Riller's 27 Points Can't Help Cougars Slow Start & Turnovers
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Although the College of Charleston men's basketball team are 3-1 over their last four contests, entering their road game at Hofstra the Cougars were fresh off a loss to Elon at home. Favored against the Phoenix, CofC would have maintained sole possession of first place in the CAA, but a loss to Elon created a late season bump in the road.
With just five games left in the conference, a win at Hofstra would once again restore Charleston at the top of the CAA rankings. CofC won their first meeting, downing Hofstra 69-67 on January 18th, getting 20 points out of Sam Miller and 17 from Grant Riller. Much was on the line for both teams in the rematch.
Surprisingly CofC has played better on the road (6-3) this season than at TD Arena (8-5). The Cougars went into Hempstead NY with a 9-4 mark in the CAA, with the Pride a tad better at 9-3. Although CofC held a CAA best road record (5-1), Hofstra entered the contest on a four game winning streak, and when it was all said and done, the Pride earned their fifth straight win, downing the Cougars 76-63.
Charleston head coach Earl Grant said turnovers by lead to Hofstra taking control from the start. "I thought that early in the game we had too many miscues. We turned it over and fed their offense by giving them some transition baskets. That was our No. 1 key, to keep them out of transition."
Eli Pemberton shot lights out for Hofstra, making 10 of 14, including 6 of 6 from the line, tying his career best with a game high 28 points. He lead four Pride players in double figures.
After a slow start Grant Riller finished with 27 points for the Cougars who fall to 9-5 in the league and 15-11 overall. The Cougars are now tied for third with William & Mary. Delaware took the second spot with an 81-75 victory over Elon.
CofC started the first eight minutes shooting just 25% including 1 of 6 from long range, as Hofstra maintained control and the lead. The home team would go up by double digits midway thru the period including a 14 point advantage, with Charleston cutting the margin to just seven on several occasions. The Cougars appeared inconsistent, however they did improve to 50% from the field before the half, trailing 41-30 at the break.
Coach Grant said it's hard to beat your competition unless you're playing at their level. "This team (Hofstra) is too good to come on their home court and turn it over. We did just that for the first five-to-six minutes. It took us a while to really find a way to start competing at the level we needed to compete at, to win a game like this."
It looked like much of the same as the second half got underway. But seven straight from Grant Riller capped off by a dunk, pulled CofC within six (43-37) with 16:21 remaining to play. Hofstra would answer with a quick 5-0 run, extending their lead to 57-44 with 10:45 on the clock.
Pemberton's 23th and 25th points on the night came from long range and a layup, as the Pride enjoyed a 66-51 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. Despite Riller getting hot, the overall team was running out of gas, as the Pride built a 19 point margin, allowing them to coast to a fifth straight win, improving to 19-7 on the year, keeping possession of first place in the CAA at 10-3.
Jalen Ray added 14 points for the Pride, with Desure Buie draining three from long range for 13 points, with Isaac Kante grabbing a game high 11 boards to go along with his 11 points. CofC struggled on the glass as they were easily outrebounded 34 to 22.
Brenden Tucker was one of the few bright spots for the Cougars. He came in off the bench making good on 4 of 4 from the field for a career best nine points. Miller who was the hero in game one, along with Osinachi Smart combined for 10 points from the big men.
According to Coach Grant you have to play better to come out on top. "There's no other way you can put it. You can't turn it over the way we did. You have to make plays in the paint. I thought early that Sam (Miller) and Osi (Smart) gave us a great lift. We threw it inside. They delivered and got us some baskets. We have to be better to win a game."
The Cougars will have a quick turnaround as they continue their three-game CAA road swing at Northeastern (12-13, 6-7 CAA) on Saturday, Feb. 15 at noon (ET) in Boston, Mass.