Strong First Half Propel Cougars, Team Improve to 6-6 Prior to CAA Play
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Hoping to put the skids on a two game losing streak, the College of Charleston men's basketball team welcomed fellow palmetto state opponent SC State to TD Arena Saturday afternoon. Coming off back to back losses to Richmond and VCU the Cougars were anxious to get back to .500 before a holiday break and the start of CAA play later this month.
When the battle between the big cats and the bulldogs was all said and done, CofC prevailed 73-61, improving the Cougars to 6-6 on the season. Senior guard Grant Riller and sophomore Jaylen McManus lead the Charleston attack, scoring 18 and 13 points respectively. Combined they shot 13 of 24 from the field with each adding one from long range.
Charleston Head Coach Earl Grant expected the Cougars would be a game or two better than .500, but said team is in a good position heading into league play. "I'm glad we've been able to experience what we have experienced over the last 45 days. It's been a grind. We played against a lot of really good teams and great coaches. We came up short multiple times. Hopefully, it will help us in this next phase of the season."
The Cougars won the tipoff against SC State, with Brevin Galloway taking it all the way to the basket. The Bulldogs kept within reach early on, but a 3-point shot by Zep Jasper put CofC up 26-14 past the midway point. The Cougars who never trailed in the contest would go up by as many as 15 points before taking a comfortable 44-31 lead into the locker room.
CofC kept the offensive barrage going early on after the break. The Cougars would lead by as many as 21 points on four occasions, the first on a dunk by Sam Miller with 12:37 remaining in the contest. Miller would finish with nine points. With a sizeable lead the Cougars managed to get several players some valuable playing time, with all 11 players who saw action scoring.
Coach Grant is content where the Cougars stand and for more players to get time on the court. "We played a really challenging non-conference schedule. We were just happy we were able to come out tonight and play at a high level for 34 minutes. At the end of the game, I put a lot of freshmen in. It was the only opportunity to get them playing time at the same time."
He added he's glad the players can enjoy few days off before heading into CAA play. "I'm happy for our guys and really excited that we were able to finish strong. We are looking forward to getting a break and getting ready for a completely new season where everyone is undefeated."
One of the few bright spots heading into conference play has been the improved play of CofC big men Sam Miller and Osinachi Smart. The pair earned 16 points, and 10 rebounds collectively on Saturday. Although the team are 6-6 overall Miller says it's due to scheduling tougher opponents.
"We played a really hard schedule. We knew it was going be hard. We have been trying to focus on getting better and better every game. Over the past couple, I think we've done that, especially against our last two opponents. VCU was a Top 25 team and we played them to the wire. Coach Grant says he likes where we are, before conference play, and I agree with him."
The Cougars will take a few days off and open up conference play after the holiday break at Drexel on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 2p.m. (ET) in Philadelphia, Pa.