Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 29, 2015, 11:01 a.m.
Under cover of spreading darkness, I wandered away from my college football bunker last night. I needed a refuge from the carpal thumb syndrome of checking back and forth between Clemson-Carolina, Ohio State-Michigan, and, just for kicks, Duke-Wake Forest.
As much as I hated to leave the second halves of late-afternoon rivalries to their own devices — because, as you know, each of us, in the privacy of our living rooms, plays a small role in the outcome of every game we watch, so that’s why we wear “gear” and good-luck socks — I drove over to Templeton Center so that I could watch the 168th or 175th men’s basketball meeting between the colleges Wofford and Presbyterian.
The number of meetings is a matter of conflict between the two schools’ fact sheets. I told PC’s sports information director, Simon Whitaker, he should accept the Wofford totals because the Blue Hose had won more that way.
He took it under advisement. SIDs often do that.
It was an entertaining game, probably more so because I was paying attention to it for money. I attend most Presbyterian home games, but when I’m sitting in the stands, my mind wanders, and what little attention I pay is to uncalled traveling violations, how the refs need to get visiting players off home players’ backs, and other “back in my day” rants that men yell as they get older and grumpier.
At the media table, I never raise my voice. I exchange satirical comments with those sitting nearby.
I look at the forest, not the trees.
Sometimes a game is a matter of tactics and circumstance. At such games, one must pay heed to defenses and ball movement and unforeseen developments (such as, “big guy in foul trouble”).
Wofford-Presbyterian was no such contest. Both teams played hard. Presbyterian wanted to win. Wofford knew how.
In my mind, that’s why the Terriers did. I sensed it from the opening tap, after which the Blue Hose rolled out to a 10-3 lead. It was a burst of frantic enthusiasm, a release of pent-up emotion, and, meanwhile, Wofford took it in and regrouped. The Terriers took the lead at 14-12 and never trailed again.
The elegant practicality of senior Spencer Collins characterized Wofford. Collectively, his teammates guarded the lead throughout the second half, but it was Collins who calmly popped a three, or snared a rebound, each time the Blue Hose pulled to within three, or four, or five. He scored 21, hitting four of six from “behind the arc.”
Meanwhile, DeSean Murray put the Blue Hose on his back with 24 points. Fifteen of his 16 shots were from “inside the arc,” and he hit 10 of them. Ed Drew had nine points and eight rebounds. John Majors II came off the bench to score seven.
Wofford won, 68-58. The Terriers never lost control, but the spectators never lost interest, either.
Presbyterian (3-3) faces Gardner-Webb at home on Wednesday. The Blue Hose are in the Big South, so it doesn’t matter as much that they’ve lost three games to Southern Conference opponents. Wofford (2-3) is in the Southern Conference but has lost to Missouri and North Carolina already.
The Terriers and their head coach, Mike Young (48-20 in the two previous seasons), came to and left Clinton confident. Gregg Nibert, in his 27th year with the Blue Hose, is still blending in elements of a team that is young and athletic. It knows how to play. It must learn how to win. It sounds simple. It isn’t.
That elusive Fighting Blue Hose Spirit. The fans all love the taste, but they’re having trouble with the recipe.
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