ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Vacationing Davidson students let College of Charleston players have it Monday night during the final minutes of a 74-55 Southern Conference Championship Game victory.
“C-A-A! C-A-A!” they shouted across U.S. Cellular Center.
Computers say the Colonial Athletic Association is a step up in basketball competition from the SoCon, and hectic travel schedules will make league road games even more difficult for the Cougars next season. But going toe-to-toe with Bob McKillop's Davidson machine is great experience for any program on the move.
“They could compete in Conference USA,” said first-year College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik, late of Tulsa. “They'd give Memphis every bit of a battle.”
No more serious encounters with Davidson, that's the best parting gift the Cougars take away from three nights in Asheville and 15 seasons in the SoCon.
The 24-10 Cougars came close to a storybook bookend exit, reaching the SoCon final in pursuit of the school's second league championship. The other one came in 1999, College of Charleston's first SoCon season.
But if you know college-aged men, you know they don't dwell on what happened a decade ago.
Or last week.
Too much Davidson
To these particular Cougars, Asheville was more about snagging an NCAA tournament bid, upsetting perennial SoCon power Davidson and making those early victories over Boston College and Baylor sweeter.
They simply wanted a little slice of Selection Sunday.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Coach (Wojcik); he made us more of a family than we've ever been,” said senior captain Andrew Lawrence. “We were the tightest unit since I've been here. We just got beat by a better team. We don't really look at leaving the conference and trying to win as we go out; that doesn't really play into it. We just wanted to win every game.”
Playing in the moment, SoCon history. Either way it was too much about Davidson for the Cougars to effectively deal with.
The College of Charleston went 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
“I believe we got open shots, we just didn't knock them down,” Lawrence said. “I missed a few (1-for-4). No excuses from this end. We have to make those shots. But give Davidson credit; they capitalized on that.”
Nothing wrong with the preparation plan: Wojcik liked the tournament-style Charleston Classic early, and jumped at the chance to play at Baylor.
Knowledge gained from a pair of regular season losses to Davidson was supposed to come in handy.
The Cougars, Wojcik said, were “more than equipped.”
Alas, it's a similar story of disappointment, with another College of Charleston head coach praising Davidson.
The Wildcats have won five of the last eight SoCon titles, succeeding with Seth Curry (NCAA tournament Elite Eight) and without.
The College of Charleston won't go against a better coach in the CAA.
Or smarter players.
Definitely not a better system.
Or a more hostile road environment, a roaring red wave that Davidson fans admirably pack up and take to neutral sites.
The next conference tournament for the Cougars is in Baltimore: CAA, 2014.
Baltimore has the Ravens (Super Bowl champs), the Orioles (2012 playoffs), “The Wire.” Baltimore has Fort McHenry and a large aquarium. Plus, really yummy crab cakes.
Next March, Baltimore won't have a postseason climb any steeper than Davidson.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff