By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
What a difference a day makes. 24 hours after easily downing SC State 106-74, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team found themselves in a tougher fight, as they had to quell a late surge by Lipscomb to down the Bisons 86-77 Friday night before 4000 plus fans at TD Arena. With the win CofC improve to 2-0 on the season and host Loyola of Maryland on Saturday in the third round of the Rising Coaches Classic.
Four Cougars ended the contest in double figures with John Meeks leading Charleston with 16 points. Dalton Bolon went 3 of 9 from long range for 15 points. Dimitrius Underwood added 13 points, with Brenden Tucker coming in off the bench knocking down 3 of 4 from beyond the arc for his 13 points. CofC’s Osinachi Smart hauled in a game best 11 rebounds.
Even though they didn’t shoot particularly well (36% from the floor), Charleston head coach Pat Kelsey admits they had a game plan that proved a winning strategy in the end. “We said we wanted to manifest our will and that usually comes on the backboard. In the second half we had 14 offensive rebounds. In the first half we had four. In some extent I think we wore them down in that area. Forced a lot of turnovers. We were efficient on a night we didn’t shoot really great.”
After scoring 21 points in the first five minutes on Thursday night the Cougars had to settle for a couple of ties, trailing 9-7 during the same stretch against Lipscomb. A layup by Fah’Mir Ali eight minutes in gave CofC their first lead (16-14) in the contest. Two minutes later a short jumper by Ali put CofC up by three. Ali would end up with four points on the night, but they were crucial just when Charleston needed them most.
CofC trailed by as many as seven midway through the first half, 38-31. Freshman Babacar Faye turned the tide with an old-fashioned three-point play (a dunk plus one from the line) that spurred an 8-0 Charleston run to surge the Cougars back in front. The Cougars late 15-3 run gave them a 46-41 lead heading into the locker room.
Up by 19 points (67-48) midway through the second half, Lipscomb clawed their way back, down just three points (72-69) with 3:59 to play. A minute later Bolon knocked one in from long range to give the home team an eight point margin. The Bisons were forced to foul to remain competitive, but the Cougars answered at the free throw line, up 81-70 after Reyne Smith hit a pair with 1:17 showing on the clock.
Bolon didn’t take credit for the teams late surge, rather saying it was a combined effort over 40 minutes. “I hit that shot but there was a lot of players who made good shots. Brenden Tucker he played his butt off. He came in an played big. Really the way we played at the end of the half. Plus 13 at the end of the half. Part of that was Tuck’s energy. He made a couple of nice plays, he steals the ball to give us a possession.”
Bolon didn’t expect the Bisons would go away easy, saying they would put up a strong fight right up until the end. “Lipscomb is a good team. We knew it would be a tough battle. It’s a good win. I thought we responded well.”
Looking at the stats alone it appeared the game was close with the only difference being the Cougars made a few more shots from the field. CofC did win the battle on the glass, outrebounding Lipscomb 49-39, forcing the Bisons to turn the ball over 19 times. Both teams earned 30 points from 3-point land.
Kelsey talks about playing ten four minute wars, and then recalculating. He agrees it was pretty even on Friday night. ‘They (Lipscomb) went on one run where they scored 15 points in that war, and we couldn’t stop them. We cleared it, went back to 0-0, fixed it and the guys responded the right way. Typically the team that wins six of the ten four minute wars usually wins the game. That’s just how we play.”
The Bisons were lead by Tommy Murr who went 6 of 9 from beyond the arc to finish with a game high 22 points. Ahsan Asadullah ended with a double double chipping in 15 points for to go along with 10 rebounds for the visitors. Will Pruitt drained three long bombs finishing with 14 points, with KJ Johnson adding 10 points in a losing effort. Lipscomb fall to 1-1 on the season, as they prepare to take on SC State on Saturday.
The Cougars continue the Rising Coaches Classic Saturday night against Loyola (Maryland) at 5 p.m. at TD arena.
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