Despite 43 Pts. From Riller, Cougars Come Up Short in Late Game Rally
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
It may have been Valentine's Day on the calendar, but there was little love between the College of Charleston & Hofstra men's basketball team as they did battle Thursday night at TD Arena. With five regular season games to go and Hofstra holding a commanding lead in the CAA, the Cougars were anxious to take down the number one team and avenge an earlier 86-72 loss in New York last month.
The Pride rolled into Charleston with a 21-4 record and 11-1 in the league. With their highly touted offensive guard Justin Wright-Foreman (26 ppg), Hofstra is the league leader in points scored, with CofC offering up the best defense, just better than 66 pts. allowed per game. With 4000 plus fans providing all the back story down on Meeting Street the Cougars clawed their way from a 24 point deficit, only to come up short in what became an offensive battle that went to Hofstra, downing CofC 99-95.
What did Charleston in was the consistent play from Hofstra from beyond the arc. The Pride made 13 of 26 from long range, adding 14 points on fast break opportunities. Although the Cougars trailed by eight at the break, and cut the margin to one (51-50) point behind Grant Riller's second half burst, the Pride had an answer and soon forged ahead to a 81-54 advantage midway in the second, before the home team began to rally. But it was a little to late for the home team.
CofC Head Coach Earl Granted expected a knock down drag out battle between the two ball clubs, but not perhaps a high scoring offensive match. “A lot of points in that game. Hadn’t been in a game with that much scoring. Obviously, we don’t win in the 90s. I thought they (Hofstra) certainly had players make some tremendous shots. Give them credit. We had a game plan to take away layups and contest their threes, but they made them. I thought our guys played with good effort."
Coach Grant added the Cougars could have controlled the outset better. "There were some things offensively in the first half, we should have done better. In the first six minutes in the half in terms of our game plan. We didn’t want it to be as fast as it was. We wanted it to be a little slower so we could control the tempo. But, great effort and you have to give Hofstra credit for making some hard shots. Couple of talented players knocking in threes and we couldn’t overcome that.”
The final stats were very close aside from Hofstra making a few more 3-point attempts and doubling up at the free throw line. The Pride made good on 26 of 30 shots from the charity stripe. Although the Cougars were near perfect from the foul line, they only had 16 shots, making all but one.
The Cougars were lead in scoring by Riller who had a career best 43 points, adding 29 of those points in the second half. Jarrell Brantley and Brevin Galloway added 25 and 11 points respectively for the Cougars, who fall to 20-7 on the season and 9-5 in the league. Riller (4) and Galloway (3) combined for 7 of CofC's 10 of 25 from long range. Brantley hauled in a game best nine rebounds for the Cougs.
Riller would have traded his stats for a 'W'. “The loss weighs heavier on me. I’ve had a lot of good games scoring wise and I think this is just another one. It would have felt better if it had come in a winning effort. It felt normal out there tonight. I got to the basket a lot to start the (second) half. I thought that opened the rest of my game up as far as making shots. I also got to the free throw line a little bit more than I have in the past.”
Despite coming up short Coach Grant gave his star guard his due. “I never experienced a guy scoring 40 (points) on my team. Whether it was here or any other program I’ve coached at. I’m happy for him, because he works so hard. Usually, a guy who gets 43 (points), you want to get the win with it. But, he is a great player and on pace to be one of the better guys to ever play here (at College of Charleston).”
Hofstra had four players finish in double figures with Wright-Foreman leading the Pride. Like Riller, Wright-Foreman was explosive in the final 20 minutes of play adding 19 points to his 30 point overall. He added 5 of 9 from long range. Eli Pemberton shot lights out making 10 of 12 from the line to go along with three from beyond the arc for 25 points. Tareg Coburn (4 of 8 from 3-point land) and Jacquil Taylor added 14 and 12 points for Hofstra who improve to 22-4 on the season and 12-1 in the conference.
CofC will look to bounce back fast with a rematch set versus preseason CAA favorite Northeastern (16-9, 10-3 CAA) on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena. With four games remaining in CAA play before the tournament, Saturday's game is crucial in the tournament standings for the Cougars. Tickets can still be purchased by calling (843) 953-COFC or online at: www.CofCSports.com/tickets