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.