The Citadel plays South Carolina in hoops for the 100th time

First, I want to comment on The Citadel’s game against Michigan State.  I don’t believe in moral victories, but I do believe in moral non-embarrassments, and the Bulldogs did well in that category.  I am used to watching The Citadel get annihilated when facing a quality opponent , especially on those rare occasions when the game is on TV.  Watching the Bulldogs play a reasonably competitive game against a ranked team was somewhat disorienting.

Speaking of TV, the game against MSU was one of just three contests The Citadel will play this season that will be televised.  (The second of the three will come Saturday against the Gamecocks.)  That needs to change.  With all the games that are televised these days, I think it is critical that The Citadel gets its fair share of exposure.  Three games per season is not going to cut it.  Recruits, even those who are considering a military school, want to play TV games.  I think it would also foster more alumni interest in the program.  Plus, Vegas would get more action on our games.  Okay, maybe that last one isn’t as big a deal.

I would suggest to Ed Conroy (not that he needs my suggestions) that he do everything he can to get OOC games that will be on TV.  John Chaney did something like this years ago at Temple.  The Citadel is hindered a bit in its ability to schedule out of conference, though, by the Southern Conference’s 20-game league schedule, which is ludicrous for a league like the SoCon (16 would be a better number of conference games).

Conroy’s already off to a decent start by playing Big 10 teams.  What I like about playing the Big 10 schools is that if you play one, you will either play a game on national television (on the Big Ten Network) or play a Big 10 school at home (like Iowa earlier this season).  I think 2-for-1s (and even 3-for-1s in some situations) are well worth it if the games on the road are televised.

From what I gather, the SEC’s new mega-deal with ESPN is going to result in a huge increase in TV games for that league (including a lot of ESPNU matchups).  Hey, if playing Mississippi State or Georgia results in another TV game, I say start up the bus and tell the driver to head to Starkville or Athens.

Incidentally, have you ever noticed that a lot of SEC basketball arenas look kind of dark on TV?  It’s a strange phenomenon.  I guess the good lighting is reserved for the football practice fields.  Speaking of dimly lit buildings, that brings us to Saturday’s game against the Gamecocks…

Tomorrow the Gamecocks and Bulldogs will meet in basketball for the 100th time.  A scintillating series, it is not.  South Carolina has won 76 of the previous 99, but the greatest of the 99 meetings was without question the 1989 clash won by The Citadel.  It’s without question the greatest because this is my blog, and I say it is.  Besides, I was there, one of the 7,857 in attendance that February night.

Both teams entered the game with 15 victories on the season.  The Gamecocks were driving to a rare NCAA berth (which they got despite losing to the Bulldogs; South Carolina would lose in the first round of the NCAAs to North Carolina State).  South Carolina led throughout most of the first half and pushed the margin to 11 on a 25-foot three-pointer by Troy McKoy at the buzzer.

The Gamecocks seemed to have all the momentum, but that changed quickly in the second half as The Citadel gradually got back in the game.  The Bulldogs trailed 71-65 with 9:30 to go when they went on a 13-2 run to grab a five-point lead.  The Citadel led 82-78 with just over a minute to play when Patrick Elmore grabbed a rebound.  Two passes later, the ball was in the hands of Ryan Nesbit on the near baseline.  Nesbit (coach Randy Nesbit’s younger brother) was 3-for-4 from three-land already in the game, but the situation didn’t call for a three.  It called for holding on to the basketball.  Ryan Nesbit didn’t care; he was hot.  Up went the shot.  It was a classic “No No No Yes Yes Yes” moment, as he swished the three to give The Citadel a seven-point lead with 1:01 remaining.

The Citadel managed to overcome some nervous free throw shooting (missing the front end of two 1-and-1s) and outlasted the Gamecocks, 88-87 (South Carolina hit a three with one second left, but the Bulldogs successfully inbounded the basketball and the game ended).  South Carolina lost the game despite shooting 54% from the field, including a sizzling 9-11 from behind the arc, and a solid 74% from the foul line.  Terry Dozier scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting and Brent Price added 22.

However, the Gamecocks were outrebounded 34-31 and committed two more turnovers than the Bulldogs.  The Citadel shot almost as well from the field as USC did and made eight three-pointers of its own, and also had the edge in free throws, as South Carolina had to resort to fouling down the stretch.  Six different Bulldogs finished in double figures in scoring.  A seventh, James Stevens, added eight points, the last of which was a free throw that provided The Citadel with its 88th, clinching point.

That game would wind up being the last victory of Ed Conroy’s playing career.  If he is to beat South Carolina for his next victory as a head coach, his team will need to play even better than it did against Michigan State.  South Carolina is 7-1, although the one loss was to the College of Charleston.  As the game notes for South Carolina say (in a tone that could be construed as dismissive):

South Carolina holds a significant edge over The Citadel in nearly every statistical category. The Gamecock offense
averages nearly 20 more points per game than the Bulldogs, while also holding a dominating edge in rebounds
(+10.6), opponent turnover average (+9.1) and steals (+7.5).

Of course, the points-per-game number is a touch misleading, since The Citadel averages 12 fewer possessions per game, and one goal for the Bulldogs in this game will be to try to keep things at a slower pace.  The opponent turnover average is no joke, though.  South Carolina is second nationally in turnovers forced and in the top ten in turnover rate.  The Gamecocks’ FG% defense is an outstanding 37.7% and USC also does a good job on the boards.  On offense, South Carolina is a very good three-point shooting team (40%), although oddly it does not have a lot of assists on its made baskets.  South Carolina has had some issues with injuries and academics and may only be able to suit up nine players on Saturday.

To pull the upset, The Citadel must avoid the turnovers that have plagued previous Gamecock opponents.  Keeping the game at its preferred pace will be key to doing that.  The Bulldogs must defend well along the perimeter (Michigan State may not have been a great test in this respect).  If it can keep the game close, The Citadel has a chance, as South Carolina is not a particularly good foul shooting team.  It’s the one statistic in which the Bulldogs have a decided advantage.

I was there 20 years ago next February when the Bulldogs pulled off a stunner.  I would very much enjoy a repeat of that result.  I can’t think of a better Christmas present.  Just in case, though, I did some shopping today.

One Response

  1. Where is Troy Mckiy today?

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