Cougs Finish 24-9 Overall, Is It Enough For NIT Bid
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
After top seed Hofstra avoided a semi final overtime loss to Delaware, downing the Blue Hens 78-74, it was time for the marquee game of the night at the North Charleston Coliseum. In a rematch of last years title game, the College of Charleston and Northeastern did battle for the third time this season, each winning on their home courts in the regular season.
It was a game Charleston area fans anticipated, as did fans of NU. It was the mountain cats versus the big dogs. When all the smoke cleared from the coliseum floor it was the Huskies who got revenge, as they rallied late, holding on for a 70-67 win over the Cougars. The top two teams in the CAA Tournament will meet each other 7pm on Tuesday night with the winner given an automatic bid into NCAA 'March Madness'.
Trailing by three, CofC's Marquise Pointer was fouled from long range with a chance to tie the game with 17 seconds left. The senior guard made two of three, after which Donnell Gresham added two from the line for NU to seal the victory. Grant Riller's half court attempt caromed off the back board as time expired, dashing CofC's hopes of returning to the bid dance for a second straight year. Charleston finish the year 24-9 overall, with hopes of an at large bid to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
Jarrell Brantley lead three Cougars in double figures. The senior power forward went 6 of 13 from the floor including one from long range for 18 points. He added his 13th (36th overall) double double on the year hauling in a game best 10 rebounds. Brevin Galloway went 2 of 4 from beyond the arc for 12 points for the Cougars. After hitting for 24 points Sunday against Drexel Grant Riller was held in check finishing with 10 points, missing all five 3-point attempts.
Brantley kept his composure after the game but knew to be thankful for all he's experienced at the College of Charleston was. "I'm blessed. I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to get too emotional. It's been an amazing ride. I'm grateful. Our coaches have done a good job accepting me for who I am. I am probably one of the harder guys to deal with day-in and day-out. My spirit is well known. I am grateful is all I can say."
With both teams shooting 2 of 7 from the field early on, it was just 5-4 in favor of Northeastern after four and a half minutes elapsed. Zep Jasper came in off the bench and provided a spark draining a bomb from the corner, followed by a deuce from Riller giving CofC 12-11 advantage. Midway thru the period Charleston held a 15-14 edge, with NU keeping pace on 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. A seesaw battle turned positive for the Cougars as they went up 29-20 on a Nick Harris layup with 6:02 remaining in the half. But the Huskies would rally eventually taking a 35-33 lead at intermission.
Charleston appeared to re-right the ship making 7 of 11 in the first eight minutes of the second half, regaining the lead 49-46, on a jumper by Brantley. Northeastern would reel off six straight to take control. Jasper's third 3-pointer would give Charleston a two point margin with 4:07 left to play. Jasper would finish with nine points for the Cougars.
Northeastern had three players as well score double figures. Shawn Occeus lead the Huskies making 4 of 9 from beyond the arc for 17 points. Vasa Pusic who like Riller is tough to guard finished with 13 points, with Jordan Roland adding 12 points.
After a strong outing on Sunday (24 pts), and aware of his quickness Northeastern knew to keep Riller in check on Monday night. The junior guard gave his opponents their due. "I think their (Northeastern) team is good defensively. He (Occeus) does a good job on the ball. But, you gotta give the rest of those guys credit and the rest of their defensive schemes."
The glass hurt the Cougars with the Huskies out-rebounding Charleston 35 to 24, with NU grabbing 12 offensive boards to just two for CofC.
Despite the heartbreaking last second loss Coach Grant was proud of his players. "I really thought our guys played spirited and played with a lot of heart tonight. We just lost to a really good team. I have a lot of respect for Bill Coen (NU Head Coach). I've known him for 15 years when he was an assistant at Boston College. I had respect for him coming into this league. He challenges me as a coach. His guys did a great job of executing their game plan and they came out on top."
Coach Grant added, "We had our chances down the stretch and we came up a little bit short. I'm really proud of our players and I'm happy for Bill Coen. He's done a great job with his program. From day one since I got into this league, his teams have always been ready to play and I've learned a lot from him."
With college basketball tournaments still under way, the College of Charleston will have to wait til next weekend to see if they have more to accomplish in the 2018-19 season. The AD Matt Roberts and Coach Grant will keep hopes alive for a post season call, perhaps a invite to the NIT.