Despite 26 Pts. From Riller & Four In Double Figures, Cougs Fall At Home
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Riding a three game win streak, and coming off a decisive 68-50 over William & Mary, the College of Charleston men's basketball welcomed Elon to TD Arena Saturday afternoon. A win over the Phoenix would keep the Cougars firmly in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association. Aside from the contest there was much to celebrate as the college was recognizing their 250th anniversary, with the team wearing throw back jerseys, and the pep band, Chucktown Sound debuting a new fight song titled "Cougars Fight On!"
When all the pomp and circumstance subsided late Saturday afternoon, Elon emerged victorious, taming the Cougars 72-65 before 5000 plus stunned fans. Despite three ties and six lead changes the Phoenix controlled the tempo of the contest in the final minutes, making much needed stops, and crucial foul shots to come out on top.
While most of the stats were close it was 11 of 28 from long range that helped make the difference. CofC made just 7 of 23 from beyond the arc. Marcus Sheffield II did most of the damage for the Phoenix, finishing with a game high 31 points, including 4 of 6 from long range and 11 of 12 from the foul line. He hauled in a game best 12 rebounds as well. Simon Wright added 10 for the Phoenix. With the win Elon improve to 9-17 overall and 5-8 in the CAA.
CofC head coach Earl Grant used a familiar sports adage in the loss. "The thrill of victory and agony of defeat. You have to give Elon credit. They did what they needed to do." Grant said they came in focused. "Coach (Schrage) had his team ready to play. I thought Sheffield being a big-time transfer made an impact today with the way he played. We have to learn from it, and hopefully, it will help us grow as we continue the season."
With all the extra hoopla and a near capacity crowd on hand Grant added, "Certainly disappointing that we didn't win the game. We had a great crowd. We did play with some effort. They did some many things which led to winning. In a close possession game, we fouled them twice on threes late in the stretch and that's six points."
Elon jumped out to a 5-0 start before a CofC steal lead to Grant Riller going full court for a layup. An old fashioned 3-point play followed by long range missile by Brevin Galloway gave the Cougars their first lead (8-7). But with the Phoenix shooting better than 60% Charleston found themselves trailing 17-11 with under 12 minutes left remaining.
A 10-0 run by Elon would extend their lead to 24-11 before a 3-pointer by Riller ended a nearly five minute drought for the Cougars. CofC did narrow the gap late in the period, getting behind their own 8-0 run capped off by Galloway's second from long range. Charleston would head into the locker room down 32-30 at the break.
CofC would regain the lead right out of the gate when Galloway drained his third 3-pointer. While usually not an offensive threat Osinachi Smart 8th point on the afternoon tied the contest at 44 all midway thru the period. But Elon was hungry and managed to get behind a 13-2 run leaving CofC with an 11 point deficit.
Offensive boards lead to second chance shots, as Elon controlled the game in the final minutes, making crucial foul shots, including two sets of three from the line, keeping Charleston at bay. With the loss CofC fall to 9-4 in the league and 15-10 on the season.
Riller lead four CofC players in double figures, finishing with a team best 26. After taking down W&M on Thursday and coming up short against Elon, the senior guard said it was less about elation than it shows parity in the CAA. "We celebrated (against William & Mary on Thursday) and got to work the next day. In this league, you can lose to anybody, so they just played harder tonight and got the win that's all."
Galloway who has been hot of late especially from beyond the arc, made good on four long range shots for 12 points. Zep Jasper and Smart finished with 10 apiece, with Smart recording his first double double, hauling in a team best 10 boards. Riller nearly missed a double double grabbing eight rebounds.
Coach Grant said that oftentimes a big win causes different scenarios. "A lot of times winning makes you weak. Losing makes you stronger, because it's so painful. You go back-and-forth through those emotions. What's more important is, how do you handle both the winning and losing?"
Does Grant have any reason for the up and down play. "We played really well on Thursday night, did some preparation yesterday and came up short today. I don't know the answer. But, I do know that winning can make you a little weak."
For CofC it won't get any easier. The Cougars will play their next three-straight games on the road starting off with a big showdown at Hofstra on Thursday, Feb.13 at 7 p.m. (ET) in Hempstead, N.Y. The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.