Game #9-365: Florida A&M Rattlers at South Carolina State BulldogsJanuary 21, 2013 7:30 pm
SHM Memorial Center
On this Monday, January 21, there were very few games across Hoops Nation. Sure, Ray Curren was able to find Fairfield playing a Metro Atlantic game this day
. But most games today were at one of the HBCUs in either the MEAC or SWAC. So the only option for me on this day was to go see South Carolina State play Florida A&M. But today was Martin Luther King Day, so where else would I rather be? It seems appropriate that when we think of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement that we visit the only universities African-Americans were allowed to attend during King's time. There were few games to pick from this evening, just like there were few schools African-American students could pick from during segregation. And it is amazing to think such atrocities in our country were being committed in our parents' lifetime. Not even just our grandparents' lifetime, our parents' lifetime. As Ray Curren mentioned in his more recent recap of a Coppin State game, you have to see a game at a HBCU not just because they exist, but because how they exist. And we just hope that as African-Americans can now attend any other school in Hoops Nation today that the HBCUs can somehow elevate themselves to equal footing with everybody else.
Before I planned my day, I double checked the time. Considering that many Americans were off of work or school today, they could have played in the afternoon. But it was the same schedule as always for a Monday in the MEAC, with the women at 5:30 and the men following. So I started my morning by participating in USC Sumter's Dream Walk and taking pictures of the event for the school. The Dream Walk is hosted by USC Sumter, but with the other two Sumter colleges (a technical school as well as NAIA member Morris College, a HBCU) collaborating in the event as well. The walk ran from 9:30 A.M. to 11 A.M. down the streets of Sumter in the tradition of the old Civil Rights protest marches. The walk was followed by an indoor picnic lunch at USC Sumter's gym, followed by a program celebrating Martin Luther King and the African-American movement at 11:30 in the auditorium. Students from all three colleges spoke and performed during the program, which ran until 12:30 P.M. After that was finished, I went home to process my pictures for the school and then rested until it was time to drive 50 miles to Orangeburg. I saw the women's game, which I have already recapped on here a couple weeks ago. At halftime of the women's game, SCSU played a section from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech" (USC Sumter played the speech in its entirety before the program in the auditorium). Then it was time for the men's game just after 7:30 PM.
After elaborating in my recap of S.C. State's home game against Coppin State last year where I talked about standing out as a white guy at a HBCU game, I have tried to talk less about race in recaps of MEAC games since. But this was Martin Luther King Day, and unfortunately our fear of standing out and being different still persist. At Charleston Southern games the past few years, I have noticed that the students there often seem to self-segregate themselves in a similar manner to what I saw in my high school's cafeteria. The solid majority of students standing between center court and the baseline are white at CSU, while a solid majority of students sitting behind the basket on one side are black. And I see that, and it does not make me happy. At the Dream Walk in the afternoon, USC Sumter did a good job getting all student groups to participate. But for the most part, very few whites in the Sumter community outside those directly connected with USC Sumter showed up. And in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, that is a step back. Take a look at this video of the 1963 March on Washington which culminated with Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech". Most participants in the march are black, but there are several white participants. And cohesion between different racial backgrounds is the only way we can achieve the dream of Dr. King. As Dr. King put it himself in his famous speech, "I have a dream that one day... right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." And it was white student activists who were among those beaten by racists while trying to register black voters during the Freedom Rides. And as I mentioned in that recap last year, one of the leaders of the famous Greensboro sit-ins was a white man who became familiar with the local black community in part because of attending North Carolina A&T basketball games. We still have a long way to go in achieving racial unity, in part because whites still try to avoid situations where they are in the minority. Most HBCUs today including South Carolina State are still well over 90 percent black. So just by going to a MEAC game it is a small step towards achieving greater unity in our society.
Since my recap last year, I have been pleased to see that a few TMMers have indeed gone to HBCUs. John Wilmott went to a game at Howard, while Ray Curren went to a game at Tennessee State and of course the more recent game at Coppin State. And five minutes before the men's game tipped off here, Matt Cayuela (who went to a North Carolina A&T game this season) found his way in to the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center alongside a colleague. They sat in the far corner of the arena from me before switching to near my seat in the second half on a balcony overlooking the Florida A&M bench. It is always great to see many people go outside of their comfort zones to experience new things, regardless of the reason. This past Christmas, I talked with my aunt's husband about the lack of mid-major basketball teams in northern Alabama he could take his son to. He mentioned that that the closest school would likely be Jacksonville State, to which I replied, "Well, there is Alabama A&M (a SWAC school). He then remarked, "Yeah, well, um..... they're not very good". I could tell what he meant by that, just as Ray could tell what someone meant by saying that Coppin State was in a "shitty" neighborhood.
One team that is definitely not very good is South Carolina State. The Bulldogs had going in lost their last 23 MEAC games. As I have mentioned before, SCSU has faced a financial crisis stemming from a drop in enrollment that was not factored into the school's budget. The football team is still doing okay as are other teams on campus at SC State. But the men's basketball program has completely nosedived after having being one of the MEAC's most successful teams in the 1990s. The Bulldogs desperately needed a win here, facing a MEAC schedule that does not bode well for them. S.C. State does not play Maryland-Eastern Shore at all and only plays Howard on the road this season, eliminating their two best chances at a MEAC win. Last year against the Rattlers in Orangeburg SCSU lost on a last second shot. SC State had to give their all here and somehow find their own personal dream of winning a conference game.
The game was fairly similar to the women's game, which the Bulldogs lost by falling too far behind. In this game, SC State managed a slight early lead before the Rattlers quickly caught back up. With seven minutes left in the first half, SC State managed to lead 25-18. But the Rattlers mounted a furious 24-4 run that gave FAMU a 13 point lead before the Bulldogs hit two late superhoops to cut FAMU's halftime lead to 42-35. Florida A&M shot well over the undersized SC State backcourt while the Bulldogs were sloppy with the ball. Anybody at the SHM Center could tell what direction this game would be going for the home team, an all too familiar result.
But that did not hurt the atmosphere at the game too much. The quality of the atmosphere often varies at South Carolina State, and I wanted a good atmosphere after Matt was let down by what he saw at North Carolina A&T. I have certainly seen worse crowds for SC State games, but I have also seen better as well. And the way the crowd gets fired up by the band's rendition of "Pass the Peas" is a much better alternative going into the second half than the Interlude dance at Coastal and Northern Iowa. There were a few fraternities doing choreographed dances on the balcony rail, but it was not quite as good as I have seen in some past games where hundreds of fans join in.
But Pass the Peas could not fire up the home team enough. The Bulldogs did do enough to keep the game interesting, but never could match the run FAMU had in the first half. But S.C. State did get together a decent enough run to gradually chip away at the Rattler lead by the inside-outside combination of Matthew Hezekiah and Khalif Toombs. SC State briefly got their deficit down to one before the Rattlers responded and got a solid lead again. It was an ugly finish, with lots of fouling as SC State desperately hoped to stay in it. But in the end it was another Bulldog loss with Florida A&M winning 89-77.
In Matt's recap of South Carolina and South Carolina State, he remarked that the Bulldogs looked like a decent enough team that would not be going 0-18 again in the MEAC. Unfortunately, I disagree. S.C. State has a credible enough team, but for whatever reason they cannot win a MEAC game. This was their best chance at doing so, and it is an uphill road in finally winning a MEAC game. Even a 1-17 conference record at this point would be a reason for the Bulldogs to rejoice. But I certainly hope I am wrong, and that South Carolina State can get back to winning in the MEAC. I have now been to enough games in Orangeburg now and no longer feel uncomfortable coming here, and sympathize with the fans whose basketball team is facing enormous challenges. I have wondered what it is like at other HBCUs who all struggle in some degree, and I plan to finally soon attend a North Carolina A&T game like I should have done years ago. The struggle that HBCUs like South Carolina State has had particularly is one we should all be sympathetic to, as we all shall overcome, someday.
FLORIDA A&M 89, at SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 77
FLORIDA A&M 5-14 (2-3) -- J. Adams 8-17 6-7 28; T. Kellum 7-10 4-5 18; J. Bradshaw 5-9 0-0 11; R. Lewis 3-8 2-4 8; M. Abdul-Aleem 3-7 2-2 9; M. Teal 3-5 1-1 7; O. Odi 0-1 0-2 0; W. Davis 0-1 0-0 0; M. Fabiyi 0-0 0-0 0; M. Badejo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 15-21 81.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 4-14 (0-5) -- M. Hezekiah 9-16 3-3 21; S. Mitchell 3-12 1-2 7; K. Toombs 3-8 9-13 17; P. Myers 0-1 2-4 2; D. Palmer 6-9 3-3 15; L. Radovic 3-6 1-4 8; T. Linton 0-1 0-0 0; C. Campbell 0-2 0-0 0; P. Henry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 19-29 70.
Three-point goals: FAMU 8-18 (R. Lewis 0-3; M. Abdul-Aleem 1-2; J. Adams 6-10; J. Bradshaw 1-3), SCST 3-11 (K. Toombs 2-4; D. Joint 1-2; L. Radovic 1-1; C. Campbell 0-2; T. Linton 0-1; S. Mitchell 0-3); Rebounds: FAMU 20 (T. Kellum 11), SCST 36 (L. Radovic 10); Assists: FAMU 8 (D. Bullard 3), SCST 11 (K. Toombs 6); Total Fouls -- FAMU 21, SCST 16; Fouled Out: FAMU-J. Bradshaw; SCST-None.