Meeks Leads All Scorers with 19 Points, Tucker Adds 17
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
New College of Charleston men’s head basketball coach Pat Kelsey made quite an impression in his debut at on John Kresse Court. Kelsey along with his coaching staff lead the players to an impressive 106-74 rout over South Carolina State before 4000 plus fans at TD Arena, as the home team start the season 1-0.
Bucknell transfer John Meeks lead all scorers as he paced CofC with 19 points, most of those in the first 10 minutes of play. Brenden Tucker who returns from last years squad chipped in 17 points going 4 of 5 from long range. A total of six players would hit for double figures for the Cougars.
Kelsey was definitely pumped up after earning his first victory at CofC, but gave credit to the fans. “To me the story of the whole night, and it’s not even close by a blow out was the energy of the student body.” He did however praise his players. “I’m proud of our guys. We call it the great experiment, 14 guys coming together. We met on June 2nd, no one knew each other, from all different parts of the world, and we’re on this long journey and today was step one.”
The first five minutes of the game pretty much set the tone for the contest as the Cougars held the Bulldogs scoreless, enjoying a 19-0 lead with 15:40 remaining on the clock. During that stretch Meeks racked up 11 points with Tucker draining two from long range. Tucker’s third from down town put Charleston up by 26 (34-8) midway thru the period. A 3-pointer by Omar Croskey for SC State just before the buzzer, sent the visitors into the locker room down 55-32 at intermission.
The Cougars did not let up after the break. Eight minutes in CofC held their biggest lead up 83-41 with 12:05 left to play. The Bulldogs found some rhythm and kept pace, cutting the lead to 28 points on three occasions, the final time 96-68 with under five minutes remaining. But it was the Cougars night, as three walk ons enjoyed two minutes of playing time in the first game of the season, making a full complement of 15 players seeing action Thursday night.
Asked about the potential of the team after such a huge win Meeks said. “I’m not sure and I don’t want to put a ceiling on it. That’s why we come to work everyday and put in the effort that we do.”
With so many new faces and transfer players Tucker says the team gelled right away. “As soon as we came back in June, it was like everybody was together, brotherhood & unity. That’s one of our core values here, competitive excellence and the power of the union. Everybody came together and we formed as one.”
The players have little time to turn around as they tip off against Lipscomb Friday night. Meeks expects they’ll be prepared, the very reason they do what they do in practice. “We’ll find out. Our job is to just show up and give everything we have. That’s all we can control.” Tucker echoed Meeks sentiment. “Coach scheduled three games, three days for a reason. We’re built for it.”
Freshman Reyne Smith and Fah’Mir Ali chipped in 11 apiece with four threes combined. Osinachi Smart went 4 or 4 from the field, with Nick Farrar going 3 of 5 for 10 points apiece. The Bulldogs were lead by Cameron Jones and Deaquan Williams with 15 and 14 points respectively. Antonio Madlock and Rakeim Gary added 10 each as SC State fall to 0-2 early in the season.
Charleston won just about every battle in the 40 minute war. They out rebounded the Bulldogs 57-38, out made their opponents 10-3 from beyond the arc, finishing the game shooting 48 percent from the floor, where State hit 22 of 61 for 36 percent. The Bulldogs did find relief from the charity stripe, connecting on 27 of 40 from the free throw line.
Evaluating the positives and negatives Kelsey saw it this way. “The biggest minus to me is we fouled to much. We have to defend without fouling. The biggest positive is I thought our guys played their butts off. The biggest take away is our guys competed and played hard. But we have to turn the page quick and get ready for another one tomorrow.”
The Cougars continue The Rising Coaches Classic tomorrow night against Lipscomb at TD Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET. CofC and Lipscomb face off for the first time in their program histories. In the early contest Loyola University of Maryland take on SC State at 4pm.
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