Game #9-270: Samford Bulldogs at Charleston CougarsJanuary 10, 2013 7:30 pm
Carolina First Center
The Samford Bulldogs romped into downtown Charleston on Wednesday night, getting ready for their weekend in Charleston, which will most likely be their last as a member of the SoCon. They practiced on the TD Arena court after busing from Birmingham, a seven-hour trip.
The Bulldogs are a very young team. Samford's only wins so far this year into Thursday were Martin Methodist, a conference win over Georgia Southern, and a win over Tennessee-Martin which Craig Caswell, a fellow TMM9 member, attended.
The College of Charleston was on a 5-game winning streak after a terrible loss to Anderson. They barely beat Furman on Saturday, taking a game-winning shot with under :30 left to defeat them.
Even with Samford's bad overall record (3-10 in the non-conference), in a league like the SoCon, conference games mean everything. It is almost always a one-bid proposition. It is an 18-game grind to Asheville and the conference tournament. For the College of Charleston, who had defeated Baylor already this year, they had gone through a grind in their conference games, with the tight one at Furman and a very close win at Elon.
CofC is a strange team to predict. So far, they are 5-0 on the road, and 5-4 at home heading into this one. Samford was a fifteen point underdog to the Cougars on the road. This was also the first game with the students back since the holiday break; adding those students (hundreds) to the crowd would figure to give CofC an advantage.
Samford has five freshmen, including four who play lots of minutes; Tim Williams, Russell Wilson (not related to the Seahawks QB), Clide Geffrard, Jr., and Jaylen Beckham. They are led by first-year coach Bennie Seltzer, a disciple of Tom Crean at Indiana and Marquette.
A local sportscaster in Birmingham, Mike Raita, gave Samford little shot to win. This game though disregarded the trends. Samford had a larger amount of fans than they usually do in games in Charleston. The last two games I've seen them play here, they had two or three people.
For this game, they had maybe ten; this included their athletic director, Martin Newton. Samford played a great first half; as a heavy underdog, just like Furman, they controlled play. For most of the first half, they led; CofC was held scoreless for the final 2:52 of the first half giving the Bulldogs a 29-24 halftime lead over the Cougars.
Samford made 12 of 27 field goals in the first half; the College of Charleston only could make 8 of 25. This included four 3-pointers, more than what CofC made in the entire game. The Cougars were just 3 of 16 from the three-point line. This turned out to be very important.
Samford controlled the first few minutes of the second half; but Willis Hall's tip-in at the 13:14 mark gave CofC a 36-35 lead.
After Adjehi Baru made a basket to give CofC a 53-44 lead at the 4:54 mark (a 17-9 run), Samford ignited. Will Cook made an important 3 that cut the Cougar lead to 53-47. Tim Williams, one of the best freshmen in the Southern Conference, added two layups that cut the lead to just 53-51. Anthony Stitt made a layup, giving the Cougs a 55-51 lead.
Raijon Kelly made a layup at the 2:08 mark to cut the CofC lead to 2 at 55-53, then Geffrard made a huge 3 to give Samford the lead, which stunned the crowd, except for the ten Samford fans who jumped up and down and their bench who collectively jumped off their chairs at the same time.
After an empty possession, Connor Miller, the young freshman PG from Wisconsin, nailed a dagger 3 to give Samford a 59-55 lead with just :24 left. Andrew Lawrence made a layup, and Stitt fouled. Kelly made the first, and missed the second FT. It was a 3 point game at 60-57 as Willis Hall got the rebound. Lawrence got the ball up the court, pulled up, and missed a 3 a few feet beyond the line. Samford added two free throws to end it.
The fans emptied out of TD Arena, after another very tough loss. For the second straight year, the Cougars lost to a SoCon North Division team that had a vastly inferior record. Last year, it was UNC-Greensboro, in a game when Anthony Stitt broke his hand after the ball bounced off it. This year it was Samford.
Samford had never beaten the College of Charleston, and this was a school that had spent time in the TAAC with CofC in the mid and late 1990s, so they had played each other a lot. Until Thursday night, Samford hadn't won a game in Charleston since 1978 (over Baptist College, now known as Charleston Southern). That's a pretty amazing streak.
Their fans were jubilant. Local Birmingham writers were saying that it may be a program-changing win, and a monumental one. A few Samford fans on Twitter even called CofC the Goliath. This was a huge win for the Bulldogs, who now face The Citadel Saturday night at McAlister Field House. CofC has to bounce back and host Chattanooga Saturday afternoon in an important game.
As Bert Bell said during the 1950s about the NFL, with "any team able to win on any given Sunday," the same holds true in most mid-major basketball conferences. Any team can win on any given night.
SAMFORD 62, at CHARLESTON 57
SAMFORD 4-12 (2-1) -- C. Miller 2-7 0-0 5; T. Williams 4-14 0-0 8; R. Kelly 4-13 6-8 15; C. Geffrard Jr. 4-4 0-1 10; W. Cook 5-7 0-0 12; R. Wilson 2-5 0-0 4; T. Hood 2-2 2-4 8; J. Beckham 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 8-13 62.
CHARLESTON 10-5 (2-1) -- A. Baru 5-9 8-10 18; A. Lawrence 6-12 1-1 14; A. Stitt 2-8 0-0 5; W. Hall 1-2 2-2 4; N. Johnson 3-8 0-0 6; A. Thomas 2-5 1-2 6; T. Johnson 2-4 0-0 4; T. Wiedeman 0-0 0-0 0; M. Sundberg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 12-15 57.
Three-point goals: SAMF 8-16 (W. Cook 2-3; T. Hood 2-2; R. Kelly 1-3; C. Miller 1-6; C. Geffrard Jr. 2-2), COFC 3-16 (A. Lawrence 1-6; N. Johnson 0-3; A. Stitt 1-4; T. Johnson 0-2; A. Thomas 1-1); Rebounds: SAMF 24 (W. Cook 7), COFC 31 (A. Baru 11); Assists: SAMF 12 (R. Kelly 4), COFC 5 (A. Lawrence 2); Total Fouls -- SAMF 14, COFC 15; Fouled Out: SAMF-None; COFC-None.