Citadel basketball coach Chuck Driesell greeted Doug Wojcik with a man-hug and a grin Saturday afternoon at McAlister Field House.
"Friends today," Driesell told his counterpart at College of Charleston. "But I hate ya tomorrow."
Driesell was just kidding about the hate part. But both sides contend that the Cougars-Bulldogs rivalry - renewed for the 91st time at 2 p.m. on Sunday at The Citadel - has lost none of its intensity, despite the teams' struggles this season and their separate paths in conference affiliation.
Today's game between the 5-7 Cougars and the 4-9 Bulldogs is their first since College of Charleston left the Southern Conference to join the Colonial Athletic Association.
Instead of meeting twice a season in games that impact conference standings, the rivals will likely meet just once a year from now on in less-pressurized non-conference games.
"I don't think it's any different," said Driesell, whose friendship with Wojcik dates back to their days together as roommates at the Naval Academy Prep School. "They're still two miles down the road with a tremendous history and very good players. It's a big game for us and always will be.
"I told my guys, we need to win a few to make it more interesting."
The Bulldogs have lost six straight to the Cougars, with losses of 73-69 and 69-54 last season, Wojcik's first at College of Charleston.
But Citadel players feel they played their best ball of the season in a 77-62 loss at Nebraska on Dec. 21, when they had a seven-point lead late in the first half and a one-point lead in the second half.
"Execution-wise, it was definitely the best," said sophomore Matt Van Scyoc, who is averaging 14.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. "We did most everything right on defense and outrebounded them, but we did sort of collapse late in the first half and at the end of the game.
"But, overall it was a good game for us. We have a lot more confidence after playing a good Nebraska team. I think it will carry over to the C of C game."
College of Charleston, meanwhile, is coming off a 58-54 loss to Kent State and has lost two of its last three games. Center Adjehi Baru is averaging 10.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, but took only three shots against Kent State, making all three. Forward Willis Hall has led the Cougars in scoring the last three games while backcourt players have struggled to score.
"It's a big game for both teams to get on the winning track" said Wojcik, whose team has played a tough non-conference schedule that ranks No. 73 in the nation at realtimerpi.com. "We win a game, we lose a game. That's just going to be us until we figure it all out."
With the teams in different leagues, there will be no rematch this season. Sunday's winner will have bragging rights until next season.
"You still get up for this game," said the Bulldogs' Van Scyoc. "You see those guys walking downtown, so it's definitely for bragging rights. When you see them downtown, you want to give them a little something. It's a fun game, and you can definitely feel it."
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