Game #9-192: Clemson Tigers at Coastal Carolina ChanticleersDecember 19, 2012 7:00 pm
Coastal Carolina has done a good job in recent years of getting big name opponents to come to Conway. They rarely have scheduled the dreaded guarantee games with teams above the Red Line under the Cliff Ellis era. There was a scheduling agreement with LSU two years ago where the Tigers were supposed to open the brand new HTC Center, but delays prevented that from happening. CCU hosted the Tigers in Kimbel Arena and ended up winning
and getting the sweep in the series against them. This year they have started up a home and home series with Ole Miss and while the Chants fell to the Rebels in Oxford this year, they are expected to make the return visit to Conway next season.
That brings us to Clemson, where Coastal was able to schedule a 2-for-1 series with the Tigers. The Chants beat Clemson in their meeting last season off a tip-in at the buzzer and now the in-state foes were looking to exact a measure of revenge in what was seen as the marquee home game of the year on the Chanticleers' schedule.
My hopes for a Chanticleer upset were not too high despite their win last year. A lot of the players that had contributed to that upset were gone and the Coastal squad this year had been taking a few lumps. The team only had one win against DI competition against Akron
in the season opener, which feels like a very long time ago. Losses to Tennessee Tech
, Florida International
and twice to Boston
University had shown many flaws in CCU's game. I figured it would be very hard for the Chants to keep up with a Clemson team that is not a traditional ACC power, but still has top level talent nonetheless.
I knew that the usual home-court advantage could end up not being much of an advantage at all. With Coastal students gone for winter break, there would be plenty of tickets up for sale in those student sections. With the high number of Clemson fans that live in Horry County and the Grand Strand, I knew there would be a lot of orange in the stands and my fears were confirmed when I arrived to the HTC Center.
That whole section behind the basket was about 90 percent Clemson fans. There was a denser distribution of Coastal fans throughout the arena, but it seemed like it was 50/50 around game time. I'll call them CCU fans, but I noticed a lot of unfamiliar faces in the season ticket sections. You could tell there were a lot of fair-weather fans that were there just to see the opponent and you would most likely not see them for many more games the rest of the season.
Regardless of the makeup of the crowd, it would be the true fans of the home team that got to cheer the loudest at the start. Coastal made the home-team surge that you will often see in matchups such as these with a 10-2 run. Anthony Raffa got out of his mini-slump in recent games and had the first five points. After CCU's hot hands cooled down, Clemson came back and took the lead 17-14 with the expected active play from Devin Booker. It did not help matters that Coastal's big man El Hadji Ndieguene picked up two early fouls, finding him a spot on the bench and leaving the Chants perilously thin in the frontcourt.
Where Coastal did have an advantage was experience in the backcourt. Clemson's young guards were bogging down the offense as it became very stagnant. Raffa and backcourt mate Kierre Greenwood took advantage of the Tigers' indecision and were able nab a few breakaway steals and uncontested lay-ins.
Around that time a cheerleader made her way up to where we were sitting and gave me and my friend Justin passes for free lunches at a local restaurant and thanked us for cheering on the Chants. We had purposely picked out the top row at center court for our season tickets and were standing on our seats the whole game. In the old Kimbel Arena we were second row midcourt, but had a few elderly gentlemen that sat behind us with one that had trouble standing. With no one behind us this year we could stand and cheer as we pleased without bothering anyone else and it was just a bonus that we were being rewarded for it.
Clemson would go nearly nine minutes without a point and would have been stuck on 17 in not for a Booker putback at the buzzer to cut the Tiger deficit down to 27-19. At the half, there was an unusual competition that I had unfortunately missed out on seeing last year. It was the 2nd Annual CCU Baby Race.
Little babies around eight months to one-year old had to crawl about 20 feet with the winner's parents receiving 75 cases of diapers. Justin calculated it and said that is about $1,500, so that is quite the prize. The parents used toys, cans, cell phones, TV remotes, whatever they could to encourage their children to make their way to the finish line. It was a close finish, but the little boy in the red was the winner in a "thrilling" race.
After that good natured fun, it was back to the ball game where everyone knew Clemson had a second-half surge in them. Coastal had Ole Miss down at the half as well, but the Rebels were a different team in the second half and pulled away to a comfortable victory. Clemson did make their run in the second half and it was through dunks and threes.
Everyone knows how exciting those can be, but without fundamentals and teamwork it can only get you so far. That is why teams had been beating Coastal this year, they had been making the extra pass and finding the open man to make the Chanticleers pay. Clemson was doing none of that once CCU started clogging the lane and preventing the high-flying athletic ability of the Tigers. The pull-up threes without any ball movement were no longer hitting their mark and Coastal started to take advantage.
The Chanticleers went on a big run that started with a line-drive three from Michel Enanga that put them up 11. CCU was playing some of their best offense of the season as all the newcomers were chipping in. Badou Diagne hit a big three and Uros "Tenacious D" Ljeskovic got behind the defense for consecutive buckets. Clemson was missing jumper after jumper and then Raffa got into the mix with a three-point play. All of a sudden Coastal was up 27 with two minutes to go. I was in shock that they were able to deliver such a barrage without much of a response.
The army of orange was well on their way to the exits as we pleaded with the crowd to get on their feet and cheer on such a dominant performance. The emcee during the timeouts even gave the mic to a little boy who yelled "Get on your feet Coastal fans, Get Up!" It was not until the final seconds wore down that the rest of the crowd finally rose.
It is not every day that a Big South program is going to trounce an ACC school by 23 points. I went in not expecting much, but ended up getting the perfect result as a Coastal fan. I have learned to take it with a grain of salt as CCU will not see a plodding team like Clemson the rest of the year, especially in the Big South that is more team and guard oriented. It goes to show that no matter what the name is on the front of the jersey, it is all about teamwork and playing together.