As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the College of Charleston's 72-57 early morning win over Morehead State, Cougars coach Bobby Cremins and his players stood and applauded the 3,244 fans who showed up for the 8 a.m. tipoff Tuesday at TD Arena.
During the nationally televised game, the Cougars were trending on Twitter. A picture was posted from a College of Charleston classroom of a student watching the game on his laptop computer.
Students showed up in pajamas. Among them was Andrew Goudelock, the Los Angeles Lakers' draft pick who returned to the College of Charleston because of the NBA lockout. Mascot Clyde the Cougar wore his bathrobe.
"What a great fan base," Cremins said. "We kinda ventured into new territory. Everybody asks 'Why 8 a.m.?' It's simple. It's exposure for our program. We're not the ACC. We're not the SEC. We have to recruit against those guys. Any time you get an opportunity to play a national TV game, you have to take a hard look at it.
"We've got people watching us on national TV, and they saw an enthusiastic crowd."
The game was one of 19 in ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, a 24-hour hoop-fest that began at midnight in Spokane, Wash., and wrapped up with an 11 p.m. start at Stanford with the Cardinal playing host to Colorado State. Duke faced Michigan State and Kentucky played Kansas in two of the premier games.
Charleston was invited to play in a 6 a.m. contest last year but could not make it work. This year's 6 a.m. game featured Drexel against Rider, with nearly 2,000 fans in attendance.
"It's an incredibly exciting way to kick off the college basketball season," said Dan Shoemaker, vice president for collegiate development of ESPN Regional Television. "The ratings of it are very good. It gets people into the mood."
Shoemaker, who is in Puerto Rico for an ESPN tournament, said he watched the College of Charleston and thought the Cougars "looked very, very good."
"It would surprise you the teams that want to play in this event. It's a very desirable event and a great opportunity for Charleston," Shoemaker said.
Playing at 8 a.m. meant a 5:30 wakeup call for the players, who had breakfast at Jack's Cafe.
"It was a little tough opening my eyes at 5:30 in the morning. I'm not used to waking up that early," said senior forward Antwaine Wiggins, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"Right when I got in the gym, all I could think of was how early it was. Once the game started, I think everyone was fine and it didn't feel like morning anymore. It was just like a regular game," said sophomore forward Trent Wiedeman, who scored seven points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Wiedeman said after the game he was heading to a 10:50 a.m. class, then grab some lunch and "take a long, long nap."
The Cougars didn't look sleepy at the game's outset, jumping to a 9-0 lead and eventually building the margin to 22. Morehead State, which beat the Cougars, 69-49, last season, pressured the Cougars the entire game and forced Charleston into 17 turnovers.
The offensive star of the show was sophomore Jordan Scott, who hit his first four 3-point attempts and finished with 22 points, three assists and two steals. Freshman Adjehi Baru, who played only 24 minutes, had eight points and six rebounds.
Cremins said he was looking forward to watching more basketball Tuesday, then will focus on Saturday's game at Clemson. Next week, the Cougars go to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament that includes national champion Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida State.
3-Point Field Goals -- MST 6-17 (Kelly 0-1, Austin 1-1, Hill 1-4, Proffitt 1-3, Holden 2-7, Warner 1-1); CofC 10-24 (Wiggins 1-6, Lawrence 3-5, Scott 5-7, Sundberg 1-2, Johnson 0-1, Stitt 0-1, Dixon 0-1, Carlton 0-1. Steals -- MST 7 (Kelly 3); CofC 5 (Wiggins 2, Scott 2). Blocks -- MST 1 (Owens); CofC 2 (Wiggins, Wiedeman). Turnovers -- MST 12 (Hill 4); CofC 17 (Wiedeman 5). Technicals -- None. A -- 3,244.