Cougs Have Chance To Avenge Recent Loss To UCF In Sunday's Contest
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Looking to put the skids on a two game losing streak, the College of Charleston men's basketball team took to the court on day two of the Paycom Wooden Legacy, facing a tough Providence squad. Although CofC were a bit outsized they found a way to scratch out a win in the west coast classic, downing the Friars 63-55.
Head Coach Earl Grant was happy the way his team stepped up after a disappointing showing on Thursday. "I'm proud of my players for bouncing back after a tough loss against Wake Forest. We thought we defended well enough to win that game. We came up short and didn't make enough plays."
Grant didn't expect the Friars would be any easy turn around game. "We knew Providence would be a physical, tough game to play. Coach (Ed) Cooley has done a great job with that program and has a physical team and athletic guys. We knew it would be a war. I was happy our guys showed up and were ready to battle. They accepted the challenge."
The Cougars improve to 4-3 and will wrap up their west coast trip against UCF on Sunday, a game that is a rematch from last weekend where CofC fell 72-71 to the Knights. After giving up a huge lead on Thursday and falling to Long Beach State 66-65 in their opener, the Friars fall to 4-4 on the season. Providence will play Pepperdine game on Sunday.
Scoring just 11 points (10 below his average) on Thanksgiving day in a loss to Wake Forest, Charleston's Grant Riller took control Friday, finishing with a game high 29 for the Cougars. Riller turned in a complete game shooting 9 of 15 from the floor, making 9 of 10 from the foul line, adding five assists and five rebounds to his overall stats.
Where the Cougars improved following the Thursday loss was on the backboard. CofC outrebounded Providence 37-25, grabbing 30 defensive boards. Charleston big man Osinachi Smart turned in his best performance in a Cougar uniform going 3 of 5 from the floor, adding 3 from the line for 9 points. Smart hauled in a game high eight rebounds.
CofC came out with some gusto after the tip off, going up 6-5 after the first few minutes of play. But like the California desert, the Cougars hit a drought allowing Providence to get behind a 14-0 run. Charleston would answer with their own 7-0 run to cut the deficit. When Riller picked up his 13th point of the contest the Cougars trailed 24-20 and were back in contention.
Riller would add another bucket, with Osinachi Smart getting three to hard way, as the Cougars capped off a 21-10 run. Despite 11 first half turnovers, Charleston trailed by just two points, heading into the locker down 29-27 at the break.
CofC carried the same momentum into the second 20 minutes of play. After being quiet in the first half Brevin Galloway connected for back to back 3-pointers, followed by a long ball by Riller as the Cougars regained the lead. CofC would mount a 22-10 run to go up 49-39 well past the midway mark.
Providence would cut the lead to six points on several occasions, but late turnovers by the Friars, combined by solid efforts by the Cougars from the free throw line kept Charleston out in front. Six straight points from the charity stripe including four from Riller helped ice the contest.
Riller would score the Cougars final bucket on an inbound pass with three seconds on the shot clock. His emotional outburst after the easy layup cost him a technical, but with 13 seconds remaining in the contest it was too little to late for Providence.
Falling behind late in the first half and scratching their way to within two points at intermissiion, Coach Grant said he made some adjustments at the half. "The first eight minutes, we had to adjust to their physicality. There was a bunch of posting and physical play. I was trying to figure out different guys to substitute."
He added getting more players in made the difference. "I made up my mind that I was going to play more guys, so we could try to play defense the way we needed to and not worrying about having my main players in. We were trying to get energy off the bench, so we couldplay hard and compete the whole game. At times, I put three freshmen out there and they gave us a great lift for two-to-three minutes. We were able to play good basketball."
David Duke was near flawless for the Friars, hitting 7 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 4 from long range to lead Providence with 22 points. Big man Alpha Diallo and Emmitt Holt added 13 and 11 points respectively for Providence. With the loss the Friars fall to 4-4 on the season. Both the Cougars and the Friars finish up play in the Paycom Wooden Legacy on Sunday.