In front of a full capacity crowd, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team kicked off the 2016-17 campaign with a win over crosstown rival The Citadel, 81-68.
Last season, Charleston finished the season ranked eighth in the country in scoring defense. On Friday night, the defense kept them in it early. Offensively, the Cougars were held without a field goal for over six minutes to begin the game.
“That’s an ugly type of game,” said Charleston head coach Earl Grant. “We were pressed for 40 minutes, running around trapping everywhere. We knew it was going to be ugly. We had a lot of opportunities to score right at the basket but we just happened to miss them.”
Redshirt freshman guard Grant Riller made his mark, scoring the Cougars first four field goals off the bench. Showing no signs of any lingering issues, Riller scored 21 points after he missed the entire 2015-16 season with a torn ACL.
“I just wanted to come in the game and do my part, you know, be aggressive on the offensive end,” Riller said. “I think our guys were a little nervous at the beginning of the game. And I was too when I got in, but once we beat the jitters we were pretty good from there.”
Riller was not alone in making a noteworthy return from injury as Joe Chealey, Charleston’s 2014-15 leading scorer, scored a team-high 24 points.
“There’s nothing like all of the students being here,” Chealey said. “The fans packed the house tonight and it was a great atmosphere.”
Bolstered by the return of Riller and Chealey, the Cougars depth was on display Friday night, winning rather handily despite only receiving a combined 15 points from the two players earning preseason all-conference honors; Cameron Johnson (four points), Jarrell Brantley (11 points). Even The Citadel could not help but marvel at Charleston’s talent level.
“They are really deep,” said Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom. “Every player they put in the game was almost as good as the other. Earl has done an incredible job, it’s almost like he’s stockpiling guys.”
The win improves Charleston’s all-time record against The Citadel to 55-39, with 11 wins in the last 13 meetings.
The Cougars next game will pit them against their second straight in-state opponent, when they head to Coastal Carolina on Monday (Nov. 14, 7 p.m.).