Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 12, 2016, 12:13 p.m.
For the last two seasons, I have driven up to G.B. Hodge Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina Upstate to write about the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles’ game with the Spartans for the Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press.
Until about this time in 2015, I had not gone to a basketball game at USCU since it was USCS (Spartanburg), coached by Jerry Waters, named the Rifles, and playing in the NAIA, and while now USCU is NCAA Division I, Atlantic Sun Conference, and coached by Eddie Payne, who is in his 14th year with the Spartans and 31st overall, its home games are still at the Hodge Center, which holds 837.
Among the few, the proud, the NCAA Division I schools with basketball arenas that hold less than 1,000, Hodge Center is a really great place to watch. It should come as no surprise that all of the 837 seats are good ones. Its crowds are raucous during most years, when the Spartans are not young, 8-19, and 2-7 (in the Atlantic Sun). Florida Gulf Coast won the game, 71-64, after winning on its home floor, 85-56, on January 16. Hodge has been renovated, and among its glistening additions are huge scoreboards with video replay boards behind each end line. It’s reasonably akin to watching the game live and on TV at the same time, at least for those with wandering eyes, and in this age of tiny phones and social media, who does not have wandering eyes?
Wandering, darting eyes.
Payne is a good coach whose creditable record proves it. I expect he won’t have a losing team next year. The talent is there, but when the season began, the cupboard was bare.
FGCU led most of the way. According to the stat sheet, the Eagles led for 23 minutes, 57 seconds, the teams were tied for 10:35, and the Spartans led for 5:28, so, for most of the game, FGCU (16-11, 6-4) was in jeopardy, slightly in doubt, but likely to win, which it did. An 11-2 run in the former half and a 15-0 stretch in the latter were just too much for the Spartans to surmount.
The biggest surprise came afterwards when I asked to interview a player named Marc-Eddy Norelia, a 6-8 redshirt junior from Orlando who collected 22 points and nine rebounds. When I make the upstate high school rounds, I seldom come across anyone named Marc, Eddy, or Norelia, and as I talked with Payne, I wondered what Norelia would be like.
“I think that just had to do with the fact that we were turning the ball over. I think Coach (Joe Dooley) said we had 17 turnovers. That’s the first part of the problem, and I’ll say our inability to finish plays was the second.
“We didn’t hit our free throws, so that was the third. We had an opportunity to do a lot better.”
I would have mined my iPhone for more, but, just as I was wrapping up my story, all the lights went out in the gym. I used a little penlight on my key ring to consult my trusty legal pad for a few more details.
FGCU’s 11 missed free throws (out of 25) helped keep the Spartans (16-20) in it.
Payne said, “Our energy and competitiveness were better tonight. In our bad stretches, I think we had some young kids who were fatigued, who kind of caved a little bit, yielded to that fatigue. When they went to a zone, we didn’t have very good poise. We didn’t have patience, and we didn’t get quality shots.”
“We couldn’t stand our own prosperity,” Dooley said. “When we did get ahead a little bit, they made some plays and made some shots. We were up 11, made a couple bad possessions, took some bad shots and they were right back in it.”
Both coaches said FGCU couldn’t put USCU away, but one took small consolation.
As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.
Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.
Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
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