Game #9-445: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Charleston Southern BuccaneersMarch 2, 2013 4:30 pm
The college basketball season is one which goes through many twists and turns during a regular season. Conferences can change with one game or one moment. The regular season conference schedule is important for most teams. It tests your mettle in a 14-20 game schedule, and whoever is the winner of the conference after that time gains lots of respect.
The Ivy League is the only league without a conference tournament. These regular season conference games thus mean everything. Ivy League observers call it the "14-Game Tournament." With games almost always on Fridays and Saturdays during the season, huge momentum swings can occur in a two day span. Harvard, for example, lost two straight this weekend, after leading the league headed into the weekend. Princeton won two straight, thus Princeton took over the lead in the league and for the automatic NCAA berth.
In one-bid leagues like the Big South, where the conference tournament means everything usually, winning a regular-season title is often overlooked, but it is still important, because it proves that you were the best team over an entire season.
Charleston Southern, headed into Saturday's game, was in this situation. They were 11-4 in the league, but hadn't clinched their division title yet. In order for the Buccaneers to win the conference, all CSU had to do was beat their biggest conference rival, Coastal Carolina.
On the other hand, if CSU lost and Gardner-Webb, who defeated the Buccaneers twice, won on Saturday, the Bucs wouldn't even win their division. This thus was a huge game for the Buccaneers, in my first CSU game of the year.
Coastal Carolina is always a tough foe for Charleston Southern. Previously, the Chanticleers had won seven straight games against CSU. They dominated the Bucs during their first meeting of the year in Conway. They have had a tougher season than expected, only one game above .500 headed into their final regular season game before they host the conference tournament.
This was my second game inside the Buc Dome at Charleston Southern. With this being the last scheduled home game of the year for our local teams, I decided to visit. I was at the High Point game last season, meeting Ian McCormick, one of the most prolific game watchers in our group. Today, however, he was at High Point's home game against Campbell. They still had a chance of winning the conference if CSU lost and they won.
This was one of the biggest conference games ever played in the Buc Dome. Charleston Southern hasn't won a conference title since the 1986-87 season, and they had a great chance to do it today. CSU hasn't won the Big South Tournament and made the NCAA Tournament since 1997 with Head Coach Tom Conrad, where they lost to UCLA in the first round. Winning this game today would provide a step in helping themselves for that A large crowd filed in, over 1,000 inside the 881 seat CSU Field House.
Several TV camera crews stayed for the entire game, including one from Myrtle Beach's WPDE. This was Senior Day at Charleston Southern, as two seniors were honored, both of which have played an important part in CSU's return from a long stretch of losing seasons. Mathiang Muo and Jeremy Sexton have brought the program back from being a bottom feeder in the Big South to one of the top teams. Sexton, from Chattanooga, has scored over 1,000 points in his career at CSU. He has gradually become a leader of this young team, and has a great presence as a vocal leader. Muo, from Sydney, Australia, transferred in last season from the College of Central Florida, where he was a teammate of Allie Fullah, one of CSU's top guards. He also formerly played at Northeastern, and used to live in Sudan.
Muo is one of the oldest players in college basketball. He was born on April 3, 1987. Yes, 1987. He is nearly 26 years old. He is six or seven years older than some of the freshmen he plays against, who were born in 1993 or 1994.
Muo and Sexton were introduced to thunderous ovations from the crowd at the Buc Dome. Sexton was escorted by his parents, while Muo was escorted by the Charleston Southern team.
Coastal Carolina, however, was looking to spoil the party. Coastal won the tip-off, and quickly got an off-balance jumper from Warren Gillis which gave them the first points of the game. Coastal went on an 11-0 run to start the game, shocking the crowd. Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh had to call timeout to guide his players, who looked a little nervous in the beginning.
Coastal actually had a decent number of fans. They had about 10% of the crowd in the gym, which is not a small number in a place like the Buc Dome. They were loud during this 11-0 run.
Sitting on a courtside seat, you could feel every bead of energy in the crowded gym. Every seat was taken in the bleachers. People were even sitting in the aisles. The students were ready for this one. The football players wore sport coats, matching Coach Radebaugh's usual clothing choice for games.
The Bucs fed off the crowd, matching the 11-0 run with an 8-0 run of their own. Gillis nailed a 3 to stop the run, but Coastal Carolina did not feed off that momentum. By the second media timeout, CSU held the lead, which they kept for most of the rest of the game.
The students are right on top of the court, only a few feet away from the action. They are the "sixth man", more because of how close they are to the action.
This is part of the section, with the leader holding a whiteboard that he frequently writes and shows to the crowd for the entire game.
The football players were on the other side of the baseline. At halftime, CSU led by eight points, 38-30. The crowd was excited; the cheerleaders and dance group did their final performance of the season to the home fans. They were greeted with a roar of approval from the crowd.
After halftime, with the seats general admission, the football players wanted to sit on Coastal Carolina's side of the court. Thus, they asked the folks sitting where we were for the first half to move to the Charleston Southern side.
CSU got out to a quick seventeen point lead, and the crowd could feel it after the five minute mark of the second half. The crowd knew that something special was going to happen today.
The lead got out to as much as 20 with 7:40 left, and Coastal tried to make one last charge, but it wasn't close enough.
The Superfan of the year was named from the Charleston Southern student section. His name was Tim Brown, and after he won an obstacle course contest, making a shot within 20 seconds, he was honored as the Super Fan of the Year. He had some leaping ability like his WR namesake.
The crowd got progressively louder, as they knew Charleston Southern was going to win the Big South regular season title. A woman accidentally walked in the court in the last 30 seconds trying to find a place to walk, which was strange, and the last minute was the longest, but a dream was finally realized by the Buccaneers players.
The students stormed the floor, and it was a wild scene inside the Buc Dome.
I had been to one other conference clincher before; the College of Charleston winning the SoCon regular season title in 2011. That title, though, was one that was expected. They didn't lose a conference game at home that year, and had one of the best shooters in the nation in Andrew Goudelock. However, they lost to Wofford in the SoCon finals, missing the NCAAs, and going to the NIT.
This one was much different though. This Charleston Southern team though didn't have the same expectations. They were expected to do well this year, and finish first in their division, but Coach Radebaugh has done a great job building the program. In 2008-09 this team didn't make the Big South tournament. Four seasons later, the Bucs had won 19 games in 2011-12, and so far have won 17 in 2012-13. They have played several power conference teams close.
This year, they were close with Arizona for probably 37 of the 40 minutes, leading most of the first half, and staying close the rest of the game, before losing by 9, 82-73.
For about 10 or 15 minutes after the game, fans, players, coaches, camera crews, and family members milled around the court. The championship trophy was presented to Coach Radebaugh and the Buccaneers. Arlon Harper, along with a couple other players, spoke to the crowd. Coach Radebaugh was one of the most excited. He implored the students to come on the court to watch the trophy ceremony.
The nets were supposed to be cut down, as is custom when a team wins a championship, but the seniors, Muo and Sexton, were against this. They were not impressed with just winning the regular season title. They want to go to Conway and win the Big South tournament, and earn a trip to the NCAAs.
The Big South tournament opens up this Tuesday at Coastal Carolina University's HTC Center, and Charleston Southern, with the win on Saturday, got a first-game bye, along with an automatic NIT berth. They don't have to play till Thursday afternoon, having to win three games in four days to win the title, while Coastal Carolina plays on Tuesday night, having to win four games in six days.
Even though Charleston Southern has the smallest gym in Division I, and its facilities are comparable to many high schools around the Charleston area, any college basketball fan in the area should come out to Buccaneer Field House.
You get to see a good brand of basketball, and it is a great value, with tickets to sit in some of the closest seats to the court in college basketball just seven dollars. Charleston Southern is hoping this will be their year to dance.
at CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 75, COASTAL CAROLINA 64
COASTAL CAROLINA 14-14 (9-7) -- A. Raffa 7-16 7-8 23; M. Enanga 1-5 1-3 3; W. Gillis 8-11 2-3 19; E. Ndieguene 1-2 0-0 2; K. Greenwood 2-5 1-2 5; B. Diagne 1-6 1-1 3; T. Curtis 4-4 1-2 9; C. Ashford 0-0 0-0 0; J. Daniel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 13-19 64.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 17-11 (12-4) -- M. Muo 6-12 0-0 17; J. Sexton 3-11 2-2 9; A. Harper 5-12 0-0 15; S. Nimley 6-13 0-1 15; P. Gombwer 1-3 0-0 2; M. Kennedy 4-5 0-0 9; C. Bowen 3-3 2-2 8; A. Fullah 0-2 0-0 0; S. Strickland 0-1 0-0 0; M. Bernard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 4-5 75.
Three-point goals: CCU 3-16 (A. Raffa 2-7; K. Greenwood 0-1; W. Gillis 1-2; B. Diagne 0-4; M. Enanga 0-2), CHSO 15-34 (J. Sexton 1-7; M. Muo 5-9; M. Kennedy 1-1; A. Harper 5-9; S. Nimley 3-7; P. Gombwer 0-1); Rebounds: CCU 29 (M. Enanga 7), CHSO 29 (A. Harper 7); Assists: CCU 6 (K. Greenwood 4), CHSO 16 (A. Harper 5); Total Fouls -- CCU 10, CHSO 15; Fouled Out: CCU-None; CHSO-None.