“The atmosphere of TD Arena was just unbelievable tonight,” junior guard Canyon Barry said after scoring a career high 31 points in Friday night’s home opener. “The fans came out and supported us. It was a total team effort.”
Led by career highs from Barry and Cameron Johnson, the College defeated South Carolina State (74-54) to begin the season. The back court standouts combined for 49 of the team’s 74 points in front of a crowd of over 4,000.
“Some of the reason why Canyon (Barry) looked really good on offense was because he had really good guys looking for him – very unselfish.” Second year head coach Earl Grant said. “He was getting the ball at the right time.”
Within the flow of the offense, Barry scored 21 points in the first half. With 5:04 remaining in the half, he was singlehandedly outscoring SC State (15-14).
SC State got into foul trouble early in the game, which led to the Cougars reaching the bonus by the 10-minute mark, which gave them a lot of time at the line in the first half. However, their lack of success at the line (12-20) kept SC State hanging around. In the closing minutes of the first half, State cut the Cougars lead to just four heading into the break (35-31).
The Cougars responded out of the half. As Grant said, “I was proud of how they came out in the second half and bounced back. They got back to defense and rebounding.”
By forcing a lot of stops in the early parts of the second half, the Cougars went on a run to stretch the lead out. Johnson was a large part of the team’s success, as he scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half.
“My teammates and coaches do a really good job of telling me to just keep shooting out there. I put in a lot of work in the off-season and my team has given me confidence to make shots.”
This marked the 20th meeting between these two teams, and was the most lopsided in the series history. Last year, the Cougars edged SC State (50-47) on Dec. 11, 2014 at TD Arena.
Charleston returns three starters from last year’s team (9-24 overall). In addition to the back court duo of Barry and Johnson, sophomore forward Donovan Gilmore got the start opening night. Payton Hulsey made his debut as the starting point guard, after he transferred from Eastern Florida State College. Rounding out the opening night lineup was another newcomer, freshman Jarell Brantley. Brantley tallied a team-high 8 rebounds, while Hulsey led the way with 4 assists.
“We are moving in the right direction. There was a pretty good foundation here last year when I took over the program. I really like what I see. I know our program is in great shape. We will make progress and have a chance to do some really good things as we grow together this season,” Grant said.
For their next game, the Cougars will travel to Annapolis, Md. to face the Naval Academy on Mon., Nov. 16.