A collective sigh echoed across Charleston Tuesday night, as College of Charleston basketball fans watched their team nearly pull off the upset against the undefeated fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals. Unfortunately, the Cougars (9-2) couldn't hold on for the win, as the heavily favored Cardinals (11-0) pulled away in the final minutes, earning a 69-62 victory at the oddly named KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
The game, broadcast nationally on ESPNU, came just one night after fellow Southern Conference underdog Davidson upset then-No. 11 Kansas. Although fans didn't witness a second upset in as many days, Tuesday night's battle proved that the Cougars are a force to be reckoned with. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's post-game comments echoed this sentiment. "They were the better team," he said sincerely before leaving the court. Pitino, who looks like he could be an acquaintance of Boardwalk Empire's Nucky Thompson, almost sounded like he wanted the Cougars to win. Granted, he does have ties to the College of Charleston, as his daughter, Jacqueline, is currently a student and his son, Richard, was once a member of the men's basketball coaching staff.
Leading for most of the game, the Cougars couldn't withstand a late surge from the Cardinals. Down by two, 57-55, with just over five minutes to play, Louisville's offense went on a tenacious run that would give them a 66-59 lead after a three by senior Chris Smith at the 2:06 mark. The Cougars could not recover, as the deafening crowd and swarming Cardinal defense increased the pressure, forcing turnovers that cemented the Louisville victory.
Most coaches and athletes will heed the belief that "we win as a team, and we lose as a team." Teammates will rarely single one another out, but sometimes will accept responsibility, placing blame upon themselves. With all of this being said, sophomore big man Trent Wiedeman has to be better for the Cougars. Wiedeman is 6'8", 240 lb., and often times it seems that he fails to use his size to his advantage.
While it is hard to criticize him for missing several crucial lay-ups that rimmed out down the stretch, the last of which came at the 36 second mark with his team trailing 66-62, it must be noted that Wiedeman, at times, appeared soft. While he still connected on a few of his patented jump hooks, he must improve on the defensive boards and go strong to the hole. Granted, the Cougars struggled as a whole when it came to rebounding, outplayed by the scrappy Cardinals on the glass most of the night. Unfortunately for Wiedeman, being the big man often means being a scapegoat for these types of troubles. Toughen up, big guy.
Regardless of the daunting outcome, the Cougars showed that they can hang with the big dogs. Fans should be proud of the team's unrelenting effort. With Bobby Cremins at the helm, the Cougars are sure to use Tuesday night's game as a learning experience as they head into another testing road game at Coastal Carolina on Thursday night.