Knights Roll Over Cougars 77-56 In Final Day of Wooden Legacy
Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Looking to leave the west coast and sunny southern California with a couple wins, the College of Charleston went up against UCF (Central Florida) on Sunday afternoon in the final rounds of the Wooden Legacy. It’s easy to say the two teams know each other well, after the Knights knocked off the Cougars 72-71 just over a week ago on their home court in Orlando. With that loss still fresh in their minds, Charleston was hoping for a little payback.
UCF came into the contest winners of three of their last four games, with their only loss, a one point decision to Penn State in the Wooden Legacy. After all the dust settled in Anaheim Arena, the Knights lead wire to wire pulling away late in the game, en-route to a 77-56 win over the Cougars. CofC leave the land of Disney 1-2 in the west coast classic.
It was Collin Smith who did most of the damage for UCF. The 7’0″ big man finished with a game high 19 points, adding nine rebounds and five assists to his total. Dre Fuller Jr. pumped in 13 points, with Brandon Mahan and Frank Bertz adding 12 and 10 points in a balanced scoring attack for the Knights.
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant gave UCF their due. “I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t play a little bit better. Give Central Florida some credit. They have a big guy (Smith) that really dominated the game. They got the ball down to him and it was hard to slow him down. When we were able to slow him down, it led to some open threes. They opened up with back-to-back threes in the first half, and the same thing happened in the second half.”
Overall UCF outplayed CofC, hitting just under 50 percent from the floor with eight from long range. The Knights turned to ball over just five times, with the Cougars committing 10 turnovers. UCF leave return home to Florida with a 5-2 record.
Coach Grant admitted his players didn’t play up to their potential on Sunday. “Our energy level needed to be better. Obviously, we can play a lot better than we showed today. But, I know this team has a lot of fight in it. We’ll make our corrections and continue to move on in this journey.”
With CofC’s leading scorer Grant Riller sitting the bench for a good bit of the first half due to foul trouble (3 personals), the Cougars couldn’t seem to find any offensive rhythm. At the break Charleston trailed by double digits, down 40-29 at intermission. Although the Cougars were able to cut the margin to eight points on several occasions, their consistency wasn’t fluid as UCF remained solid, going up by 19 points with four minutes remaining in the contest.
Despite not getting as much court time as usual, Riller lead the Cougars with 17 points, finding some personal mojo toward the end of the contest. Jaylen McManus chipped in eight points for the Cougars who fall to 4-4 on the season. Another bright spot for CofC was the play of Osinachi Smart. The Cougar big man scored four points, but more importantly hauled in eight rebounds, going up against a skillful opponent.
Growing as a team and allowing the bench more playing time is something Coach Grant is focusing on. “We played a lot of guys. Anytime you play three games in four days, you want to at least play 9-or-10 guys. We were able to get our freshmen a lot of experience. We can go back and watch the film and see positives and negatives to help them grow.” For Cougar fans Grant added, “We’re not as bad as we showed today, and I’ll give Central Florida some of that credit. We needed to be better obviously, but, we just have to keep working and growing.”
After two weeks on the road, the Cougars will return home to prep for final exams week at The College. They will host Coker post-final exams on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena. Tickets can be purchased by calling (843) 953-COFC or online at: www.CofCSports.com/tickets