Loss Puts An End to 10 Game Win Streak
By Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
The College of Charleston men's basketball team cruised into Harrisonburg, Va. Saturday afternoon carrying a ten game win streak, and a perfect 2-0 record in the Colonial Athletic Association. Although they appeared to be the favorite against James Madison University, when it was all said and done the Dukes controlled the contest and the tempo pulling away for a 69-58 win over the Cougars.
Despite coming back from a 17 point deficit at the half, that included a 10-0 run, and cutting the lead to just two points, CofC appeared to run out of gas near the finish line. CofC Head Coach Earl Grant broke it down as he saw it. “Obviously, it was very uncharacteristic for us to not have energy and the tenacity we needed to play defense (in the first half). Certainly, we know we need to play defense on the road to win. They (JMU) were on an 86-point pace in the first half."
Grant gave the home team their due. "You have to give them so credit. They made a lot of threes, seven in the first half. Most of them were contested and were big-time shots by good players. We had some breakdowns in transition defense. We got down 17 (points) at half. Our guys showed character fighting back and cutting it to four in the second half. Anytime you play against another team, you have to give them credit. They made some shots, too.”
The Cougars got off to a sluggish start trailing 22-6 after eight minutes of play. Turnovers, poor shooting, and three from long range afforded the home team a 16 point advantage. CofC had trouble putting a dent into the lead. After a short 4-0 run JMU answered with their sixth 3-pointer of the half, up 35-21 with a little over five minutes left in the half. The Dukes were relentless extending the margin to 43-26 at the half.
It appeared to be much of the same as the two team returned to the court after the break. But six minutes into the second half the Cougars found some offensive. Trailing 52-40 with 13:40 to play CofC scored 10 unanswered points capped off by a pair of free throws by Grant Riller, making it 52-50 midway through the period. But the Dukes weren't about to disappoint the home town fans, extending the lead to seven points and keeping CofC at a comfortable distance for the remainder of the contest.
With the loss the College of Charleston fall to 13-3 on the season and 2-1 in league play. James Madison pick up their first win in conference play (1-3) and improve to 8-9 overall. The Cougars were lead in scoring by Jarrell Brantley and Jaylen Richard with 15 points apiece. Riller who fouled out late in the contest finished with 13 points.
One positive Coach Grant took away from the loss was the play of Richard off the bench. Just a freshman, Richard had his best game to date in a Cougar uniform. “He gave us great energy off the bench. I was happy about the way he came into the game and responded, especially since he didn’t play the last three-or-four games."
The overall performance of Richard made Coach Grant take notice. "For him to go into the game, to play the way that he did with the deflections and steals. The confidence to drive the ball, make plays and making a big three, it certainly caught my attention. He will continue to be in our rotation. The last two games he has helped us including at Towson. We didn’t win tonight and it was disappointing, but it’s good to see him step-up and make plays the way that he did.”
Richard echoed Grant's assessment and said he just wanted to contribute any way he could. “I was just playing my role. When I come into a game, I just try to bring energy and try to win. Coach talks about winning plays and that’s all I was trying to do. Me and Coach Q (Quinton Ferrell), when we workout, he always says, ‘your time will come’ and tonight it did and I was ready for it.”
JMU finished the game with a balanced attack. Four of their five starters ended the contest in double figures with Darien Banks finishing with a game best 21 pts. including 4 of 5 from long range. Matt Lewis and Mosley Stuckey chipped in 13 apiece with Dwight Wilson adding 10 points. The Dukes were deadly from 3-point range making good on 10 of 19 from beyond the arc.
It marked the first loss for the Cougars since a Thanksgiving Day meeting with then No. 19 LSU in Orlando. They will look to rebound with a two-game homestand at TD Arena next week against Drexel on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. (ET) and Delaware on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4 p.m. (ET). Tickets can be purchased by calling (843) 953-COFC or online at www.CofCSports.com/tickets