Like most major holidays, basketball season always sneaks up on me. I'm never quite ready for it. And, apparently, neither are the players.
That was evident here at the North Charleston Coliseum on Wednesday night when the College of Charleston beat Charleston Southern, 79-70, in front of a crowd that might be best described as scattered.
I've never liked basketball games in this building. It's just too big for the schools that insist on playing here. Unlike the cozy confines of Kresse Arena or the Buc Dome, this is the home of a hockey team. There's always ice under the floor and teams inevitably come out cold.
These two clubs, for instance, were a combined 25-of-70 from the floor in the first half, barely breaking double figures in the scoring column.
"I knew Charleston Southern had a little edge because they've already played in this building twice (Tulane, Auburn)," Charleston coach Bobby Cremins said after the game. "It's a different atmosphere here. I think our kids were nervous tonight. People forget that we have four freshmen out there.
"But I told our players, this is the home of the Southern Conference Tournament, and you gotta get used to it."
Lid on basket
The Cougars did just that in the second half, finding their pace and pulling away from CSU in the final minutes.
But it was an uneven effort, as evidenced by Tony White Jr. scoring all 17 of his points in the second half for the Cougars.
"First half it was like there was a lid on the basket," said White, C of C's sophomore point guard. "Coach told us at the half that we weren't playing College of Charleston basketball. But we got into the press early in the second half and forced them to play our tempo."
That's all it took to take Barclay Radebaugh's CSU team out of its game. Despite holding a 29-26 lead at the end of the first half, the Bucs just couldn't keep up in the second period.
"That's two games in a row we held a team down in the first half and the second half they put up a big number on us," Radebaugh said. "But we have to be so fundamentally sound just to compete with this team."
Even with three players in double figures — Jarmarco Warren (21), Chris Moore (15), Quinton Goods (10) — the Bucs couldn't keep pace once the Cougars got rolling.
That's when Jermaine Johnson completed his 21-point effort, complimented by White's 17, a 10-spot from Dustin Scott, and nine each from Andrew Goudelock and Jeremy Simmons.
"Second half, their athletic ability just took over," Radebaugh said. "Maybe we need to find a new defensive coach. Unfortunately, I'm the defensive coach."
Taste of tension
Fortunately, this early-season hors d'oeuvre doesn't represent what basketball will be like by tournament time.
Truth is, basketball season for most of us doesn't really begin until it's cold outside.
That's when it feels right to walk into an overheated gym, feel flush from the heat of a thousand voices on our necks, squeeze into a seat between people dressed in big sweaters.
Because of our proximity to the game, basketball is more of a sensory experience. The sound of sneakers squeaking on a shiny floor. The smell of sweat when a player chases a loose ball out of bounds. The taste of tension when your team is tight. The sight of blood in the corner of a power forward's mouth.
That's when the game gets good.
Wake me up when we get there.
Reach Ken Burger at email@example.com or (843) 937-5598.