Starting only one senior, this year’s College of Charleston men’s basketball team is one of the youngest in memory.
Saturday night at Clemson, the kids did a lot of growing up.
Senior Antwaine Wiggins led all scorers with 22 points as the Cougars upset the Tigers, 72-69, at Littlejohn Coliseum for only their second win ever over their in-state rival.
Even though Wiggins led the attack, it was freshman center Adjehi Baru’s block with 21 seconds to play that sealed the win after the Tigers had clawed back from a 16-point deficit with just over 13 minutes to play. Baru finished with eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Sophomore Trent Wiedeman was a calming influence for the Cougars’ defense in the post, collecting eight rebounds to go along with 15 points. Point guard Andrew Lawrence, a junior, also had 15 points, and added five boards and five assists, against zero turnovers. Freshman Anthony Stitt put in a solid shift as Charleston’s second option at the point, with eight points, a pair of assists and zero turnovers.
“Wow, what a game,” head coach Bobby Cremins told cofcsports.com after the game. “We hung on for dear life. The first half was as good of basketball of any team I’ve ever coached. We played a perfect first half. I couldn’t be prouder. I was ready to get on the bus at halftime. We were trying to keep that gap (in the second half). We did for awhile, but the later it got, we got sloppier.
“Clemson showed tremendous heart. We couldn’t stop them. They kept on getting putbacks. They had a chance to tie or win the game. We had some tough turnovers down the stretch. We are still a young team.”
The last time the College beat Clemson was 1925, when Jim Nantz Sr., grandfather of CBS commentator Jim Nantz, scored 11 points to lead to Cougars to a 30-10 win in Charleston. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Cougars were 1-9 all-time against their Atlantic Coast Conference foe.
Overall, the Cougars shot 51.7% (30-of-58) from the field, but again struggled from the free-throw line, making only half of their 14 attempts.
Devin Booker was monstrous for the Tigers down the stretch, almost single-handedly bringing Clemson back into the game. He finished with team-highs of 16 points and 14 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass. He also had two blocks, a steal and an assist.
“It was a great experience,” said Lawrence. “We battled really hard. Clemson gave us a great game. In the second half, they were unbelievable. It was a gutsy performance and glad we got through it for the win. We played an unbelievable first half. We knew they would come out with a lot of pressure in the second. Overall, we are ecstatic over the win.”
With the win, the Cougars notched their first 3-0 start in eight seasons, and will look to extend their win streak against Central Florida at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in the opening round of the “Battle 4 Atlantis” tournament in the Bahamas. The game will be shown on the Versus cable network. If they beat UCF, they will likely face defending national champion Connecticut.