After the last loss at Davidson
Game #9-559: George Mason Patriots at Charleston CougarsMarch 19, 2013 7:00 pm
Carolina First Center
, College of Charleston fans were heartbroken. They were not going back to the NCAA Tournament. But C of C did get a consolation prize: a trip to the CBI! The CBI is the College Basketball Invitational, run by the Gazelle Group which an independent organization dedicated to creating college basketball tournaments and other special events. The tournament is a very prestigious event that is very exciting. Just look at the promo video on the official tournament webpage! Who would not want to be a part of that? The answer to that is College of Charleston fans apparently. Many fans on their message board did not understand why they were playing in this tournament. After all, this is what Kyle calls a "ghost bracket". These teams as far as Kyle is concerned have both reached death. Some College of Charleston fans also thought this as well, even though they were hosting here! And while I am fine with the minor tournaments, I was barely aware (or cared) that my school High Point would be playing the following night at UC Irvine in the CIT after its loss to Liberty in the Big South quarterfinals
. And that counts as our first ever post-conference tournament game at the Division I level! So why do we play these games? In part it is to give seniors like C of C's Andrew Lawrence one last game. And it also gives the players on these teams one last shot to practice as well before they are forbidden from doing so during the offseason.
And it would be a low key atmosphere for the players to practice in front of in Charleston this evening. Unlike USC Upstate a year ago in the CIT
, College of Charleston did not heavily promote this game. The admission price was just the same as it was in the regular season, and all seats were general admission. With season ticket holders having to purchase a ticket for this game, attendance was lackluster at an official crowd of 1700, the lowest of the year for College of Charleston at TD Arena. The student section was mostly empty as well. This felt more like a preseason exhibition than postseason madness. And you think that with George Mason being a solid CAA team (the conference the Cougars are headed to), more fans would show up. But few did.
The few fans who showed up however were treated to some outstanding basketball. Unlike College of Charleston's last game against Davidson where they shot 30 percent, the Cougars shot 51 percent against the Patriots. I do not know if the offenses were that good this evening, or if defense was less energetic with the exhibition-like feel as it is in the NBA All-Star Game. But College of Charleston was still behind most of the first half here as well, as the Patriots were unstoppable. Five Mason players would finish this game in double figures, and even after a 7-2 run to end the half College of Charleston was ahead down 44-36 at halftime. And it was a low tempo game despite that score, with Mason having an incredible 1.42 points per possession in the first half. But College of Charleston would respond and do the same in the second half! The Cougars rallied behind Anthony Stitt to take the lead eight minutes into the second half. Stitt shot 7 for 11 and finished with 21 points. It seemed pretty good for the Cougars as they took a late lead to the delight of their small but supportive audience. College of Charleston led by six points with two minutes left. But then Stitt became invisible with Mason locking in on him, and Mason made the plays while Stitt missed a running jumper with 15 seconds left. The Patriots outhustled the Cougars down the court, and Erik Copes made the game winning putback with one second left as no Cougar could rebound Sherrod Brown's miss. Some C of C fans were angry that no basket interference was called as Copes was close to touching the ball on the rim. While this was not like their 2006 run to the Final Four, George Mason proved that you can make a CBI game exciting with a 78-77 win.
So why was this game played? Because as we saw, you can get a pretty good basketball game when two quality mid-majors play each other even as ghosts. This turned out to be one of the best games I have been to this season, even though some fans do not feel that this game counts for anything. But for the players in this game, it was a thrilling way to just hang in there. And that is what the CBI and CIT is all about: just hanging in there. Trying to get something done while you still can. C of C may just be hanging on in the CAA after Mason after the game abandoned the conference in favor of the Atlantic 10. And that is the way it is for all of us, here in the last game for The Hopping Cats of TMM9 (Joe Wright was also at this game). We finish in second place after a good showing all year from Ballyfest Destiny. And early in the season I felt we would be trying to hold off Under a Blood Red Line which had a solid team of 800 Games Project champions Matt Cayuela and Donovan Potts. It turns out that in my quest to be king of going all out to a bunch of basketball games, I could not top Raymond Curren and Hickory Picket Fences. And nobody could, not even Kyle went to nearly as many games as Ray did this year. While this is my 85th TMM9 game of the season and 175th basketball game overall, Ray went to over 130 mid-major games. At least I think he did, I lost count. So congrats to Ray for doing something truly amazing this season.
And hanging on seems to be a theme for a lot of us. Kyle mentioned how he kept going after getting fired by ESPN how he was barely able to hang on, and I am feeling like him in my own life right now. I do not know where I will be next year and how much I will be able to contribute, but I hope things get better for all of us as we just hang on together.