Cougars Head To Asheville As No. 3 SoCon Tournament Seed

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#3 COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (22-9) vs. #6 WESTERN CAROLINA (13-18) or #11 THE CITADEL (8-21)

2013 Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship Quarterfinals

Game #32

March 9, 2013 8:30 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Cellular Center (7,674)

at Asheville, N.C.

College of Charleston Cougars men's basketball

Television: ESPN3/WatchESPN.com

Radio: College of Charleston Radio Network (ESPN Radio 910 AM)

Series History vs. WCU: CofC Leads 18-7

Last Meeting: CofC def. Western Carolina, 67-65, on Feb. 20, 2013 in Cullowhee, N.C.

Series History vs. The Citadel: CofC Leads 51-39

Last Meeting: CofC def. The Citadel, 69-54, on Jan. 24, 2013 in Charleston, S.C.

Internet: Free Live Statistics on www.SoConSports.com

Twitter: @CofCBasketball

 

THE COACHES

College of Charleston: Doug Wojcik

First Year at CofC: 22-9 (.710)

Eighth Year Overall: 162-101 (.616)

Western Carolina: Larry Hunter

Eighth Year at WCU: 120-136 (.469)

33rd Year Overall: 629-360 (.636)

The Citadel: Chuck Driesell

Third Year at The Citadel: 24-67 (.264)

Ninth Year Overall: 112-139 (.446)

 

RADIO (College of Charleston Radio Network)

Play-By-Play: Jeff McCarragher

Color Analyst: Everett German

 

TELEVISION (ESPN3)

Play-By-Play: Darren Goldwater

Color Analyst: Dean Keener


GAME PREVIEW

The College of Charleston men’s basketball team (22-9) received one of four coveted first-round byes and heads North as the No. 3 seed in the 2013 Southern Conference Tournament on March 8-11 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. The Cougars will face either No. 6 seed Western Carolina (13-18) or No. 11 seed The Citadel (8-21) in the quarterfinals to be played on Saturday, March 9 at 8:30 p.m. (ET). The game will be carried nationally on ESPN3/WatchESPN.com. CofC is tournament ready having won 10 of its last 12 games of the regular season including a 74-50 rout of Furman on March 2. Like every other team in the tournament field, CofC will be vying for the championship title which comes with the biggest prize of them all – the SoCon’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The Cougars have positioned themselves well this season under first-year head coach Doug Wojcik and enters the tournament the healthiest in the last two years, where injuries plagued the squad in postseason play with the loss of key starters to the lineup in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Davidson (17-1) earned the league’s top seed and finished four games better in the regular season than their nearest opponent. This year, the Cougars shortened that margin by three games with a 14-4 record and No. 2 seed Elon by two with a 13-5 record. It’s been 14 years since the program last went dancing in 1999 and the excitement continues to build for a return.

 

SCOUTING WESTERN CAROLINA

Western Carolina won five of its last eight games of the regular season including an overtime thriller to Samford (56-54) in both teams’ finale on March 2. Redshirt junior guard Trey Sumler is the league’s second-leading scorer averaging 17.9 points per game. Last year, the then-No. 3 North seeded Catamounts played four tournament games in four days making it all the way to the finals with wins over The Citadel (68-56) in the first round, Wofford (82-59) and UNCG (82-77). WCU later took Davidson into double overtime, but lost by two, 93-91, in the upset bid. It was their first loss in eight games after winning seven straight up until their title game run.

 

SCOUTING THE CITADEL

The Citadel is playing some of its best basketball of the season having won two of its last four regular-season contests against Appalachian State (80-77) in overtime on the road on Feb. 20 and versus Furman (68-57) on Senior Night on Feb. 28. The Bulldogs currently rank No. 38 nationally in assists per game (15.1 avg.) and No. 80 in field-goal percentage (45.3%). They are led by All-SoCon Team selection and senior big man Mike Groselle, who is averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

 

COUGARS ALL-TIME IN SOUTHERN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PLAY

The Cougars are 19-13 all-time in Southern Conference Tournament play. CofC won its only SoCon Tournament title in 1999 with a 77-57 victory over Appalachian State to make its fourth all-time appearance in the Big Dance. The Cougars are 4-1 all-time in opening-round games, 9-4 in the quarterfinals, 5-4 in the semifinals and 1-4 in the finals.

 

HOW THEY GOT THERE

CofC is one of three teams in the league with 20-or-more overall wins on the season next to Davidson and Elon and one of four with 10-or-more wins in regular-season conference play including the two mentioned and Appalachian State. They put together a 14-4 league mark and earned their 10th first-round tournament bye by since joining the league in 1998-99.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

The College of Charleston has made three appearances in the SoCon championship game over the last six years, the most of any league school ahead of Davidson (2) and Wofford (2). The Cougars made the finals in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The only SoCon foe CofC has never faced in the postseason tournament is Samford since becoming a member of the league in 1998-99. Over the last 23 seasons, the Cougars are 26-25 when playing in the month of March.

 

COUGARS ON THE AIRWAVES

Fans can listen to all CofC men’s basketball games throughout the 2012-13 postseason on ESPN Radio 910 AM in Charleston or via a live audio link at: www.charlestonsportsradio.com. Voice of the Cougars Jeff McCarragher and color analyst Everett German will call the action live from U.S. Cellular Center on the College of Charleston Radio Network.

 

PROJECTED COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON STARTERS

#22 Anthony Stitt, G, 6-1, 180, So. (10.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 32.7 min)

#4 Andrew Lawrence, G, 6-1, 185, Sr. (13.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 32.1 min)

#3 Anthony Thomas, F, 6-7, 207, Jr. (8.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 28.7 min)

#53 Willis Hall, F, 6-6, 235, RS-Jr. (7.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.7 apg, 24.1 min)

#1 Adjehi Baru, F, 6-9, 225, So. (9.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, 30.7 min)

 

PROJECTED WESTERN CAROLINA STARTERS

#0 Tom Tankelewicz, G, 6-4, 180, RS-Jr. (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 26.4 min)

#5 Trey Sumler, G, 6-2, 175, RS-Jr. (17.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 37.7 min)

#25 James Sinclair, G, 6-3, 180, So. (6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 29.3 min)

#32 Tawaski King, F, 6-8, 245, Jr. (11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 31.8 min)

#40 Preston Ross, F, 6-4, 220, Jr. (6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 17.2 min)

 

PROJECTED CITADEL STARTERS

#1 Raemond Robinson, G, 6-3, 190, Fr. (4.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 19.6 min)

#10 Marshall Harris III, G, 6-1, 180, So. (6.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 30.0 min)

#30 Matt Van Scyoc, G/F, 6-6, 220, Fr. (11.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 31.2 min)

#44 P.J. Horgan, F, 6-8, 209, So. (11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 32.1 min)

#31 Mike Groselle, C, 6-8, 245, Sr. (15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 31.7 min)

 

ALL-TIME AGAINST SOCON OPPONENTS

The Cougars are 2-0 all-time against Western Carolina and 1-0 versus The Citadel in SoCon Tournament games. They last faced No. 2 North seed WCU in the quarterfinals (W, 67-48) in 2009 and No. 6 South seed The Citadel in both programs’ only postseason meeting in the first round (W, 66-48) in 2008.

 

COFC vs. SOCON TEAMS IN POSTSEASON PLAY

Appalachian State (4-4)

Chattanooga (1-3)

Davidson (1-2)

East Tennessee State (2-1)

Elon (1-1)

Furman (2-1)

Georgia Southern (3-0)

The Citadel (1-0)

UNCG (1-0)

Western Carolina (2-0)

Wofford (1-1)

 

SERIES HISTORIES

CofC holds an 18-7 advantage in the all-time series with Western Carolina and has won five of the last seven meetings between the two schools. The Cougars claimed their first road win since the 2007-08 campaign with a close 67-65 decision on Feb. 20 in Cullowhee, N.C. It marked only their eighth road win at WCU in 14 tries. As for the crosstown rivalry series with The Citadel, CofC swept the Bulldogs for the third year in a row with a 73-69 victory on Jan. 24 at TD Arena. The Cougars own a 51-39 stronghold in the series against the Cadets.

 

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

CofC Head Coach Doug Wojcik has turned his CofC squad into one of the best defensive ballclubs in the SoCon as he did at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane were one of Conference USA’s top defensive teams and ranked among the top defenses in the country. The Cougars currently rank No. 51 nationally in scoring defense holding opponents to an average of 61.1 points per game and No. 19 nationally in three-point field-goal percentage defense (29.7%) as of March 3. In conference play, CofC has limited opponents to just 60.2 points a game.

 

“Defensively, we can handle situations on the fly. We can adjust our ball-screen defense to any scenario. I think we are patterned, we are that good and we are much more experienced now. We have shown our players a lot of tape and they have learned a lot this year. I think we can play a lot of different ways, but defense is pretty much a standard for us now.”

 

Category 2011-12 Now

Scoring Defense 68.3 ppg 61.1 ppg (51st in nation, 2nd SoCon)

FG% Defense 42.0% 40.1% (56th in nation, 1st SoCon)

3PT FG% Defense 32.0% 29.7% (19th in nation, 1st SoCon)

Blocks 3.7 avg 4.5 avg (60th in nation, 1st SoCon)

Rebound Margin -3.8 +6.2 (23rd in nation, 1st SoCon)

 

#ROADWARRIORS

The Cougars will be on the road from here on out, though the SoCon Tournament games will be counted as neutral contests. They currently are tied for the second-most road victories among NCAA Division I schools with 11. CofC is one of 16 programs with 10-or-more road wins this season as Bucknell and Stony Brook lead the nation with 12.

 

MOST ROAD VICTORIES AMONG NCAA DIVISION I SCHOOLS

1T. Bucknell (12-4)

1T. Stony Brook (12-5)

2T. College of Charleston (11-2)

2T. Middle Tennessee State (11-3)

2T. Stephen F. Austin (11-3)

3T. Gonzaga (10-1)

3T. Northeastern (10-2)

3T. Miami (10-3)

3T. UT Arlington (10-3)

3T. Louisiana Tech (10-3)

3T. Albany (10-4)

3T. Weber State (10-4)

3T. Albany (10-5)

3T. Valparaiso (10-5)

3T. Robert Morris (10-6)

3T. Norfolk State (10-8)

 

THE CAPTAIN

Senior Andrew Lawrence (London, England) earned his first career nod on the All-Southern Conference Team on March 5. He currently ranks fourth in the league in assists (3.9 apg), seventh in steals (1.4 spg), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and ninth in minutes played (32.1). A two-time Bob Cousy Award candidate given annually to the nation’s top point guard, Lawrence has scored in double figures in nine of the team’s last 10 league games. He became the 30th player in school history to reach the 1,000-career point mark and turned in his second consecutive 100+ assist season this year. Lawrence currently ranks 26th all-time in career scoring with 1,151 career points to date, seventh all-time in career three-pointers made (203) and 10th all-time in career assists (384). He is 21 points away from moving into the Top 25 as former player Wes Champion compiled 1,171 career points from 1985-88 and Jermel President 1,175 from 1996-99.

 

COUGAR SIDEBARS

Coach Wojcik is 1-0 versus Western Carolina and 2-0 against The Citadel in his eight years as a Division I head coach. He has compiled a 14-5 regular-season Southern Conference record with wins over Elon, Furman (twice), Chattanooga (twice), The Citadel (twice), Wofford (twice), Appalachian State, UNCG, Samford, Georgia Southern and Western Carolina this season. Prior to CofC, he led the University of Tulsa to two Conference USA Tournament championship games in 2008 and 2009 (lost both to Memphis) and two semifinals in 2010 and 2011 (lost both to UTEP).

 

“It’s tournament time. The excitement goes back to state tournament basketball for me as a high school player. March was always tournament time and fun. We are coming off a good win at Furman) and Trent (Wiedeman) and (Anthony) Stitt are healthy. We are excited to experience our first Southern Conference Tournament and Asheville seems like a great venue.”

 

Coach Wojcik has known WCU Head Coach Larry Hunter for years and followed him growing up when Hunter was the head coach from 1989-2001 at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, which is located close to Wojcik’s hometown of Wheeling, W. Va. Both also coached in the ACC at the same time when Wojcik was an assistant coach under Matt Doherty at North Carolina from 2000-03 and Hunter an associate head coach under Herb Sendek at North Carolina State from 2001-05.

 

Wojcik is a 1987 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to complete his five-year military commitment following graduation. He served as an assistant coach at the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) in Newport, R.I. At the time, the NAPS team was coached by Citadel Head Coach Chuck Driesell. The two coaches were roommates and developed a friendship that still exists today.

 

FURMAN RECAP

CofC 74, Furman 50

For the 25th time this season, CofC went with the starting five of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, redshirt junior Willis Hall and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (20-5). Stitt returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a knee injury against Wofford on Feb. 28.

With the win, the Cougars claimed the regular-season series sweep of the Paladins for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign, after both teams split the series a year ago. They now trail by one game in the all-time series with Furman, 41-40.

CofC defeated the Paladins by a 24-point margin – only its fourth 20+ margin of victory over an opponent this season next to Chattanooga (+27) on Jan. 12, Wofford (+29) on Jan. 26 and UNCG (+22) on Feb. 2.

The Cougars picked up their 11th road win of the season (11-2) which is tied as the most road victories among NCAA Division I teams this season next to Bucknell (11-4), Stephen F. Austin (11-3) and Stony Brook (11-5).

Anthony Stitt scored in double figures for the 20th time this season with a team-high 15 points. He also added a game-high five assists with just two turnovers to give him 99 total assists this year.

Willis Hall brought down a season-high 15 rebounds including a career-best 12 on the defensive glass. He was one point short of a double-double with nine points.

The Cougars grabbed a season-high tying 48 rebounds against Furman. It tied 48 boards versus crosstown rival The Citadel on Jan. 24.

Defensively, CofC held Furman an opponent season-low tying 50 points. The Cougars entered the game as the second-best team in the league in scoring defense which ranked No. 56 nationally.

CofC cleared its bench in the final minutes of the contest as sophomore Pat Branin tied his career-high with a made three-pointer with 1:07 remaining in regulation and freshman walk-on Chad Cooke with his first career points on a fastbreak layup with 25 seconds left on the clock.

 

COUGAR SOUND BITES

“Coming into the season, I didn’t know how the Southern Conference and the travel would be. To win on a ranked team’s home floor and winning 11-of-13 games on the road is a surprise with 12 of those games being well played with one poor performance on the road at Georgia Southern. To think we are the best defensive and rebounding team in the league with the most blocked shots is impressive. I don’t know if I could have said all of that before the season started. We have had our highs and lows just like every other team this season.” – CofC Head Coach Doug Wojcik on predicting what would happen this season – his first in the SoCon with a new squad

 

“At this time last year, our players were on their second coach and did not know for sure, who their third coach would be. I thought we got through some of those moments a couple of weeks ago. The second half at Furman was really big for us. The lid came off the basket, we shot it well and the bench contributed greatly. I’m really kind of glad how the Furman game worked out. It would have been worse had we played really well in the first half, and, maybe not so well in the second. It is good we could turn that fortune around which is a good thing going into the conference tournament, especially with the week off and spring break.” – Coach Wojcik on being in a different position this year with stability and being healthy going into the SoCon Tournament than last year

 

“The best example I can give you is that Wichita State has been to two NCAA Tournaments since 1988. It’s really hard to do. (Davidson Head Coach) Bob McKillop’s quote in the paper is incredibly accurate, ‘You want to make more out of it than what it is?’ Do I have more of a sense of urgency, because we haven’t been there in 14 years? No. My sense of urgency is to try to go and be in a position to build a program where we can go every year. It’s not happening at Clemson, South Carolina or Wake Forest. We are in a one-bid league. During the ESPN pre-game show of the Baylor-Texas game on Monday night, they were talking about Baylor being on the bubble and their margin of error. Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg are talking about us, but they’re saying we are a bad loss for Baylor. It’s good publicity, but it is what is. Our strength of schedule is 290. We can’t challenge our kids any more in the non-conference more than we did. It’s a fine line, between if you lose, ‘where is the confidence? Where is the growth? Where is the negativity? How does it affect them?’ You just have to stay with what you are doing and be positive. You have to be in the best position you can be by either winning the league, or potentially down the road, be an at-large team. It’s taken Mark Few at Gonzaga 16 years to be ranked No. 1. Everyone has an era. How do you maintain stability? Davidson and Gonzaga are great examples of stability and success.” – Coach Wojcik on if he feels a sense of urgency to take his program to the NCAA Tournament since the Cougars’ last went in their first SoCon season in 1999.

 

“It’s time to win now. It’s the most important time of the year. We had a really good regular season, but at the end of the day, it means nothing if we don’t come out with a conference tournament championship. That’s what we are going there (Asheville) to get. We are going to try our best and have been practicing really hard this week. We will be ready once tournament comes around. As a senior, I really would love to win a SoCon Championship, but all four years I wanted to win one. I would love to go out with a championship and that’s what we are all working towards. Western Carolina and The Citadel are good teams with great players and both ended their seasons well. We are excited to go up there and play, but don’t take any team lightly and take it one game at a time.” – Senior Point Guard Andrew Lawrence on the team’s goals this week and a sense of urgency to finish the season on a high note as a senior

 

“I do think it’s a different type of mentality this year and from the year before. Last year, with all of the injuries we had going into the conference tournament, we were on our last leg and just trying to make a push. This year, we have confidence and know our identity. We go into it, knowing we have a good chance of making the championship game and we have a good shot of winning it. I think everyone is focused on the same page and are going in with one goal in mind.” – Sophomore Guard Anthony Stitt on the team’s mentality heading into this year’s SoCon Tournament compared to last year or the year before with Andrew Goudelock and Co.


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Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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