Game #9-366: Florida A&M Rattlers at South Carolina State BulldogsJanuary 21, 2013 7:30 pm
SHM Memorial Center
It has been a shame that I had taken so long to go to South Carolina State to see the Bulldogs play. There have been many contributing factors to not going to Orangeburg the past two seasons. Mainly, the Bulldogs have not been very good, even by MEAC standards. They had not won a league game in the past two seasons. This usually meant I would look for better matchups on Saturdays than go to SCSU and usually needed a day of rest on Mondays when the Bulldogs would play a lot of games as well.
South Carolina State is an HBCU, but after going to North Carolina A&T
this season, I did not have a problem with standing out
. There was, however, the unknown factor of never having been to Orangeburg. Everyone I had ever talked to about Orangeburg really did not have too many nice things to say about the place. I had been to Greensboro before, where A&T is located, but never being anywhere near Orangeburg before gave me some apprehensions.
I knew I had to suck it up and go to at least one game at S.C. State this season. My questions were subdued when I talked to my friend Layla. She mentioned that she went to Bulldog games years ago and that she would make the trip with me since she was familiar with Orangeburg. It is always nice to have company for a game and of course makes the ride go a lot quicker when you have someone else to talk to.
It had been years since Layla had been to a game, so her orientation was a bit rusty. It did not help that it was dark out and there was no real signage of where to go. After circumventing the SCSU campus and adjoining Clafflin University, we were able to find what we thought was the Smith Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
We walked up to one of the entrances, but the doors were locked. A student opened the doors for us though. I would like to say that we immediately went to the ticket stand and purchased a seat, but we just snuck into the stands instead. Not the most honest thing to do, but it is not like they haven't offered free admission before.
While I had not seen the Bulldogs play at home before, this was not my first time seeing them this season. I had seen S.C. State face South Carolina
in a surprisingly close game. I did not know if that was because the Bulldogs were playing really well or if it was just South Carolina playing to the level of its opponents as they have done in recent years. One player that stuck out to me for the Bulldogs was their big man Matthew Hezekiah. He played a strong game against an SEC front line, so I figured he would be able to dominate in MEAC play.
I knew nothing at all about the Rattlers of Florida A&M. Their record was poor much like S.C. State's, but it was littered with the typical guarantee games you will see in MEAC non-conference play. I vaguely remember some of the NCAA tournament games A&M were in several years ago, but they seem to have been quiet in recent years.
S.C. State has an interesting arena, as it seems like it is more suited for speeches or concerts with a stage located behind the scorer's table. It is just a big void complete with its very own, smaller version of the black curtain of doom. Despite this strange setup and poor performance from the home team, there was still a decent amount of fans in attendance. I guess there is not much to do in Orangeburg, so going to see the home team is a good enough reason to spend a few hours.
When the game started, it was not the best display of basketball you will ever see. There were lots of quick shots, but they were not of the best selection. Neither team could get a handle on the ball and continually fumbled it around for a sloppy first few minutes. It was not until an 8-0 run from A&M, led by two threes from Jamie Adams, that one team started to take control.
That is not to say that everything was going smoothly for Florida A&M. Walter Davis was able to get a steal and had a clear path to the basket. There was also another teammate well ahead of him that he could have passed to, but he chose not to. Instead, Davis fumbled the ball a bit, not looking like a very good ball handler. He then rose for a dunk, but bricked it badly out of bounds. The mostly-silent-until-then crowd booed Davis' poor attempt, and I could not help but laugh when the PA guy even joined in on the booing.
I had never heard the public address guy boo an opposing player. That would not be the only strange oddity from the PA man, as after a Hezekiah block all you could hear was "Nuh uh uh SHOT BLOCK!" Now I have heard PA guys get excited for their team, but I was not expecting it, seeing that the ball did not fly out of bounds, it was still in play with play continuing.
Unfortunately, for much of the first half, he was the most entertaining part of the contest. Florida A&M had fallen in love with the three-point shot, but was not making any. They soon realized that they could get easy points inside against a soft Bulldog defense. The lead was up to 13, but S.C. State used a late push and a three-pointer at the buzzer from Devin Joint to cut it to 42-35.
At the half, I went over to sit with Ian McCormick, who was sitting on the opposite side of the arena. I also got to see one of the elaborate step routines from one of the fraternities right before the start of the second half.
South Carolina State played much better coming out of the half offensively, but turnovers started to pop off and were constantly stopping the Bulldogs momentum. They were able to regain the lead at one point, but the Rattlers took it right back and were finding the same amount of success in the paint as they did in the first half. S.C. State tried hard, but turnovers and bad decisions kept it from being too close the rest of the way, and the Bulldogs fell yet again in the MEAC.
Orangeburg did not turn out to be as bad as some were making it out to be. The drive is less than three hours, and I should go more in the future. The on-court product is the part that is not too enticing. South Carolina State turns the ball over way too much and the defense is an afterthought at times. Hopefully in the future, the team can put out a much better product for its fairly loyal fanbase.