After my previous game at Coastal Carolina
Game #9-353: High Point Panthers at Charleston Southern BuccaneersJanuary 19, 2013 5:30 pm
, I would make the long drive down the South Carolina coast to see High Point play at Charleston Southern. I would of course not be the only person doing that, as Matt Cayuela would be making the same trip as well
. Due to the early start of the Coastal game, there was plenty of time to get to Charleston Southern even with the final three minutes taking up 15 minutes due to rough play in the Coastal-VMI game. So I could relax and not worry about having to rush to arrive at the second smallest arena in Division I early, even with an unusually early start time for an evening game (5:30 PM). Matt would stop in Mount Pleasant between places to do a review for his Happy Hour website
, while I would just settle for the more simple choice of an Arby's down the street from the CSU campus. I sat at Arby's for a half hour and caught up with the college basketball scores on the day, and then headed over. I was still way early before everybody else, and got to see High Point come in off the bus. I thought about greeting them as they came in, but decided against it since I am now almost five years out from graduating and nobody at HPU knows who I am anymore.
While High Point has played better since the start of conference play, I still did not have high hopes for this game. High Point had barely escaped at home in previous games against Gardner-Webb and Liberty. Charleston Southern has been quite a bit better than either of those teams, and of course this game would not be at CSU Field House. And CSU Field House has proven to be a difficult place to play, as proven by the game I was at three days prior
. I was expecting another raucous crowd here, but this time was not willing to be a part of it since CSU's opponent is my favorite team. I would have gone to the other side of the arena to be away from the students, but reserved seats are not available online and I wanted a ticket in advance. I initially planned to sit down low again, but decided it would be more comfortable if I sat in the back on the other end of the bleachers from where the students were at. Matt Cayuela eventually made his way in and sat next to me. I was kind of glad to have a Coastal fan sitting next to me, less tense
than being surrounded by nobody but fans of the home team. And at the same time I think tensions and misery would have fed off each other if I was sitting next to a fellow High Point fan. Matt was pretty much neutral like I am most games, so it was good to sit next to somebody who cared about the game but not about who won.
As it turned out, much of the people in the bleachers were non-student groups. There was one youth team from a rural area about 30 miles northwest of CSU at the game, sitting in the seats near the court directly below us. A lot of the crowd also consisted of family groups. But there were no active student groups that were as pumped up as they were on the preceding Wednesday night game against UNC Asheville. I was expecting a big crowd as Matt was considering the rising success of the team, and that this was a weekend game. But both me and Matt were let down by the quality of the crowd at the game. It was not that the crowd was too small, as there were well over 900 people which is about average (of course the arena does not actually hold over 900 people, but still). The problem with the crowd was more along the lines of quality rather than quantity. All the students sat throughout the game, despite the success of their team. And in terms of quantity, there definitely were way more students on Wednesday night. More non-students just does not get you the quality atmosphere you expect from Our Game. I have noticed this phenomenon of weekend games having weaker atmospheres, despite the fact that more people can attend on the weekends. It is true that more fans off campus can come when it is not a work day. But on a residential campus, more students are going to be around on a weeknight. Some students go home or do other weekend activities on Saturday. But the students are all there for weeknight games when that is their lone entertainment option. The community atmosphere of the crowd and the energy is much better when led by students, and that is more likely going to be the case mid-week. I have seen it elsewhere in my travels, most notably at South Carolina State.
And unfortunately, it would not be a good night for seeing good basketball either if you were like me in rooting for High Point. Mathiang Muo hit a superhoop just over ten seconds in, and it would only get worse from there for High Point. I could see quite early on that this could be The Run even though the game had just started. I wanted Scott Cherry to use an early timeout to prevent this from turning into The Run. But Cherry did not call a timeout, probably wanting to save his first half timeout for later. It is also possible he was waiting for a basket as many coaches do so the players can gain confidence going into the timeout in breaking the momentum. But Cherry eventually conceded and called timeout, by which point The Run had come. High Point was already down 12, and only three minutes in! At least I knew at this point that I should not be hoping for an upset win.
As High Point often does under Cherry, the team came back by going on a big offensive spurt, scoring eight unanswered points to cut CSU's lead to four at the second media timeout. But High Point needed good defense to potentially threaten the Bucs. Scott Cherry's defense relies a lot on creating turnovers, and a sloppy team can beat themselves against HPU. Unfortunately, Charleston Southern is not a sloppy team. CSU is led by a good point guard in Saah Nimley and has a good coach in Barclay Radebaugh, a former assistant to Gregg Marshall who has instilled good disciplined ball movement in his Buccaneers. High Point can still often win when the other team misses from outside even with few turnovers. But Charleston Southern would not do that. Jeremy Sexton took advantage of the open looks he was getting by making all seven three pointers he took in the first half! Sexton had 23 points at halftime as High Point's perimeter defense did very little in trailing 49-34 at the half. Statistician Ken Pomeroy has argued that defending the #superhoop should not be measured by the shooting percentage of the opponent, but rather the percentage of shots taken by the opponent from behind the arc. By the traditional measure of defending the 3, Charleston Southern shot 65 percent on threes in the first half, which does not make High Point look good. However if one looks at Pomeroy's measure of defending outside shots, CSU took 53 percent of their field goal attempts from behind the arc in the first half... and HPU still does not look good. No matter how you measure it, High Point did not do a good job at shutting down Sexton and the Bucs in the first half.
High Point made brief runs throughout the second half, only for Charleston Southern to come back and solidify its lead again. Charleston Southern graduated Kelvin Martin from last year and Jamarco Warren the year before that, but still has a proven senior leader in Sexton who would finish with 34 points. High Point did not have a bad game in all aspects, as the Panthers finished with a very respectable 75 points on 68 possessions. But CSU finished with 83 points on 67 possessions. Even with a late run, HPU would fall short again on the road.
It very much stings to lose this game, even when I expected it. Charleston Southern is the kind of program we need to beat, considering that the schools are level in financial resources and we do not have a football team to distract ourselves with like CSU does. And the Buc Dome is one a few facilities in Hoops Nation that makes the Millis Center look grand. But Charleston Southern right now clearly has the better team. And with the win and the loss by VMI in the other game I attended, the Buccaneers would be the last team in the Big South undefeated in conference play. The whole Big South is chasing a school who in basketball has less advantages than even most other schools in the conference do. So credit needs to be given to Radebaugh and his team for having success. Radebaugh and UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach are probably among the best coaches in Our Game at doing well despite having few resources with which to win. Radebaugh is at a school that cares little about basketball, while Biedenbach is at a school that cares little about college athletics in general. And yet they still win. I hope Cherry can still turn around High Point, but the whole conference is interesting right now even in a weak year.
It just was not our day. Walking out in the cramped confines of the Buc Dome, I could tell our Panther players were not feeling good about this day either. A Charleston Southern student shouted, "Hey High Point, y'all still suck!" which seemed to highly irritate Cherry as he escorted his players out of the building where it is hard to separate fans from the players. I hope Cherry does not hold that against the CSU students. It was just a bad day if you were a High Point person today. But things can still get better. And for me, it really was not too bad a day. It could certainly have been worse if I had rear-ended the car that cut me off when they merged in front of me abruptly on Interstate 526 between Mount Pleasant and North Charleston. I got to see two games on the day, and seeing two college basketball games is always good. I got up early, and got home in plenty of time before leaving for Greensboro the next day. And maybe if we meet CSU in the Big South Tournament High Point will know better in needing to tightly defend Jeremy Sexton.
at CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 83, HIGH POINT 75
HIGH POINT 8-9 (3-2) -- S. Brown 11-17 2-2 29; J. Brown 5-12 1-2 11; A. Chaney 6-11 8-9 21; A. Weary 7-13 2-2 19; D. Edwards 2-4 1-2 6; D. McGaughy 3-8 2-3 8; J. Simms 1-1 0-0 3; C. Law 0-0 0-0 0; B. Mikulic 1-1 0-0 2; J. Cheek 0-0 0-0 0; L. Cugini 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 14-18 70.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 10-6 (5-0) -- J. Sexton 12-13 2-2 34; A. Harper 4-12 5-7 14; S. Nimley 3-6 5-6 13; P. Gombwer 1-3 0-0 2; A. Fullah 4-5 0-0 8; M. Muo 3-9 0-0 8; M. Bernard 0-1 2-2 2; S. Strickland 1-2 0-0 2; M. Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-51 14-17 83.
Three-point goals: HP 6-12 (A. Chaney 1-2; J. Simms 1-1; D. Wallace 0-3; D. Edwards 1-1; D. McGaughy 0-1; A. Weary 3-7), CHSO 13-25 (J. Sexton 8-9; M. Muo 2-5; A. Harper 1-6; S. Nimley 2-5); Rebounds: HP 22 (A. Chaney 5), CHSO 26 (J. Sexton 5); Assists: HP 12 (D. McGaughy 4), CHSO 17 (S. Nimley 7); Total Fouls -- HP 14, CHSO 16; Fouled Out: HP-None; CHSO-None.