November has not fully passed yet and already a lot has happened. On average, teams have played six to seven games. But based on that sample, we can tell that Indiana, Gonzaga and Michigan will be a handful. Duke is still Duke after winning the Battle for Atlantis, then beating Ohio State last night. UCLA is already in trouble, despite being 4-2 (?). Frank Martin is in full force, giving death stares and leading South Carolina to already as half as many wins, five, as last season . VCU is the best 3-3 team in the country. Finally, Doug McDermott is rightfully getting Player of the Year consideration, despite Creighton losing at home to Boise State last night.
This is the start of a new weekly segment called "Four on the Floor", where we take a brief look at four good teams, whether they are doing well, or in the case this week of Drexel,surprisingly struggling. The four teams will most likely be teams that aren't getting a lot of national press. But that's what we do here at the College Hardwood - Champion the Underdog.
Drexel Struggles - The Dragons, the hands down favorite to win the CAA this season, lost four of their first five games before salvaging seventh place in the Anaheim Classic by beating Rice. Frantz Massenat struggled through his first four games before rebounding against Xavier and Rice. And yes the loss of Samme Givens has hurt them. As Brian Mull noted to me in a recent Twitter discussion, it's hard to replace someone who required a double team to defend him in the paint.
But the main reason for Drexel being 2-4 is their defense. Last season, the Dragons led the CAA in field goal percentage defense at 39 percent. They only allowed three teams all last season to shoot fifty percent or more from the field - Fairfield, William and Mary and UMass (they were 2-1 in those games). Drexel has already allowed this season three teams to shoot fifty percent or more - Kent State, St Mary's and Xavier (all losses).
The Dragons are amazingly 274th in the country in two point field goal percentage defense at 51.9 percent. Last season, they were 33rd in the country at 43.8 percent. They are also ranked at #330 in the country in steal percentage at 6.2. If you're not creating turnovers and allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent from inside the arc, it's hard to win games. Considering Drexel's long standing history under Bruiser Flint of being a good defensive team, there is time to turn this around. Count on Bruiser to fix this.
The Mighty Bison - Bucknell is off to an impressive 6-1 start. What makes it even more impressive is that four of their six wins have come on the road or in neutral site games, including beating Purdue at West Lafayette. Their only blemish is a three point loss at Penn State.
But this shouldn't be a surprise. The Bison won twenty five games last season, including a first round NIT upset at Arizona. And the statistics show how bullish you should be on Bucknell. The Bison are 45th in Pomeroy's rankings. They are 40th in the country in offensive turnover percentage, 46th in effective field goal percentage defense and 45th in offensive rebound defense percentage. Basically put, Bucknell doesn't turn the ball over, plays good defense and limits opponents' second chance opportunities.
Finally this is a balanced, veteran team. They return four of their top five leading scorers from last season, three of whom are averaging double figures. The fourth leading scorer, Joe Willman, averaged double figures in scoring last season. Mike Muscala averages a double double with sixteen points and eleven rebounds per game. Once again, it will come down to Lehigh and Bucknell in the Patriot.
The Elecrifying Shockers - Wichita State continues to be one of the best teams in the country, but gets no love in the Top 25 rankings. They win at VCU. Then the Shockers defeat DePaul and Iowa to win the Cancun Challenge. Where's the love?
The love is right here. The Shockers are statistically right up there in many defensive categories. Eleventh in the country in two point FG percentage defense at 36%, #12 in block percentage defense at 17.4% and #32 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense. And they clean up the offensive glass too, #31 in the country in offensive rebound percentage at 40.1%.
Gregg Marshall has a deep and balanced team. Nine players average about twelve minutes or more per game, with another two players averaging eight minutes. The Shockers only have two players averaging in double figure scoring, yet the team averages seventy points per game. Cleananthony Early and Carl Hall combine for twenty seven points and fourteen rebounds per game. Wichita State should be 9-0 when they play at Tennessee on December 13.
Way To Go O-hio - The Bobcats are the highest ranked Ken Pomeroy team featured here this week at #31. They are undefeated at 6-0 after rallying to defeat St. Bonaventure at home last night. Their average margin of victory is over twenty one points. Ohio is trying their best to show everyone that last year's Sweet 16 team was no fluke.
The statistics show they are no fluke, especially when it comes to defense. The Bobcats lead the country currently in defensive turnover percentage at thirty two percent and are second in the country in steal percentage at eighteen percent. They are also pretty efficient on offense as they are ninth in the country in effective field goal percentage at 57.8 percent, thirteenth in the country in two point field goal percentage at 56.6 percent and twenty eighth in the country in three point field goal percentage at 39.8 percent.
Basically the Bobcats make you turn the ball over and then pay for it on the offensive end. They average four players in double figures scoring. Senior D.J. Cooper is a one man stat machine. He averages fourteen points, nearly seven assists and nearly three steals per game. Nick Kellogg, Clark Kellogg's son, shoots fifty percent from beyond the arc, averaging two three pointers per game.
Finally, this is a deep Bobcats team, as nine players average more than ten minutes per game. If there is only one slight concern, it's that Ohio has not played a road game yet this season. That will change as their next two games are good road tests - at Robert Morris, then at Memphis. This veteran team that won twenty nine games last season has a pressure defense game that should translate well away from home. Just ask Michigan and South Florida.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Once again, my friend, Jaden Daly has asked me to write a scouting report for his great site. This time it's a scouting report of South Carolina, St John's next opponent Thursday night. Enjoy!
Monday, November 26, 2012
If you follow Stony Brook Athletics, you could say it was not just a Super Saturday, but a Super Year for the Seawolves. In the beginning of the year, the men's basketball team won the America East Regular Season Championship, then lost in the tournament final at home to Vermont. It was their only loss of the season at home, but they did get a NIT bid, their second in the past three seasons.
Then the baseball team had one of the more amazing runs ever in the history of NCAA Division I college baseball postseason. The Seawolves stunned LSU in Baton Rouge to qualify for the College World Series. Now the football team was hosting another playoff game after making the Football Subdivision playoffs last season.
Pikiell's 2012-13 Seawolves have several returning players including Dave Coley, Ron Bracey, Anthony Jackson, Marcus Rouse and Alex McAllister. But the one returning player my color analyst,aka my seven year old son Matthew, was looking forward to see again was the preseason America East Player of the Year, senior forward Tommy Brenton, the hardest working man in college basketball.
Canisius showed why they are 3-0 by responding with a 12-3 run over the next four plus minutes. The Griffs, as they are known as, used their size advantage with Jordan Heath and Freddy Asprilla. The Canisius big men helped cut the deficit to one, 15-14.
A Rouse three extended the Stony Brook lead to 27-16. But Canisius refused to go away. Led by Harold Washington, Alshwan Hymes and Billy Baron, the Griffs and cut the lead down to six. The Seawolves would lead 36-30 at the half.
This might have led to some tempers flaring when Coley and Jordan Heath had an altercation near the Canisius basket after a foul by Carson Puriefoy. Simultaneous technical fouls were called on Coley and Heath. Also, Griffs' freshman Tyrel Edwards was ejected for leaving the bench. Billy Baron made two free throws and Canisius was now down only two 43-41.
During this run, Coach Baron received a technical, likely frustrated by the foul call situation. But his team did not lose its fighting spirit. The Griffs would cut the lead down to six with a little over a minute left. But Canisius would not get any closer as the Seawolves would hit their free throws, going 27 of 31 for the game. Stony Brook would lead wire to wire and win 82-75.
Billy Baron led all scorers with twenty two points, including ten of eleven from the free throw line. Jordan Heath had fifteen points and Washington added fourteen. The Griffs are now 3-1 on the season.
On Super Saturday, the men's basketball team held up their end of the bargain. Then the football team held up their end as well, defeating Villanova 20-10 in the first round of the Football Subdivision playoffs. Miguel Maysonet, the nation's leading rusher in yards per game, had one hundred and sixty yards rushing.
For Stony Brook, it was truly a Super Saturday.
Friday, November 23, 2012
I flew back to Charlotte Sunday morning. But I wasn’t alone. My friend Tieff came with me for another basketball road trip. This time it was a drive up to Durham to see our good friend, Anthony Bozzella coach his Iona Women’s Basketball Team against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
I have known Coach Bozzella for as long as I have known Tieff. They went to Glen Cove High School together and we have become very good friends over the years since we met in college. When Coach Bozzella told me weeks ago that he was playing Duke at Cameron, I immediately had November 18 circled on the calendar. I was not passing up the chance to see a longtime friend.
Also I couldn’t pass up a chance to see one of the most famous college basketball arenas in the country. I have tried my best over the years to see some of the best college basketball venues in the country. Three years ago, I was fortunate to go to Allen Field House to see Kansas host Hofstra.
This was not my first trip to Duke. I had been to Duke a couple of times a few years ago, once on vacation with my family and once as a finalist for a job interview at the Duke Engineering School. When I was with my family, we went to the Duke Memorial Gardens, which is one of the nicest gardens on the East Coast.
as their web site notes, the Duke Forest is over 7,000 acres and has been used for research and teaching purposes since 1931. It made for a scenic drive to the Duke campus.
When I was here last for that finalist interview in October 2008, I was quite enamored with the campus. Having worked in academia for twenty eight years, I have seen many college campuses. Based on the building architecture, the memorial gardens and the forest, I'd have to say Duke so far is probably my favorite campus that I have seen in all my years. But until last Sunday, I had not seen, let alone been in, Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The announced attendance was a little over 4,000 for this 9,300 seat arena. It seemed like there were less people in the seats than that. But let me tell you something, whatever the crowd size was, it was still loud in Cameron at game time. I could just imagine how loud it is when the men play in front of an always sold out Carmeon Crazies crowd (we could have actually stayed for the men's game being played later that night, but we had to get back to Columbia). Cameron holds sound really well.
But Duke is ranked third in the country for a reason. They have size, strength, depth and pass the ball exceptionally well. And the Blue Devils quickly ended the brief Gaels' lead with a 14-0 run over the next three minutes. Chelsea Gray, Duke's strong point guard started it with a three point play. Then Blue Devils' six foot five center Allison Vernerey scored the next six points. Duke went up 18-5.
What struck me was that Iona was able to run their offense. They actually got a good number of looks in the first half. But Duke's height and more importantly their strength affected Iona. The Blue Devils athleticism sped up the game that it through Iona off. Shots the Gaels would make against lesser opponents, like in their wins over Navy and Long Beach State, were rushed or altered due to Duke's size and speed.
with the great Nick Guerriero, who does play by play for the women's game and is the Assistant Sports information Director for Iona.
The radio booth is above section seven in the arena. To get up there, you have to inform the staff member that you have to get into the booth. Then they pull the ladder down onto the stairwell and you climb up. It's as old school as you can get and it's kind of neat. Plus you have a great view of the arena from the booth.
One play in particular in the second half stood out at me. Iona's Cassidee Ranger had buried a three pointer earlier in the second half from the corner, in front of the Iona bench. She again appeared to have an open look this time. But Williams flew over and swatted the ball over the Iona bench, into the second row, right in front of us. I nearly had a basketball in my lap. It was an impressive feat.
Despite the score, there were several bright spots for the Gaels. As I noted and as the score didn't show, Iona was able to get a lot of open looks and ran their offense surprisingly well. The shots just didn't fall. Against a much taller, stronger front line, Iona's Adams had ten rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Adams is only a freshman and a real find for the Gaels. Powell, despite six turnovers, ran the offense quite well and will cause grief once she gets into MAAC conference play. And Damika Martinez, who came into the game averaging 24 points per game, will not have many games where she is held to three points, like she was against Duke.
After the press conference, we waited around a few minutes before visiting the coach in the locker room. He was very happy to see us and very upbeat about his team's play. Coach Bozzella knows that he only has one senior starter, who was a reserve last season. It's a young team and he knows they will only get better.
It was great to see a dear friend as well as a great college basketball venue. One more item off the college basketball bucket list.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Saturday evening was the Mack Center in Hempstead. Sunday was Cameron Indoor Stadium for the Iona - Duke women's basketball game. I was now back in Columbia to see South Carolina host Rider in another Hoops for Hope regional game at the Colonial Life Arena.
It was also the third straight game I saw with my dear friend Tony Terentieff, aka Tieff to the loyal readers of this site. Tieff stayed with me in Columbia after the Iona-Duke game and we went together to the arena. Our plan was to have dinner at the Thirsty Fellow which is conveniently located by the arena, then take in the basketball game.
But right across from the arena, USC was having it's annual Tiger Burn (I am sure the World Wildlife Federation just loves that term). It's an annual event before the annual Clemson-South Carolina football game. As part of tradition, in the week leading up to the game, there is an event where each school burns an object of the other team.
This year, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers student group built a thirty foot tiger that was to be burned during a ceremony. As Tieff and I made our way from the parking lot, we saw a large crowd of students being treated to a musical act while the giant Tiger stood nearby. We took a couple of pictures as we knew the fate that awaited the tiger.
Not too long after we got our meals, we heard and saw fireworks going off in the distance on the field which is across from the Thirsty Fellow. The Tiger was now meeting its predestined fate. We decided to just eat our meals and we would see the results in a little while.
The Hoops for Hope Classic is one of those "tournaments" where four predestined teams play two home games against supposed "lesser" teams, then play the semifinals and finals in an exotic location. In South Carolina's case, it's Puerto Vallarta. The rest of the "lesser" teams that are in this tournament, like Rider, end up playing each other in a much less exotic location. College basketball, like life, isn't fair.
Frank Martin could care less if South Carolina was playing in Puerto Vallarta, Columbia or your local YMCA. He expects his teams to play at a high level at all times. If his Gamecocks are not playing up to his standards, you will see it on his face.
Martin would be a terrible poker player. You know where he stands at all times; whether it's covering his face after a bad play, or staring hole through a player after a really bad play, or better yet, following his player he just yanked to his seat on the bench and giving a teaching lesson right on the spot.
It's simply great theater and to be honest, part of the fun of watching a Gamecocks' game is just seeing Martin go off. The only coach I would compare Martin to is Bruiser Flint on Drexel. You have to see both live to truly appreciate them.
But South Carolina had a difficult time maintaining a double digit lead due to shooting themselves in the foot. After a telegraphed cross court pass by Damien Leonard that resulted in a steal and a Lindsey layup to cut the lead to 32-23, Martin immediately called timeout. The Gamecocks got the lead backup to double digits with a three from Leonard. But again, Rider would cut the deficit to single digits and only trailed 44-37 at the half.
Well they got the ball to Slawson in the second half. The first problem was he was outside the three point line. The second and more consequential problem was that Slawson hoisted an ill advised three that was way off the mark. That prompted Martin to immediately yank Slawson and give him the death stare. South Carolina was only up 50-45.
However, even Williams' outstanding play on the night didn't spare him from Martin's wrath. After hitting a basket, Williams didn't get into position and fouled a Rider player on a drive attempt. Martin yelled out to Williams as clear as day "WHY ARE YOU REACHING?!"
Despite allowing some easy Broncs' layups, eventually the Gamecocks pulled away with a 13-2 run and went up 86-66 with three minutes left. It looked like South Carolina was putting it all together.
South Carolina eventually ended up winning 88-76. Martin had to be happy with his offense. The Gamecocks were much more economical from beyond the arc in the second half, hitting seven of their eleven three pointers in the last twenty minutes. South Carolina shot fifty three percent from the field. Williams led four Gamecocks in double figure scoring.
However, Martin was probably not happy that Rider shot fifty percent from the field, including twenty one of thirty nine from two point range. Lindsey, the transfer from St John's, led all scorers with twenty six points.
All in all it was a fun night for many of the fans in attendance. They got to see a Gamecock win, a Tiger burn and Frank Martin burn. What else can a fan ask for?
Monday, November 19, 2012
Pack all the good wins safe on the shelfShane Nicholson - "Nice to Be Here"
Stuck in an orbit around yourself
Hand over hand and keeping the score
It's just not music anymore
As my marines, aka the few, the proud, the readers of my site know, my life is in a state of flux. My new home base is Columbia, South Carolina, where I work for the University of South Carolina. It's down in Columbia, listening to 92.1, "The Palm" that I first heard Shane Nicholson's "Nice to Be Here". I have adopted that song title as my theme for my life now in Columbia.
Meanwhile, the rest of my immediate family is still up in North Bellmore, New York till the house closes. It makes for interesting travel plans and as well as basketball trips. Such was the case for this past weekend.
Hurricane Sandy hit and I had come up in advance for that and stayed that entire week. But I had also decided to come up this past weekend as well, because it's my younger son Jonathan's fifth birthday this past Saturday. Turning five is an important milestone for a five year old boy and I wanted to be with him for that milestone.
So, strangely how things work out, instead of either being at the Charleston Classic or at VCU-Winthrop this past Saturday, it ended up being a perfect opportunity to come back to what was my long time home in Hempstead, New York. Hofstra and the Mack Center were hosting DC, Marshall and South Dakota State in the 2K Classic Subregional.
The Pride were not hospitable to the Jackrabbits on Friday night as Shaquille Stokes buried a three pointer with three seconds left to give Hofstra their first win, 66-63. It was even more impressive as a friend noted all the scouts that were at the game watching South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, who had led his team to a NCAA berth last season.
Before the game, we took Jonathan to Laser Bounce in Levittown, where we met up with my sister in law and her son, Michael, along with my in-laws. There was an open play time in the bounce area from 1:00 - 2:00 PM and it was packed, as we immediately found out from the parking lot, where my sister in law told me a near fist fight broke out over a parking space. I know that Jonathan and my older son, aka my color analyst, Matthew had a lot of fun. But as a parent, I personally think that hour of screaming kids throwing themselves onto inflatables was a form of torture to me. When one of the staff people said we had ten minutes left, I said aloud "Thank God!" And I meant it.
After I had left for South Carolina in August, I renewed only two of what was four Hofstra season tickets which are in Section 111, Row D, Seats 9-10. My friends Tieff and Mal sit in those seats now. So I had to purchase two tickets for the game. Fortunately for Matthew and I, the row behind my season tickets, 111 Row E was completely open.
I said hi to Tieff and since no one else was in the row, he was kind enough to move over and let Matthew and I sit in our old familiar seats. Mal and his girlfriend Emily would join us shortly thereafter. There were no worries about sitting in anyone else's seats. The entire row was basically free as was the row in front of us. Non conference games at Hofstra in November have historically not been well attended. This was no exception.
The teams went back and forth with several lead changes and ties. Finally D.D. Scarver buried a three to put the Thundering Herd up five, 77-72 with twenty seconds left. It looked like Marshall was going to win the game. But Brayden Carlson responded with a three of his own to cut the lead down to two, 77-75.
The Jackrabbits quickly fouled the Herd's Chris Martin. Martin missed the front end of an one and one and South Dakota State got the rebound. Wolters got the ball and Marshall focused on Wolters, perhaps too much. As Wolters drove the lane, the Herd left Jackrabbits' guard Chad White open at the top of the key. Wolters fed White, who calmly buried another three pointer to put the Jackrabbits up one. A desperation half court shot at the buzzer by the Herd's DeAndre Kane went off the back rim and South Dakota State escaped with a 78-77 win.
Between games, I met up with more old friends, like Mike Neely, Director of Ticket Sales at Hofstra and Executive Associate AD Danny McCabe. Finally I met up with my good friends Greg Sorensen, Defiantly Dutch, Jerry Beach, his much better half Michelle and their absolutely precious baby daughter Molly. It was good to see all of them, but especially Molly, who it was my first time meeting. Molly managed the impossible. She slept through the entire game, which allowed Jerry to tweet at normal pace.
After talking with a lot of familiar, friendly faces, we made our way back to our seats for the start of the game. The Pride came out strong from the gate scoring the first eleven points of the game. The freshman Hall quickly impressed me with his aggressive play and quickness. I had seen a few games of Hall's when he was a senior at St. Anthony's High School on ESPN and he seems to have improved by leaps and bounds. Stokes made an equally good impression with his confident play. Quickly I could see Hofstra has much more talent this season than last season.
UDC broke Hofstra's run and actually scored the next five points to cut the lead to six. But the Pride responded as another of the newcomers for Hofstra, Buie made his presence felt by burying a three pointer to put Hofstra back up nine. From there the Pride would stretch the lead out. The lead was as many as twenty after another Buie three pointer put Hofstra up 39-19.
I have to admit winning the contest was pretty funny. My season ticket seats have been for the last several years only four rows from the court. I always felt pretty fortunate to see Division I basketball games so close up on a regular basis without having to be on press row. But sitting court-side is a completely different experience and it kind of made Matthew feel uncomfortable. As there were already several plays right in front of us in the first minute, Matthew turned to me and said "This is too close".
At the half, my first boss at Hofstra and long time friend Howard Graves came up to say hi and we talked for a while. He asked about the family and the move to South Carolina. I told him that everything was great in Columbia so far and that I couldn't wait for the family to be down there with me. I asked him about Hofstra and other things. It was good to see Howard. I learned a lot of things from him from a managerial standpoint that I still use today on a daily basis.
After saying goodbye to Emily and Mal, Tieff, Matthew and I made our way to see Greg, Jerry, Michelle and a still sleeping Molly. We talked about how impressive the newcomers Hall, Stokes and Buie played for the Pride. We saw improvement in Kone, Nwaukoni and Mejia. The team basically gelled pretty well, though there were the expected scoring ruts and missed assignments a young team will have during a game.
There is a lot more talent and depth on this Hofstra team now than compared to last season's team. There is also much more scoring balance now, as six players scored in double figures in the win over the Firebirds. The Pride accomplished this despite Jamal McCombs-Daniel out due to injury and Daquan Brown not being eligible until after finals. The resiliency, talent and depth that Hofstra has showed up again on Sunday when the Pride outlasted Marshall in double overtime 103-100 to complete a three game sweep of the 2K Classic.
After letting Matthew run on the court for a few minutes, we said our goodbyes to Michelle and Greg. Jerry had already gone down to the locker room. Tieff and I said goodbye in the parking lot, but it would be a short goodbye with him. He would be picking me up at my house as we would both fly back to Charlotte, which would then take us to Durham to see an old friend at Cameron Indoor Stadium. That's for my next article. As I started my familiar drive out of the parking lot, I wondered how many times I would be back at the Mack Center in the future. I realized quickly that it won't be often.
The things I have taken for granted all these years; the countless number of games at Hofstra, seeing friends on a regular weekly basis for two hours in the winter months at the Mack Center and the time my boys have spent with their grandparents, all that has changed or will change being now seven hundred and fifty or so miles away from all that I have known.
But for one Saturday in November, it was all still the same. The packed Long Island kids' place, my wife's parents house, the Mack Center and all the familiar faces and friends, even if it was perhaps the last time for a long time. It was a familiar theme to me.
It was nice to be here.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
If you want a scouting report of Charleston as they take on St John's tonight for the Charleston Classic (game time 5:00 PM Eastern on ESPNU), take a look at my friend Jaden Daly's excellent blog "A Daly Dose of Hoops". Jaden was kind enough to let me do an article reviewing the College of Charleston and their win over Towson. Enjoy.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
I guess I have something in common with South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin. He left a successful position at Kansas State for South Carolina and is starting anew as well, albeit with a lot of work cut out for him. Martin inherits a team that won two games in the SEC all last season.
In his five years at Kansas State, he took his teams to four NCAA Tournaments and one NIT. His new fan base is desperate for a NCAA Tournament berth, having not had one since the 2003-04 season (in fairness, the Gamecocks did win the NIT two years in a row in 2005 and 2006). So Martin comes to Columbia with a lot of expectations.
South Carolina hosted Wisconsin Milwaukee in a first round Hoops for Hope Tournament game. It's one of those "tournaments" where four teams are guaranteed to play in the semifinals and finals (in this case, Puerto Vallarta). Meanwhile the other teams in the tournament play in a consolation bracket on campus.
I come from a school, Hofstra, that has a 5,000 seat arena. The first year of the Mack Center, the Pride/Flying Dutchmen won the America East championship in front of a sold out crowd. In 2005-06 and 2006-07, when the Pride was very successful, Hofstra played in front of many large crowds. Two years ago, when Charles Jenkins, now playing for Golden State, was one of the most dominant players in college basketball, the Mack Center was full to capacity several times.
But over the ten years I was a season ticket holder (and I still am a season ticket holder) there were many times where the Mack Center was maybe half to two thirds full, even when the team was good. It always was a sore point for me and probably always will be. The Hofstra Men's Basketball team deserves better community support and hopefully that will grow over the next few years.
South Carolina got out to a an early 12-11 lead. But it was evident that the Gamecocks were struggling from the field. Outside of freshman Michael Carrera, they couldn't score any baskets. Meanwhile, Milwaukee was burying three pointers and pulled ahead 19-14 with less than seven minutes left in the first half.
Milwaukee continued their three point barrage behind guard Jordan Aaron. Aaron would bury two three pointers to end the first half. The Panthers had a sizable 38-23 halftime lead. What made matters worse was that the Gamecocks best player in the first twenty minutes, Carrera, had three fouls to go with his nine points.
Wisconsin Milwaukee scored the first basket to go up seventeen, 40-23. But South Carolina would go on a 13-0 run, largely behind LaShay Page and Carrera, who impressed me with his aggressive play. The Gamecocks were now down only four, 40-36 with fourteen minutes left.
But thanks to Aaron, the Panthers responded with a 10-0 run of their own. Aaron, a native of the Bronx, scored five of those ten points. I openly wondered on Twitter how many New York local schools missed out on the junior guard. After Austin Arians' three pointer, the Panthers were up 50-36 with 11:53 left.
After a failed Panthers' possession, the Gamecocks were down 66-64 with the ball with 36.5 seconds left. Off a timeout, South Carolina worked the ball to Mindaugas Kacinas, another freshman. Kacinas was fouled on a three point attempt. Kacinas hit the first two free throws but missed the third one. The game would go to overtime.
In the overtime period, the Gamecocks would pull ahead on free throws. Then with a two point lead, Williams would hit two baskets in a row to put South Carolina up six, 74-68 with 1:49 left in overtime. From there, it came down to free throws and Williams, an eighty two percent free throw shooter last season, was perfect from the charity stripe. Williams would hit the final eight free throws for the Gamecocks. South Carolina would win 82-75 over a game Wisconsin Milwaukee team.
From doghouse to penthouse, Williams had fourteen points in only thirteen minutes of play. Carrera had a double double with seventeen points and fifteen rebounds. Page led the Gamecocks with nineteen points and Lakeem Jackson added twelve points.
Wisconsin Milwaukee was fourteen of thirty two from beyond the arc. Aaron was seven of fourteen from three and led all scorers with twenty eight points. James Haarsma was the other Panther in double figures scoring with fourteen points.
Martin got a hard earned first victory over a team that had won twenty games last season, double the number that South Carolina had. He has a long road ahead of him in a brutally tough SEC conference. But Martin's determination, his defensive minded nature (his Kansas State teams statistically have been one of the best defensive teams in the country) and knack for finding and recruiting talent should suit him well.
I have a feeling that within a couple of years, there won't be that many empty seats in Colonial Life Arena. Better get in on season tickets while you can, Gamecocks' fans.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
College of Charleston's Board of Trustees had recently voted to open negotiations with the CAA. Basically, the Cougars are putting one foot in the door to moving from the Southern Conference to the Colonial. It was a move that both Davidson and Appalachian State had refused to do, likely for budgetary travel reasons.
So why not truly get your foot in the door and see what the CAA has to offer by playing Towson in your first game of the season. Now yes, I know the conference schedules are made up in advance, but how about giving me some artistic license for this story.
Some things haven't changed from four years ago. In November of 2008, Barack Obama had just been elected President. This week, Barack Obama was re-elected President. However, four years ago, I was here on vacation. Four years later, I am here since I now live less than two hours away in Columbia. Some things have changed.
The Cougars have also undergone a big change at the coaching helm. Doug Wojcik, who had been previously the coach of Tulsa, is now the new head coach of Charleston. After averaging twenty wins a season at Tulsa, Wojcik, the former point guard on the David Robinson led Navy NCAA Tournament teams, is now responsible for trying to get the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
Skerry is hoping that his Big East transfer trifecta of Bilal Dixon (Providence), Mike Burwell (South Florida) and Jerrelle Benimon (Georgetown) will lead them to a far better season. Skerry does have two returning players of significance. Marcus Damas, the Tigers' second leading scorer from last season returns. Damas averaged twelve and a half points per game and had a career high twenty six points vs. CAA regular season champion Drexel. Guard Kris Walden started all thirty two games last season and led all freshmen in the Colonial in assists with 103.
The crowd quickly got into the game as Charleston worked it inside to Wiedeman and Baru. Meanwhile, in a similar fashion to a game from last season vs. Hofstra, Towson shot itself in the foot in the beginning. In their first three possessions, the Tigers had a shot clock violation, a traveling call and an offensive foul. After Wiedeman emphatically blocked a Benimon shot which resulted in the crowd roaring into the under 16 minute media timeout, Charleston was up 9-2.
On the offensive end, Charleston repeatedly worked the ball inside to Wiedeman and Baru, scoring sixteen first half points in the paint, while only attempting three shots from beyond the arc in the first twenty minutes. The Cougars finished their final possession of the first half with a beautiful passing display, resulting in a Wiedeman dunk that put Charleston up 40-14 at the half.
Charleston picked up right where they left off in the first half. As much as I was impressed with Lawrence and Wiedeman during the game, my favorite Cougars' player is Baru. Baru works so hard on both ends of the court. His effort keeping a loose ball in the Cougars' possession resulted in a Stitt three pointer that put Charleston up 46-16. A Wiedeman dunk extended the Cougars' lead to 49-16 four minutes into the second half.
Whatever Skerry said to his team, it worked. The Tigers started to get the ball into Benimon. His three point play cut the lead to thirty. He followed with another layup and a strong blockout on an entry pass that forced a Cougars' turnover. Benimon's strong play resulted in Wojcik calling a timeout with his team up twenty six points.
The lead would stay in that twenty five point range for the next several minutes. But Towson was now holding their own, especially on the offensive glass where the Tigers had seventeen offensive rebounds, eight of which came from Dixon. Wiedeman gave Dixon credit after the game and noted that they had to a much better job defensive rebounding for their next game against St John's.
Over the last five minutes, Wojcik started emptying his bench. Towson continued to play with concerted effort and actually cut the lead down to fifteen before Harrison Bowne hit a stat stuffer layup at the buzzer to make the final score 75-58.
The Cougars shot 56 percent from the field. Charleston also showed its balance scoring as four of their players scored in double figures. Wiedeman had seventeen points. Lawrence had sixteen points, seven rebounds and five assists. Stitt had twelve points, shooting three of four beyond the arc and Anthony Thomas had twelve points. Baru just missed a double double with nine points and nine rebounds.
After the post game news conference, on the advice of Luke Reasoner, I headed to the Five Guys on King Street to grab a burger before I hit the road for the long drive back to my new home. Unfortunately, it had just stopped making burgers at 10 PM. I left for my car and later stopped at a McDonald's on the way back to Columbia.
I know that next time I attend a Charleston game, it will be a weekend game. Having enjoyed Charleston so much four years ago, I will make sure I have plenty time to take in the sites and have time for a real meal. If the house up in New York closes soon, with a little luck, maybe it will be with my color analyst.
Note - Special thanks to Dustin Semanovick and Marlene Navor for all their kindness and help. I know that's their job as Sports Information Directors, but they do it well and it's appreciated.