Riller & Brantley Combine For 60 Pts, Cougs Pick Up Much Needed CAA Win
Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
After a disappointing high scoring loss (99-95) to CAA league leader Hofstra on Thursday night, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team had to host Northeastern Saturday afternoon at TD Arena. Although the Huskies came to town 16-9 overall, they carried 10-3 record in conference play, placing them second in the CAA behind Hofstra.
For Charleston, they didn’t want to succumb twice to NU, after losing 69-60 nearly one month ago up in Boston. It turned out to be an epic battle between the big dogs and the big cats, with the Cougars clawing their way to an 88-79 victory in overtime. With just three games left in regular season play CofC improve to 21-7 overall, 10-5 in the CAA, and the tournament just three weeks away.
Coming off a record 43 point night against Hofstra, Grant Riller lead all scorers with 33, making 11 of 16 from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc and 8 of 8 from the foul line. Jarrell Brantley went 9 of 18 and 9 of 10 from the free throw line for 27 points. CofC got solid play from Marquise Pointer and Brevin Galloway, each hitting 2 of 3 from long range to finish with eight points apiece. Brantley added another double double to his list, hauling in a game tying 11 rebounds.
Over the past two games against two of the best teams in the CAA, Riller has combined for 76 points. He said he just takes the opportunities that present themselves to him. “I’m just taking what the defense is giving me. Getting to the paint tonight a lot. They were missing (Shawn) Occeus tonight which was good for me and our team (because he is a very good defender). Just taking what the defense gave me and knocking down shots.”
Brantley often finds himself amazed at what Riller can do. “Grant (Riller) is unbelievable. I told the radio (crew), sometimes I get caught watching just like the rest of you all. He’s unbelievable when it comes to putting that ball in the basket. It’s fun. Other times, I just try to catch up with him.”
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant said despite 60 points from Riller and Brantley, it was a total team effort on Saturday on offense and defense. “We got stops and found a groove offensively with a few things. We found some movement and flow. We got some easier shots. Then the guys were doing a good job of driving, kicking it and finding their teammates. I thought Marquise’s pass to Sam Miller, instead of taking a hard shot at the rim, he drove it and kicked it to Sam who made a huge three. We got stops and got out of transition a bit. Found some rhythm in the half-court offense. We just did a good job of executing down the stretch and staying poised.”
Unlike the opening period Thursday night CofC came out polished, jumping out to a 16-8 after four minutes of play, with Jarrell Brantley and Brevin Galloway providing most of scoring. After Riller popped from long range the Cougars were up 21-13 midway through the period. A layup by Riller at the seven minute mark provided CofC with their biggest margin (27-16).
But the Huskies were scrappy. A 3-pointer by Bolden Brace tied the contest at 30 all. When Donnell Gresham followed moments later from long range, NU took their first lead of the contest. A nearly half court buzzer beater by CofC’s Marquise Pointer ended the first half with the Huskies holding onto a 38-36 lead heading into the locker room. Northeastern finished the first half hitting 10 of 17 from beyond the arc.
The second half didn’t start out kind to the CofC, coming up short for nearly six minutes of play, as NU built a double digit lead (48-38) on a 3-pointer by Vasa Pusica. The home team would slowly chip away tying it at 52 apiece with 8:19 remaining. A layup by Jaylen McManus gave Charleston a four point margin with 1:23 left to play, but a couple of from under the basket from the visitors tied it at 69, leaving CofC 29 seconds to win the game in regulation. A desperation shot by Sam Miller rebounded off the rim sending the game into overtime.
The Cougars took control in the extra five minutes of play, going up by five points on two occasions, extending the lead to eight (82-74) with 49 ticks on the clock. Forced to foul Riller and Brantley made six from the charity stripe providing the home team with an 88-79 win.
Coach Grant expected NU would bring a lot of fight to the contest. “Another tough battle. I thought Northeastern gave us everything that we could ask for in terms of a battle. They made shots. They were very smart driving the ball and kicking it opposite for threes. Give them a lot of credit. They have a great coach and good players. We have battled with them a lot the last three years.”
Coach added his team never quits. “This is the kind of game you would expect. Our team has a lot of fight in them. I think this team is special. We are growing up and learning about ourselves. We got down 10 in the guts of the game with 11 minutes to go. We made some adjustments and played a lot smaller, so we could limit some of our rotations. The guys just kept believing. They kept trusting each other and we found a way to win the game.”
Pusica was one of four Huskies in double figures with 25 points followed by Brace with 13, Gresham with 12 and Anthony Green with 10. NU entered the game with the conference’s longest win streak at five games.
The Cougars make one last regular-season road trip in conference play to William & Mary (10-16, 6-8 CAA) on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. (ET) in Williamsburg, Va., and Elon (8-19, 4-10 CAA) on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. (ET) in Elon, N.C.