Riller Explodes For 36 Pts. Cougs Remain In Tie For 2nd Place In CAA
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Rebounding from a 72-70 loss Saturday afternoon to UNC Wilmington, the College of Charleston men's basketball team began the second half of conference play visiting James Madison on Thursday night. The Dukes entered the contest with a less than stellar record (8-12, 1-8 CAA), hoping to pick up their second win in the league hosting the Cougars at the Convocation Center in Williamsburg.
Losing three of their last four contests, all by one possession, CofC needed to come out with a win to stay in the hunt for CAA title. Entering the game the Cougars were in a three way tie with Hofstra and Towson for second place, with William & Mary alone at the top.
After 25 minutes of back and forth hoops action, CofC took control of the final 15 minutes of play, pouring it on late, leaving Harrisonburg victorious downing the Dukes 87-68 before 2400 plus JMU fans. CofC improve to 13-9 overall and 7-3 in the CAA.
Being held to just 16 points at home against UNCW Grant Riller was on fire for Charleston, leading all scorers with a game best and a season high 36 points. It marked his third 30-point game of the season and 14th of his career, moving him into sixth in all-time in scoring in CAA history. Riller was near perfect making 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, including 8 of 9 from the foul line. For the game he made 11 of 17 from the floor.
After being held in check and below his average last Saturday the senior guard said he wanted to make more of an impact against JMU. "I wanted to come into the game and be more aggressive than I was last week. Luckily, my shot was falling early. It kind of boosted my confidence up a little bit and luckily we got the W."
CofC head coach Earl Grant praised his star guard, not only for his talent but for lifting the team's overall play. "Certainly Grant was unbelievable tonight with his poise and his ability to dominate the game by only taking 17 attempts. He shot the ball well, got his team into our offense and played a lot of point (guard) tonight.
Brevin Galloway and Zep Jasper added 13 and 12 points respectively, with both men adding two from long range. After being shut down in the first half, Sam Miller finished the game with seven points. Brenden Tucker came off the bench hitting two from 3-point range to add seven points as well for the Cougars.
Midway through the opening period a jumper by Dwight Johnson gave JMU their biggest lead (15-8) of the contest. With less than six minutes remaining in the first half a dunk by Osinachi Smart kicked off a 14-0 run by the Cougars giving them an eight point advantage. Three minutes later the Cougars took a slim 40-37 lead into the locker room.
Four minutes into the second half a short jumper by Jasper gave CofC their first double digit lead (50-39). JMU would stay strong. A 3-pointer by Darius Banks cut the lead to 59-54 with 9:53 showing on the clock. When Jasper drained from long range at the 6:39 mark CofC went up by 14. Three minutes later a lay up by Jasper made it 78-58 as the Cougars coasted to an 87-68 win.The Dukes had no answers finishing the game shooting just 33 percent from the floor.
Coach Grant understands it takes the entire team to win and remain competitive in the CAA. "We also had guys come off the bench and contribute. Brenden Tucker, a freshman, came in and made a couple of huge threes. DeAngelo Epps did some good things for us. It was nice to Zep Jasper knocking down some shots as well. I was really proud we were able to find a way to win and stay in the race."
Most of the stats aside from rebounding favored the Cougars. CofC shot 51 percent from the field, making good on 13 of 24 from beyond the arc for 54 percent. Matt Lewis lead the Dukes with 22 points making 7 of 7 from the line, adding three from downtown. Wilson and Banks chipped in 17 and 12 points respectively. JMU fall to 1-9 in the conference and 8-13 for the season.
William & Mary held off Northeastern for a 59-58 win on Thursday night, holding on to sole first place in the CAA. Towson picked up a victory as well, downing UNCW 77-66 Thursday night. Charleston stay on the road and visit Towson 2pm Saturday afternoon, before returning home to host William & Mary next Thursday.