Nov 24, 2002
By JEFFREY COLLINS
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina’s defense held East Tennessee State to just a meaningless 3-pointer over the last 3:48 as the Gamecocks won their Carolina Center debut 71-66 on Sunday.
Chuck Eidson scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds, and Carlos Powell added 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Gamecocks (1-0) played in front of 14,922 fans, the school’s largest crowd ever for a men’s game.
The fans were nervous for most of the game, as the Buccaneers (1-1) led 59-55 after Jerald Field’s 3-pointer with 7:49 left.
But Eidson and Tony Kitchings, who had nine points and 11 rebounds, got back-to-back tip-ins to tie it at 59. After the teams traded buckets, Powell gave South Carolina the lead for good with a 3-pointer that made it 64-61 with four minutes to go.
The Buccaneers would manage two more baskets down the stretch – Tim Smith’s jumper that made it 64-63 with 3:41 to go, and Sam Oatman’s 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left that cut the final margin to 71-66.
Jerald Fields led East Tennessee State with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tiras Wade added 14 points. But Fields, Wade and Zakee Wadood, who had 11 points and nine rebounds, would all foul out in a sloppy game that had 37 fouls, 48 turnovers and a double-technical when Wadood and Rolando Howell got tied up under the basket late in the game.
The win means South Carolina is now 4-0 opening new arenas, going back to the 33-5 win over Olympia YMCA in the 1911 opener of the Carolina Gymnasium.
Sunday’s game wasn’t quite that easy. The Buccaneers, the Southern Conference’s Northern Division champions last year, didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the new surroundings.
Junior college transfer Kerbrell Brown got South Carolina’s first basket at the Carolina Center – a dunk off a pretty assist by Eidson with 19:46 to go. But the Gamecocks had trouble with the new rims after that, missing their next nine shots as East Tennessee State took a 16-3 lead.
Then Powell came in. The sophomore hit a bucket with 13:44 left in the half and 30 seconds later, got the crowd screaming with a steal and lay-up whistled good after the Buccaneers were called for goaltending.
South Carolina ended the sloppy half – the teams combined for 23 turnovers – on a 38-18 run to lead 41-34 at the break.
East Tennessee State came out pressing in the second half, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes to take a 51-45 lead.
The previous record for a South Carolina men’s home game was 12,783 set in a 59-53 win over Clemson on Feb. 2, 1991.
South Carolina’s Lady Gamecocks drew 17,712 for the opening of the Carolina Center on Friday.