Cross-town rivalry: College of Charleston plays at Citadel on Saturday

College of Charleston’s Canyon Barry shoots over Citadel defenders during the Cougars’ 59-55 victory last season at TD Arena. Paul Zoeller/Staff

The college basketball fraternity is a small one.

Case in point, when first-year Citadel head basketball coach Duggar Baucom was an assistant coach at Mars Hill in the mid-1990s, he went to look at a tough, tenacious undersized point guard at Spartanburg Methodist Junior College.

That point guard in question was current College of Charleston basketball coach Earl Grant.

Baucom picked up Grant in Spartanburg and made the 90-minute drive up I-26 to Mars Hill.

“I was on to Earl early in his career,” Baucom said. “I was at Mars Hill and he was at Spartanburg Methodist, and I went down to get him and brought him up for an official visit.”

Grant remembers the visit well, but the Stall High School graduate turned down Baucom, telling him “coach, I’m not sure the mountains are for me.”

Grant, who would go on to be an assistant basketball coach at The Citadel, eventually signed with Georgia College and led the Bobcats to two Peach Belt Conference titles and two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances.

The College of Charleston (4-2) and The Citadel (5-3) will meet for the 94th time Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at McAlister Field House. The was originally scheduled for 1 p.m., but was moved up because of The Citadel football team’s FCS playoff game at Charleston Southern, which is set for 1 p.m.

“I’ve known Duggar since 1995 when he was at Mars Hill,” Grant said. “He took me on a recruiting visit. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s a good man and a good coach. He’s done a really good job everywhere he’s been and he’s going to build a really good program over there.”

This will be the first time the two have faced each other as head coaches.

“I knew him when he was at The Citadel,” Baucom said. “I have followed his path in coaching. He’s got the Cougars playing well and I’m happy for him.”

It will also be the first time that Grant has seen the Bulldogs new up-tempo style since Baucom was hired back in March. The Bulldogs lead the nation in scoring, averaging 96.6 points a game. The Bulldogs are also first in the nation in 3-point attempts (301), second in 3-point shots made (109), fourth in assists (174) and seventh in steals (86).

“I think we’re getting better every game,” Baucom said. “ I think we’re playing together the way we want to. They’ve certainly adapted to our style well, and I was real pleased with our games in Spartanburg (beat Georgia Southern, Bob Jones and USC Upstate). Different guys stepped up at different times, and we got stops when we needed to. I thought we got better last week.”

Grant said it hasn’t been easy to duplicate the Bulldogs up-tempo style in practice this week.

“Something that we’ve focused on during practice has been our transition defense,” Grant said. “They don’t like to use a lot of the shot clock. The first good shot they get, they’ll let it fly, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”

The Cougars are coming off of the biggest home wins in recent memory after Monday night’s 70-58 victory over LSU. Junior Canyon Barry, who led the Cougars with 19 points in the victory, said he doesn’t think the team will have a letdown Saturday.

“We’ve talked all week in practice about not being hungover from a win like that and part of being a good team is learning how to handle success,” said Barry, who is averaging 20.7 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. “It’s a cross-town rivalry with The Citadel, so we’ve got to approach this like we did the LSU game. It was a huge win, a great win for the program and we had a chance to celebrate it. But now that game has to be in our rearview mirror. We’re moving on and we’re ready for the challenge a great Citadel team will give us.”

• Fans can stick around after the basketball game to watch The Citadel’s football game at Charleston Southern. The game will be shown on the McAlister Field House video board.