Riller & Brantley Combine For 39 Pts. Cougs Put End To Two Game Losing Skid
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
After a 10 game winning streak followed by two different losses, the College of Charleston men's basketball team were hoping to get back on track, hosting CAA rival, the Blue Hens of Delaware Saturday afternoon at TD Arena. Coming off a last second defeat (79-78) Thursday night to Drexel the Cougars were eager to erase any negative mojo and give home town fans something to cheer about. Delaware came into town a worthy opponent carrying a four game win streak, a 4-1 mark in league play, and a healthy 12-6 record overall. It was a contest between two winning adversaries. But when all the dust settled on the court at TD Arena CofC prevailed, maintaining almost a double digit lead throughout en route to a 71-58 victory.
Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley once again lead the team scoring 21 and 18 points respectively. Riller had a solid outing making good on 7 of 10 from the floor, making 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Brantley went 8 of 13 from the field aside from hauling in a game high 12 rebounds. With the win Charleston improve to 14-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference play.
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant gave his players after losing two tough games. “The guys showed a lot of character by obviously bouncing back. We’ve faced a little adversity over the last five-to-seven days. This team hasn’t faced much of it, because we had won so many games and things were going great. We finally lost a couple of games, one where we beat ourselves."
Coach Grant added the team just needed to get back to the basics especially after the disappointing last second loss on on Thursday. "Being able to bounce back after watching the last game and seeing our mistakes, I thought it was a testament to the character of our guys and our locker room. It’s a good sign, because you never know how you will respond. I’m just really happy that we were able to play Charleston Basketball and guard the way we guard. Try to take care of the ball how we took care of the ball. It was good to see us be true to our identity today.”
The Cougars were looking to send a message early jumping out to a 21-7 lead after six and a half minutes of play. Marquise Pointer and Riller added three from long range with Brantley scoring eight points early in the opening onslaught. The Blue Hens would put together a 5-0 run before Jaylen Richard drove the lane ending a short Cougars drought. Brantley's 10th point of the half gave the home team a 27-15 lead with 7:40 remaining. Both teams cooled off in the final minutes of the opening period with CofC taking a 34-24 advantage at the break.
The offense was anything but exciting in the second half until Zep Jasper and Riller drained identical 3-pointers from the corner making it 44-33 with 14:16 left to play in the contest. Just when it appeared Delaware was about to make a run, a steal by Brevin Galloway capped off by a dunk, followed by a short jumper by Jasper gave Charleston a comfortable 54-40 lead with less than eight minutes remaining.
At the six minute mark Brantley and Riller took charge, adding three buckets as the Cougars took their biggest lead of the contest (60-42), leaving the Blue Hens less than five minutes to turn it around. Trailing by 14 points (66-52) with just over two minutes to play Delaware doubled down on defense, applying a full court press leading to several turnovers. But a layup by McManus and a couple of free throws by Pointer helped secure a 13 point margin of victory for the Cougars.
Coming off two heartfelt losses, Coach Grant praised the poise of Brantley and Riller. “They are two older guys who have been in the program for a while. I think they understood that we didn’t play good basketball the last five-or-seven days. We can be better. We can executive better, we can take a better shot and we can defend better. I think they had good focus the last 24 hours and it showed today.”
Brantley echoed Grant's assessment of the game. “This is probably the first time we have played a complete game in a long time defensively. Hopefully, we can keep continuing to do that.”
With the loss Delaware fall to 12-7 on the season and move to 42 in the CAA. The Blue Hens were lead in scoring by Ryan Allen who turned in a game best 23 points after making 7 of 14 from the field. Eric Carter and Kevin Anderson had 11 apiece for the Blue Hens.
Up next, the Cougars travel North to take on preseason CAA favorite Northeastern (9-8, 3-2 CAA) on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. (ET) in Boston, Mass., and Hofstra on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. (ET) in Hempstead, N.Y. It will no doubt be one of the toughest road trips on the season for the Cougars, but Coach Grant says he and the team don't look to far ahead, rather concentrating on the task at hand. "We only focus on the next game on the schedule."