CofC End CAA Play With Two Game Win Streak, Seniors Take Charge
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Coming off a much needed win over Delaware on Thursday night, the College of Charleston men's basketball team welcomed Drexel to TD Arena for the final game of the CAA regular season for both teams. Sporting a 6-11 record in the league, the Dragons came to Charleston hoping to put an end to a six game losing streak.
Fortunately it was Senior Day at CofC, with Grant Riller and other graduates wanting to their mark at TD Arena. He lead all scorers with 25 points. Charleston's second all time scorer had 19 at the half on 7 of 10 from the field, as CofC held a 39-32 lead at the break. Riller finished 9 of 16 from the floor adding four from long range. Charleston would prevail slaying the Dragons 75-66 in front of 5100 fans.
Perhaps playing his last game at TD Arena Riller it felt good to enjoy a couple of wins at home. "It was big to win these last two games. Obviously, we've been in a slump, so our focus this whole week was to come out here and get two victories and we did. It definitely helps going into March."
Fellow senior Sam Miller had 14 points going 2 of 2 from beyond the arc, while grabbing a team high eight rebounds. Senior Jaylen McManus and Zep Jasper added 13 and 12 points respectively. The Cougars improve to 17-13 overall and 11-7 in the CAA. It was Drexel's seventh-straight loss. Zach Walton and Camren Wynter each scored 18 points for the Dragons, while James Butler grabbed a game high 11 rebounds.
Delaware did take the lead on a couple of occasions late in the contest before CofC stepped up the defense. CofC head coach Earl Grant said it's all about how you close out the game that matters. "We needed to be in that position to get stops."
Grant added heading into to post-season every thing you do defensively matters. "Obviously, in March, it will come down to getting stops. I was happy to get multiple stops back-to-back-to-back. In crucial times, we got some steals, deflections, blocks at the rim and high-level contested shots. I was happy we were able to show the ability to get stops under pressure."
According to Miller the coach stresses defense wins games. "Coach Grant talks about it all the time, we are a 'defense first program' and in order to win that game, we had to really dig our heels in and make some stops."
Riller drained a 3-pointer as the Cougars lit up the scoreboard first. The Dragon would hold a one point lead after five minutes of play before an 9-0 run by CofC found them up 20-8 with 13:37 left in the half. When Riller connected for his second from long range CofC held a ten point (27-17) margin past the midway mark.
But the Dragons would not be slain easy, getting behind their own 8-0, eventually recapturing the lead (30-29) before Charleston ended the first half on a 10-2 for a seven point lead at intermission.
The Cougars maintained a three possession lead for most of the second half, up 50-41 before the Dragons found some reserve fuel in their tank. Two made free throws by Wynter, tied it up at 54 apiece, with 8:58 remaining in regulation. Less than two minutes later a layup by Walton gave Delaware the lead. When Walton hit from long range the visitors were up 62-61 with 4:46 showing.
The CofC seniors took charge during the closing minutes to ensure the sold out crowd at TD Arena sent the team off and into the CAA Championships on a two game win streak. Charleston has already claimed a first-round bye in the tournament and will be either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed playing on Sunday, March 8 in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 Delaware game at 2:30 p.m. (ET) or the No. 3 vs. No. 6 Northeastern game at 8:30p.m. (ET).