ticket, I did get a decent ticket. That said, there wasn't a lot of parking. I arrived early before the 6 PM women's game to beat Charlotte rush hour, and while did beat most of it I spent a lot of time parking and walking. The first time visited Davidson was in 2006, when I was a sophomore at High Point and the game was the first sporting event I ever attended where I drove by myself to a game over an hour away. At that time, Davidson fans were just talking about the great local recruit that was coming in for next season that everyone has now heard of. Since I had never been before, I parked on Main Street of downtown Davidson even though I could have parked on campus. But parking has become more difficult as more fans came when that local recruit guided Davidson to better things. The only time since that first visit that I had been to Davidson was a 2010 game against Appalachian State. I took a while to park then, finding a space in an extra lot down the street from the arena. For tonight's game, I had to park at the soccer stadium. The soccer stadium is only a quarter mile away, but there is no direct way to walk to Belk Arena from there, stretching the walk into a half mile similar to NC State
(at least you don't have to pay at Davidson).
The men's game did not start until 8:30 P.M. due to a women's game at 6. In the women's game, Davidson played my High Point Panthers. Unlike a few weeks ago at Furman, I came mainly to see the men's game rather than see the High Point women play. And given the way the High Point women gave that Furman game away, I may have come in spite
of the fact that the HPU women were there. At least in this game, HPU lost the game early. It was hard to watch in seeing High Point look like a high school team in only scoring 14 points in the first half, but at least it was not because of any mental mistakes at the end. High Point did a little better in the second half but still lost 59-42. Now we could move on to the big men's game next.
Davidson was pumped up for this game, using tonight as their annual Black Out Belk game. Davidson's student section was led by the "D Block", who stood behind the Charlotte team pass section and mostly wore basketball jerseys rather than the bookstore's special Black Out shirt like most students did. But Charlotte's fans were also pumped, and took up the majority of the seats in the top rows in the arena. Once the game started, the game went back and forth in whose fans were able to get excited. Charlotte started well pounding the ball inside, but the Wildcats came back and led most of the first half. But the Wildcats never caught fire, and even as Charlotte struggled the game remained close. Finally early in the second half it seemed that Charlotte's size and depth would be too much as they pulled out in front. But Davidson hit shots when they needed, and Jake Cohen started to get better after a slow start where he got shaken up as well. De'Mon Brooks was also getting looks near the basket. Davidson led going into the final minutes. Charlotte and their fans were getting frustrated with the officiating calls as Davidson had the home momentum. Surely this meant Davidson would hold home court, right?
But Charlotte proved to the more resilient team tonight in northern Mecklenburg County. Charlotte worked the ball well and found quality shots, while the Wildcats down the stretch could not make big plays. Charlotte pulled in front with less than a minute left and held on to win 73-69. Aside from the D-Block, the Niner fans were far more vocal during the game and may have provided the spark their players needed. The Charlotte players celebrated at the final buzzer and made sure to acknowledge their fans, which was nice since they had to look way up to spot many of them. The Charlotte students were able to make a difference, even with the cheapest seats in the arena (which did sell out, but not until near game time).
Charlotte's players and fans celebrated this game as a big win. That is nice to see in Our Game, since many of the higher mid-majors only celebrate wins that are important in conference play or are Red Line Upsets. But this was a big win on the road, even if Charlotte traveled fairly little to get to Davidson. Despite the history in the series and the record of the 49ers, Davidson fans on their message board complained about this being a bad loss. But Davidson has played much better so far than anybody in their conference, and should do well against a weak SoCon. Hopefully this game will be most meaningful for Charlotte, having won their first eight games and looking to finally breakthrough in their final A-10 season. It would be nice for the Charlotte metro area to continue to have two quality teams that feed off each other in this rivalry.
On a side note, no pictures for this recap or my next several recaps due to technical problems involving a Trojan virus infecting my hard drive. It remains to be seen if I can get my pictures back, but for now they are gone from this game. And it's too bad, because I had some good pictures of both student sections going crazy. CHARLOTTE 73, at DAVIDSON 69
CHARLOTTE 8-0 (0-0) -- D. Ingram 2-6 0-0 5; P. Henry 3-8 5-5 11; T. Williams 3-12 1-2 7; D. Clarke 7-8 0-2 14; W. Clayton 6-9 0-1 12; C. Braswell 5-9 4-4 15; D. Mayfield 0-2 2-2 2; E. Nickerson 1-3 1-2 4; J. Thompson 1-2 0-0 3; I. Benkovic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-59 13-18 73.
DAVIDSON 4-4 (1-0) -- J. Kuhlman 3-7 2-4 9; D. Brooks 6-15 1-2 13; J. Cohen 4-8 6-9 15; N. Cochran 3-6 5-6 12; T. Droney 5-5 2-2 14; C. Czerapowicz 0-2 0-0 0; C. Mann 2-4 2-2 6; T. Kalinoski 0-0 0-0 0; J. Barham 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 18-25 69.
Three-point goals: CHAR 4-12 (C. Braswell 1-1; D. Mayfield 0-1; E. Nickerson 1-1; T. Williams 0-2; P. Henry 0-2; D. Ingram 1-3; J. Thompson 1-2), DAV 5-11 (J. Kuhlman 1-2; N. Cochran 1-2; J. Cohen 1-2; D. Brooks 0-1; C. Czerapowicz 0-2; T. Droney 2-2); Rebounds: CHAR 33 (D. Clarke 9), DAV 23 (D. Brooks 8); Assists: CHAR 13 (P. Henry 5), DAV 12 (J. Cohen 2); Total Fouls -- CHAR 22, DAV 15; Fouled Out: CHAR-None; DAV-None.