Brantley Scores 21 Pts & Grabs 14 Boards For Cougars
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Near the midway point of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) men’s basketball season the College of Charleston men’s team were hoping to get back on track after losing four of their last five games in the league. On Thursday night CofC welcomed former Southern Conference (SoCon) opponent to TD Arena with the Cougars hoping to get back on track and move to .500 in the league. Coming off a rough road trip ending in 14 point (86-72) loss to undefeated Hofstra, Charleston and the home town fans were eager to come out with a ‘W’.
It was a hard fought battle between to teams who know each other well, but when 40 minutes had elapsed the Cougars pulled out a 72 to 53 victory over the Phoenix. Last year, both schools split the regular-season series protecting each of their home courts. The Cougars have now won 12 of the last 15 meetings in the series extending back to the SoCon rivalry years with the Phoenix. Charleston joined the CAA in July of 2013 and Elon in July of 2014.
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant was thankful to get back on the winning side after a rough two weeks. “It was really important. Sometimes you just want to see the fruits of your labor. Whether you win it or lose it, you are working hard everyday in practice. There is no team that goes Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and practices every day and lift weights, without some effort in that.”
Coach Grant added the team remained positive all week long. “They had great spirit this week in practice. I felt good about our practices. I knew that we needed to play well today to win, because Elon is so capable of making shots and the way they play all of their ball movements. I was really happy that our guys were able get some fruit for their labor. It was a good win for us. I was proud of the team, but we have to build on it.”
The Cougars were lead in scoring by Jarrell Brantley who had a game high 21 points, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc, to go along with a game high 14 rebounds. Grant Riller made good on 8 of 15 from the floor including one from long range for 17 points. Charleston improved to 15-6 overall and 4-4 in the CAA action.
Brantley echoed Coach Grant’s assessment. “It feels good. I think that this team has gotten used to winning. We fell short a few times early. We just played a tough road trip and went up to Northeastern and Hofstra. It was good to get back on track.” Get back to the basics was essential. “Like I said with our last home game. We play stretches of Charleston Basketball. When we win, it shows our dominance when we play closer to 40 minutes of Charleston Basketball. Just by the way we guard and defend and look for each other and make the extra play.”
After several missed attempts Riller knocked in back to back baskets as the Cougars went up 5-3 in the opening few minutes. An 18-4 run including three straight from long distance from Jaylen McManus gave the Cougars a comfortable 23-7 lead midway through the period. But Elon answered with a 12-4 narrowing the margin to 27-19 with just over four minutes until intermission. A long range buzzer beater by Simon Wright ended the half with the home team holding a slight 33-26 lead at the break.
Both teams came out of the locker room looking to light it up. With plenty of action Charleston grabbed a double digit lead 45-33 after five minutes of play. Elon would again rise to the challenge, scoring seven unanswered to make it a two possession contest (45-40) with 13:30 showing on the clock. Sam Miller’s only bucket on the night followed by two points from Riller allowed for a nine point margin. The crowd really got into the contest after a steal by Jaylen Richard lead to a dunk.
Although Elon would cut the margin to five points, CofC maintained control of the game in the closing minutes. Five straight points from Brantley gave the home team a comfortable 62-49 lead with three minutes left to play. The Cougars would kick it up a notch in the final minutes finishing with a 19 point win. Although Elon made nine from long range they ended up shooting just 39 percent overall and missing key foul shots (6 of 12) as time was expiring.
McManus shot lights out for the Cougars finishing a perfect 4 of 4 from beyond the arc for 12 points. Tyler Seibring lead the Phoenix with 16 points off of 6 of 12 from the field with two from downtown. Steve Santa-Ana added 13 points. Elon falls to 6-15 on the season and a 2-6 mark in league play.
Coach Grant said one of the keys to getting back on track was to find a good balance among the players.
“I subbed early. We have a real deep team. It’s presenting a real challenge for me. Even with Marquise (Pointer) and Sam (Miller) coming back a month ago and three weeks ago. What happened is, some guys that played the first 10 games, didn’t play as much. What we wanted to do was to get energy off the bench, get everyone engaged and everyone involved. I thought our bench did a great job of helping us tonight.”
Charleston takes on William & Mary (7-13, 3-5) at home as part of CofC Athletics Hall of Fame Weekend on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. (ET). Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (843) 953-COFC or going online at: www.CofCSports.com/tickets
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