Yesterday, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team set out to defeat conference opponent, James Madison University. With so many Cougar legends in the building for the College of Charleston Athletics Hall of Fame Weekend, the stakes were higher than usual – impress those who accomplished the things you hope to accomplish as a collegiate athlete.
The festivities surrounding the weekend, along with the Cougars’ undefeated home record, gave JMU more than enough motivation to come in and try to play spoiler.
JMU came in and forced the Cougars to play at their pace early on in this game Saturday afternoon, as they jumped out to a 10-0 run shortly after the game’s initial scoring drought.
The first half of Saturday’s game was certainly comprised of runs. Immediately following JMU’s run, the Cougars had their own, an 11-2 outburst that evened up the score.
Come halftime, after teams traded buckets back and forth, the score was evened up at 30 a piece.
The Cougars were led in the game’s opening half by Jarrell Brantley, who emerged from his recent game shooting funk to chip in 11 of the 30 College of Charleston 1st half points.
A big reason this game was not yet put away by the Cougars at the half was the lack of assertiveness early on from Senior guard Joe Chealey. Chealey, who had been absolutely lighting it up in the past few games, even earning himself the nod as CAA Player of the Week, was held to just 5 points in an uncharacteristic half.
Come 2nd half, however, Joe clearly flipped the switch. He came out guns-a-blazing, scoring or assisting on the first 13 Charleston points.
With Chealey playing to his usual level, some of the pressure was taken off of Brantley, as he seemingly had to will the Cougar offense in the opening period. Brantley chipped in 10 of his 21 points in the game’s final half.
Despite Chealey and Brantley’s brilliance, neither were the one to make the shot that put the squad over the top.
Grant Riller, one of the leaders of the team and starting PG, had a very disappointing game by his standards. However, he showed his maturity as a player by knocking down the 3-pointer with 59 seconds left in the game, pushing the Cougar lead to 62-56.
Another game, another home College of Charleston win. The squad is now 11-0 at TD arena, making them one of the few NCAA teams still undefeated at home at this point in the season.
When I asked Coach Grant about his team’s turnaround at the half, he told me what he told the guys in the locker room during halftime: “Just keep chopping. Every game is different, some pretty, some ugly, just keep your axe out and keep chopping”
This group of Cougars certainly kept their axes ready, as they needed to keep chugging along to secure this W. The team finished the second half with 36 second-half points, just 6 more than their total in the first.
This group of lumberjacks just need to keep the same grind-it-out mentality as they go into their next two games, both on the road.
The College of Charleston men’s basketball team looks to grab their 17th win of the year on Thursday, at Northeastern.