Game #9-396: Wofford Terriers at The Citadel BulldogsJanuary 31, 2013 7:05 pm
McAlister Field House
As I have mentioned before, The Citadel is not a big basketball school. Part of the appeal in coming to a game at the Citadel is that McAlister Field House is a wide open building with lots of space. You can just sit atop the general admission bleachers at mid-court, and watch a basketball game to yourself with a good view of the action. The Bulldogs are not a great team, but it is a good enough deal for ten dollars. The challenge is finding others who want to come to a Citadel basketball game. A typical crowd at McAlister Field House consists of the same elderly Citadel season ticket holders in the reserved seats, a few scattered groups in the bleachers behind the scorers' table, and a few bored cadets who found their way into the building. But parking can still be a problem, as the layout of the Citadel campus prevents McAlister Field House from having its own true parking lot. So I had to park a few blocks down by Washington Light Infantry Field which is used by the women's soccer team at the Citadel. As I walked towards McAlister Field House from my car, I saw cadets going in the cadet entrance of the building. Cadets were actually arriving early! This could be a good basketball atmosphere for a change!
But once I was inside, the bleachers were still mostly empty in the cadet sections. They did fill in though, and when they did I could see why the cadets had come. The cadets had been lured in by the promise of free food. The cadets had come in looking for food, and not for basketball. Once the game started, they were not interested in the most part in watching it. And that would be even though the Citadel plays pretty competitive basketball for a bad team as I noted before
. Some students paid attention to the game, but only as something to do while eating and mingling with their friends. At least the cadets were in their own section separate from general admission, and did not interfere with my enjoyment of the game. But I feel that the Citadel could do better for a basketball atmosphere. The Citadel promotes the quality of the McAlister Maniacs, a group of mostly athletes from other teams who has led the energy in the crowd for big games. But in this write-up of the McAlister Maniacs
, the Citadel sort of over-sells the group. Most of the time I never notice them, and this game was included in that even with a close game and many other cadets in attendance. Some military schools do quite well in getting support for basketball. VMI solves any potential attendance problem by requiring
cadet/Keydet attendance for basketball games (they are free to leave at halftime however). That is a bit controlling of the student body, which is standard for a military school. The Citadel is capable of doing so as well, and requires cadet attendance for football games where all of the cadets parade into the stadium prior to kickoff. But there lies the problem with many schools like the Citadel: football is the big sport on campus, even though the Bulldog football team is not much better than their basketball counterparts. And come spring the Citadel baseball team is usually pretty good, and got as much applause as the basketball team got this game when they were introduced to the crowd. College basketball fans that live in Charleston mostly follow College of Charleston, with basketball only a bridge between football and baseball for the Citadel community.
But that is true with many other schools in the Southern Conference. Wofford may not be a military school, but they have a small student body as well with more loyalty towards football and baseball. But basketball still gets some love at Wofford and has grown a loyal fan base among some of its students, especially with Wofford coach Mike Young having led the Terriers to prominence in the SoCon over the last few seasons. But the final group of Wofford players who were key players on those championship teams graduated last year. Wofford still has a few familiar faces in Lee Skinner and Karl Cochran, but had many new faces as well. As I saw previously against Appalachian State
, Wofford's lack of experience has brought them down this year towards the middle of the SoCon even with a win at Xavier. With the Bulldogs at home, this would be an even matchup even if the crowd was less than enthusiastic for it.
In the past, Wofford had big guys like Noah Dahlman and Tim Johnson. But aside from Skinner, this year's Terriers have little going for them in the frontcourt. And the frontcourt is the specialty of the Bulldogs, led by Mike Groselle. And it post dominance that put the Citadel ahead early. Not only did Groselle get his points inside, so did fellow big man P.J. Horgan. Between Horgan and Groselle's dominance, the Citadel led by eight points early. And unlike most games, it was the Citadel's opponent who was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way. And Wofford would initially catch up, led by Spencer Collins in a team effort to give Wofford a one point lead with three minutes until halftime. But with Marshall Harris running the point and distributing the ball Groselle was able to get inside and match the Terrier run to put the Citadel up 33-30 at halftime.
Yet despite this great effort by the home team, the cadets' interest in the game did not grow. In fact, many of them left because their free food had already been used. As exciting a game as it was, the crowd was no more into it than they ever have been. And the Citadel had a great chance at getting their first home conference win and second SoCon win overall on the season! But the Citadel players held their ground even with a lack of fan support. The second half initially went back and forth until the Bulldog guards turned up the heat. Harris was able to drive to the basket and get Matt Van Scyoc open for shots. And of course Groselle continued to contribute as well as the Bulldogs built their lead back up to nine with eight minutes left.
As weird as it is, much of the Citadel's more passionate fans come from the elderly alumni and season ticket holders. You typically think of cadets at a military school as being a loud and rowdy group, but that is not the case as I have said for Citadel basketball. But for being old for the most part, the season ticket holders are quite vocal and passionate. The Citadel fans are much more loyal to their school than most places, and the few fans that care let themselves be known. That is particularly true when it comes to the officiating, as Citadel fans are probably the most vocal I have seen when they feel the refs aren't going their way. And that can in turn influence the officials, which is as far as home court advantage matters anyway. And that allowed the Citadel in part to hold off Wofford every time the Terriers put together a run to threaten the home team. The two big men in Groselle and Horgan combined for 40 points as The Citadel would indeed go on to get a 69-63 win, and every win is big for the Bulldogs when they have struggled to get over the top and win games this season.
And even though I am not a Citadel fan by any means, I was disappointed to see the cadets not stay for the game. The attendance was just shy of 1800, one of the best midweek crowds the Citadel has seen. But much of those 1800 were not there when the game was on the line. This is a phenomenon I have noted before,
as basketball does not get the priority at the Citadel like it does across town at College of Charleston. It is part of the reason that the schools do not always like each other, and why the Cougars will flee the SoCon after this season in search of a conference that cares about basketball in the Colonial. It is unlikely that the Citadel will ever be that great at basketball, considering that among other military schools VMII does care and put effort into basketball but seems to have peaked at being a mediocre Big South team. In many ways it is good that basketball does not get priority when you are actually there. I don't see the parking situation as being good enough to accommodate big crowds, and the bleachers are more comfortable with fewer in them. But it would still be nice to see some of both, as the cadets should be able to make more noise. I talked with my internship supervisor about this phenomenon, himself a former cadet who has worked in the basketball program 30 years ago as a student manager. He said that some cadets who are academically behind might use the time to study, and thus might be why they would leave at halftime. While that is the case at every school, as I pointed out to him the Citadel has a unique problem with its cadets needing to wake up early each morning as well for training exercises. There are some schools unfortunately that can't translate into basketball schools (even though all 347 Division I schools have men's basketball), and the Citadel is one of them. That makes it an extra victory for them when they can win games like they did tonight against Wofford.
at THE CITADEL 69, WOFFORD 63
WOFFORD 8-14 (2-7) -- I. Faithfull 0-6 2-2 2; K. Cochran 6-17 0-0 15; S. Collins 6-14 0-0 14; L. Skinner 5-9 2-3 12; A. Smith 2-3 2-2 6; J. Gordon 2-2 2-2 6; C. Neumann 1-2 2-2 4; J. Byrd 2-7 0-0 4; T. Wagener 0-1 0-0 0; J. Long 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 10-11 63.
THE CITADEL 5-15 (2-8) -- M. Van Scyoc 3-8 2-2 10; M. Harris III 2-3 2-2 6; M. Groselle 10-16 4-6 24; A. Moore 3-6 0-0 7; D. Setzekorn 0-1 0-0 0; S. Elmore 1-1 0-0 2; J. Jenkins 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 20-36 10-12 53.
Three-point goals: WOFF 5-24 (T. Wagener 0-1; K. Cochran 3-12; J. Byrd 0-1; I. Faithfull 0-3; L. Skinner 0-1; S. Collins 2-6), CITA 3-8 (A. Moore 1-3; D. Setzekorn 0-1; M. Van Scyoc 2-4); Rebounds: WOFF 25 (I. Faithfull 6), CITA 18 (P. Horgan 10); Assists: WOFF 13 (I. Faithfull 5), CITA 15 (M. Harris 10); Total Fouls -- WOFF 17, CITA 8; Fouled Out: WOFF-None; CITA-None.