CofC Escape With Split Decision, Willis Leads Cougars In Both Outings
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
One day after falling 70-67 at Delaware, the College of Charleston men's basketball team get their revenge, downing the Blue Hens 66-59 on Delaware's home court. Under the new COVID-19 protocol, half of away games in the CAA season are played back to back, on Saturday and Sunday, to avoid excess travel.
Despite 44 second half points, and a failed three point shot at the buzzer CofC came up empty in the first game on Saturday. But the Cougars found some steady mojo on Sunday afternoon, scoring 33 points in both halves to put an end to a three game losing streak, leaving Delaware with their first win in league play. Charleston improve to 3-6 overall and 1-1 in the CAA.
After scoring a career best 21 points in Saturday's loss, graduate senior guard Payton Willis came back Sunday leading the Cougars with a game tying 17 points, including three from long range. Junior guard Zep Jasper and junior transfer Cameron Copeland added 13 and 10 points respectively.
Charleston Head Coach Earl Grant took notice of Willis' performance, as well as the bench. "He (Willis) was really aggressive early. We need him to be aggressive. I talked to both him and Zep (Jasper) about being aggressive. Make plays and take some chances. I thought both of those guys did a good job of that. We had a few other guys. Cameron Copeland gave us a great lift off the bench. He hasn't had an opportunity to play much. He was ready when his number was called."
With Brevin Galloway out for the season for the Cougars, Coach Grant says the bench is going to play a key role this year. "We needed to use our depth in order to play two games back-to-back. It definitely helped us. We had 23 points from the bench, so that's a lot. I am happy the guys can celebrate a victory for the week and prepare for the next games knowing we can win."
The Cougars controlled the tip and the pace of the game on Sunday, opening the contest on a 10-4 run that included several from beyond the arc by Willis, Copeland, freshman guard D'Avian Houston, and senior forward Lorenzo Edwards. Delaware was left to play catch up most of the first 20 minutes of play, with Charleston taking a five point (33-28) advantage into the locker room at the break.
Charleston would find some extra energy in the second half, going up by as many as 17 points midway thru the period, before the Blue Hens rallied with an 11-0 run that cut the margin to single digits. Without the services of their second leading scorer Kevin Anderson, Delaware relied on the Ryan Allen who lead his team with a game tying 17 points. The Blue Hens fall to 3-4 and 1-1 in the conference.
The final stats were fairly close except a couple. Delaware turned to ball over 14 times, to just seven for Charleston. The Cougars made 9 of 17 from beyond the arc, with Delaware shooting 31 percent (7 of 22) from long range. What kept the Blue Hens within striking distance late was the foul line, where they made 18 of 27 shots from the charity stripe. The Cougars managed just nine of 18 from the foul line.
Coach Grant was happy to leave Delaware with their first CAA road win of the season. "I certainly thought the kids played hard. Didn't really know what to expect coming into these back-to-back conference games. You lose one on the first day. How do you respond in less than 24 hours? I thought our guys responded well."
He added, "They trusted each other. We defended more like we are capable of. We had (12) assists. It's a great reflection of our program in terms of the toughness and the grittiness. We just need to build on it. This was a good start."
It's Charleston's turn next weekend. The Cougars return home and will host Drexel (5-2, 0-0 CAA) in back-to-back weekend games on Saturday, Jan. 9 and Sunday, Jan. 10. Both games will tip-off at 1 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena.