Five Cougars Score in Double Figures With 12 Players Seeing Action
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
One week prior to beginning the regular season, the College of Charleston men's basketball team hosted Nebraska Wesleyan to TD Arena in an exhibition contest. Carrying with them a 57-5 record over the past two seasons, and winners of a Division III national title, the Prairie Wolves were expected to be good matchup for the Cougars heading into the 2019-20 season. While it was close early on, CofC stretched an 11 point half time lead into an easy 91-67 win in front of 3000 plus fans. The large victory allowed for 12 Cougars to get into the contest.
Heading into his sixth season as head coach of the Cougars Earl Grant returns a strong guard driven team that went 24-9 last year. Five players scored in double figures with Zep Jasper leading the way with 18 points, making good on 4 of 6 from long range. CAA pre-season player of the year Grant Riller added 16 points in just 23 minutes of play. Riller, a senior and team leader dished out seven assists as well. One of the bright spots for the Cougs was the play of freshman DeAngelo Epps who went 4 of 7 from the field, finishing with 10 points.
Coach Grant expected a different outcome and gave his opponents their due. "You have to give them credit. They play good basketball and Coach (Dale) Wellman does a great job with his program. They've won a national championship. You don't usually bring that kind of an opponent in for the first game."
Both teams looked a bit sluggish from the start. The Prairie Wolves held one possession leads in the first few minutes, but couldn't extend the lead. Riller's lone 3-pointer gave the home team a slight 10-9 margin at the first media break. The Cougars would never trail from that moment on. A long range bomb by Jasper gave CofC a 25-14 lead midway thru the opening period. Charleston would extend the lead to 13 on two occasions before heading into the locker room up 43-32 at the break.
The Cougars carried the same momentum in the first few minutes of the second half, up by 15 after less than two minutes of play. But Nebraska Wesleyan were on the prowl, cutting the margin to six points off a 13-4 run, making it 51-45 with 13:15 left on the clock.
That was the breaking point for CofC, as they quickly countered with a their own run, up 64-52 on a 3-pointer by Brevin Galloway just past the midway point. Three minutes later a 14-2 run, capped off by a Jaylen Richard missile extended the margin to 78-54 as the Cougars were in the cruising lane, and younger players found their way into the contest with some valuable playing time.
Nesbraska Wesleyan managed to place three players in double figures with Jack Hiller leading all scorers with 19 points on the night. Nate Schimonitz added 16, with Dylan Dirks finishing with 11 points for the Prairie Wolves. For CofC Galloway connected on 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, ending the contest with 14 points. Richard made good on 3 of 5 from long range, adding 13 points to the Cougar total.
The final stats favored the home team. Charleston shot 54 percent from the floor, making good on 13 of 28 from 3-point range. The Cougars held the advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Prairie Wolves 40-35. Turnovers (10-15) and assists (18-13) favored the College. NW shot better from the foul line, adding 11 of 17 for 65 percent.
Even though the Cougars cruised near the end, Jasper thought NW offered a strong challenge, even in an exhibition contest. "They move the ball and shoot the ball well. They went to the offensive glass. I give hats off to their coach and their players.It was pretty tough for us tonight. It was a good exhibition game."
CofC, which improves to 6-0 in exhibition games in the Earl Grant Era, will officially open the 2019-20 campaign against USC Upstate on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena.