Game #9-558: Charleston Cougars vs. Davidson WildcatsMarch 11, 2013 8:00 pm
After spending the last week watching Liberty win both the Big South women's and men's titles
, I wanted a break from watching the conquest by an empire. So I decided to spend a lot more money and make the trip to Asheville and the Southern Conference Tournament, our oldest conference tournament
. Neither Davidson or College of Charleston are underprivileged like Charleston Southern of course. Davidson made the Elite Eight five years ago with a future NBA star in Stephen "Flash" Curry. And College of Charleston is following the big boys in being an active participant in conference realignment by leaving for the Colonial, showing that it is not just the schools above the Red Line who are trying to move into conferences with little geographic sense. But these are both true mid-majors, with neither school trying to become a national empire like Liberty. Whoever won would be the closest school to me in the NCAA Tournament, and a team worth rooting for. So this would be a fun game to watch. And I will document it like I did with the Charleston Southern/Gardner-Webb game and tell the story here in pictures
, championship style!
Here you can see Davidson's students and other fans camping out in the lobby half an hour before doors opened. I did the same last year with Western Carolina fans
. Last year I did not want to leave the Civic Center because it was cold and windy, and this time I wanted to stay inside from the rain. The Davidson fans had just come from the women's final, where they lost a one point heartbreaker to Chattanooga. Had Davidson won, they could have completed a sweep of the SoCon basketball titles like Liberty did in the Big South. But Davidson's women are not as dominant as Liberty or the Davidson men, so the Wildcat fans hopes were more invested in the upcoming men's game.
The Davidson students were quick to fill the lower baseline seating of the Asheville Civic Center. This was not quite like Western Carolina last year, which also filled most of the empty yellow seats up high you see in this picture. But Davidson is a much smaller school than WCU, so their turnout is still very impressive. In that game, Davidson was practically on the road as WCU was only making a one hour journey through the mountains. Charleston is over four hours away from Asheville, and while they support their Cougars well at home they are not known as a traveling road fan base. As a result, Davidson after being practically on the road last year was practically at home this year.
The Davidson fans were ready to be on national television, which like the Big South final the day before was also on ESPN2. Davidson students came with a number of signs, one advocating that the Vatican select J.P. Kuhlman (his initials stand for John Paul) as the next pope at the conclave that was meeting that week. Here you can see Davidson fans poking fun at the Cougars for leaving the SoCon after years of Davidson dominance. College of Charleston feels that the Colonial will be a move up, although with the CAA's recent defections there is nobody in the conference as prestigious as Davidson. Getting away from Davidson might be what College of Charleston needs to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
And then you have some Davidson fans bringing in crass signs like this one. This sign is targeted at College of Charleston forward Trent Wiedeman. It is sort of funny, but the big problem I have with the sign is that is a slight at women in an effort to slight Wiedeman. In the previous women's final, there were certainly some women that it would be positive to compare Wiedeman to. But this was all part of Davidson's enthusiasm towards being in the Southern Conference final. This energy from the crowd was unmatched by any Big South school, but it would be interesting if Davidson could bring the same enthusiasm if their history was more like that of Charleston Southern.
The big problem here for C of C was that the Cougars would be challenged by the size of the Wildcats. Charleston had a couple good guards in Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, but nothing to match Jake Cohen (shown above) and De'Mon Brooks. Davidson quickly got out to a seven point lead at the first media timeout and led in that range of five to ten points most of the rest of the half, ultimately leading at halftime by a score of 35-26. College of Charleston's shooting, a problem for the entire season, was dreadful on the evening in finishing at 30 percent shooting. And when you are facing Brooks and Cohen, that is not going to be a good sign.
So what caused Davidson to be so consistently effective at shutting down College of Charleston? Maybe it was these two guys pictured above. In the empty corner of the Civic Center opposite their fellow students, these two guys did alternating hand motions looking out over the Civic Center. They would alternate which arm they raised while slowly clasping their fingers, acting if they were pulling something in. I have no idea what tradition this was from Davidson, and I saw many fans (especially kids) going up to them and asking and sometimes emulating them. Maybe they were reeling in another SoCon title with their hands. Either way, what they were doing was quite interesting and they were giving the Wildcats the mojo they needed.
Things would not getting any better for "The College" in the second half. Davidson held steady for most of the second half, occasionally letting the Cougars make things interesting. But while Lawrence was asked to carry the load for College of Charleston, Davidson had a number of guys backing up Cohen and Brooks. Four players finished with double figures as the balanced Wildcat attack pulled away with about five minutes left in the game. Another Davidson title was on its way.
The all-male Davidson student group known as the "Block" celebrated the final minutes by as you see here ripping their shirts off and waving them around. I do not know if that was spontaneous, or planned once they were on their way to a conference title. I do not recall seeing them do that way before when I have seen Davidson and the Block before. One of their fellow Block members on the other end of the arena doing the hand signals also ripped off his shirt, although I do not know how he did that while staying in sync with his hands. Davidson is a school where conference titles are routine, having won their second straight and fifth in eight years with a 74-55 win in this game. But the excitement of going dancing again never gets old.
Here you see the Davidson students celebrating the title near the court, but not making any court storm attempt this time. The students were not willing to challenge the floorstormstapo
, instead waiting for the players to come join them in celebrating. That seems to be the newest celebration tradition, having players jump into the student section Lambeau Leap-style. The players are restricted in that behavior as well, in part because of fan-player incidents like the fight between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans at a NBA game in 2004 and also because they have to get back on the court for the official ceremonies. Davidson's players did not seem as excited the year before to win, in part because they had been here a year ago and also in part because they had defeated College of Charleston handily and the result was never in doubt.
And now here is the net cutting ceremony. Net cutting always looks better on SportsCenter and in pictures than it does in person. These ceremonies are not as fun to watch in person because it is not very quick. It is not just players and coaches doing it, it is also pretty much every person directly connected to the Davidson men's basketball program in anyway. Here Cohen is pictured cutting down the nets. After Cohen and all his teammates had cut the net, it was up to legendary Wildcat head coach Bob McKillop to take it down. Problem was that McKillop was absent from the ceremony for a long time, presumably conducting press conference interviews. I waited over ten minutes for him to show up, only for him not to. Most of the Davidson students had given up and left, so I did to. And finally in the newspaper the next morning I did see that McKillop had come back to the Civic Center floor to grab the net. But while this was a mismatch and a blowout, it was more fun than the Big South title game had been. There was no big-money empire coming in and conquering the conference. It was just a tiny school half the size of High Point that has somehow managed to be pretty darn good both academically and at basketball. And that is somebody I can root for, and felt heartbroken when the Wildcats let their game against Marquette slip away. Because for all of us, it ends in with a loss. This guy cannot carry the mojo forever.
DAVIDSON 74, CHARLESTON 55
CHARLESTON 24-10 (14-4) -- A. Lawrence 5-15 8-9 19; A. Stitt 3-9 2-2 8; A. Thomas 3-9 0-0 6; A. Baru 3-7 5-7 11; T. Wiedeman 2-9 3-5 7; W. Hall 0-2 2-2 2; M. Sundberg 1-3 0-0 2; N. Johnson 0-2 0-0 0; T. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; B. Benton 0-1 0-0 0; P. Branin 0-0 0-0 0; T. Dixon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-57 20-25 55.
DAVIDSON 26-7 (17-1) -- D. Brooks 9-14 6-9 24; C. Czerapowicz 3-8 0-0 7; J. Kuhlman 6-7 0-1 14; N. Cochran 3-5 4-4 10; T. Kalinoski 1-2 0-0 2; J. Cohen 4-7 4-6 12; T. Droney 1-6 0-0 3; J. Belford 1-2 0-0 2; J. Barham 0-0 0-1 0; A. Mackay 0-0 0-0 0; M. Archie II 0-0 0-0 0; Y. Mejri 0-0 0-0 0; C. Perkey 0-0 0-0 0; C. Tormey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-51 14-21 74.
Three-point goals: COFC 1-10 (M. Sundberg 0-2; A. Lawrence 1-4; A. Stitt 0-3; A. Thomas 0-1), DAV 4-16 (J. Kuhlman 2-3; J. Cohen 0-2; D. Brooks 0-1; C. Czerapowicz 1-5; T. Droney 1-4; J. Belford 0-1); Rebounds: COFC 30 (T. Wiedeman 6), DAV 34 (D. Brooks 8); Assists: COFC 2 (A. Stitt 1), DAV 13 (N. Cochran 4); Total Fouls -- COFC 14, DAV 18; Fouled Out: COFC-None; DAV-None.
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