Tarheels Rally in 2nd Half To Give Cougars 1st Loss on the Season
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
For mid major college sports teams it’s a thrill to welcome storied programs into your hallowed halls. Tuesday night before a sellout crowd, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team played host to the Tarheels of North Carolina. Although UNC are an elite member of the ACC in sports anything is possible, as the Tarheels came to TD Arena holding a slight 4-3 margin over CofC over seven games played.
Charleston last bested the North Carolina 82-79 in February of 2010 when former NBA draft pick and LA Laker Andrew Goudelock wore a Cougar uniform. The Tarheels won the past two meetings. With UNC and CofC fans in attendance the expectations and energy were high. When all the dust settled on Meeting Street the Tarheels would erase a second half deficit, closing the contest out at the foul line, as they downed the home team 94-83. With the loss CofC fall to 3-1 on the season, with UNC improving to 3-0 overall.
The pre-game mantra rang loud and clear as CofC head coach Pat Kelsey lead a taped cheer from the big screen ‘I believe we will win’, and for nearly 30 minutes it appeared Charleston might. After the contest Kelsey said he was pleased with his players and how competitive they were from start to finish.
“I’m proud of our players. I thought they battled, they didn’t go into this game thinking ‘I want to give Carolina a good game’. They prepared. They believed deep down in their hearts, they were going to win this game, even when it started to get away from us. They had a resolve in them.”
The ending score was not indicative of the final outcome. The Cougars won all five four minute wars in the first 20 minutes of play, up 26-15 after nine minutes of play. Earning 21 points from beyond the arc allowed CofC to take a 42-36 lead into the locker room at the break. Charleston never trailed in the opening period. Reyne Smith contributed three from long range with Ben Burnham adding two 3-pointers as the duo lead the team with 9 and 10 points respectively at half-time.
But before 5300 plus fans and a live CBS Sports audience the mighty Tarheels were not about to surrender easy. While Charleston maintained control for the first three minutes in the second period a 3-pointer by Brady Manek gave the visitors their first lead (48-46) of the contest with 16:53 left to play. Brenden Tucker would answer from long range putting CofC back on top. But an 11-2 run by UNC gave them an eight point advantage near the midway point.
Charleston was never able to regain the lead but they did manage to cut the lead to one, down 72-71 after Smith knocked in a couple of free throws. Less than two minutes later the Cougars would trail by 10, as the Tarheels were near perfect from the foul line, maintaining a mostly double digit margin throughout the remainder of the contest.
North Carolina was lead by big man Armando Bacot with a game high 24 points, shooting 10 of 12 from the floor. Caleb Love added 22 points in a winning effort. UNC outscored CofC 46 to 32 in the paint where Bacot did all his best work. Charleston lost the battle on the glass as well with UNC taking a 49-36 rebounding advantage. Bacot grabbed a game best 12 rebounds.
Kelsey knew the Tarheels had fight in them. “Give credit to North Carolina. Hubert (UNC Coach) is going to win a whole bunch of games there. Such an honor to play a program like North Carolina, one of the blue bloods. Their guys competed and played hard.”
Four CofC players finished in double figures with Smith going 5 of 11 from long range for a total of 19 points. Burnham went 7 of 10 from the field including 3 of 3 from long range for 17 points. Fah’Mir Ali and Brenden Tucker continue to play well early on in the season, chipping in 13 and 10 points respectively. What set the Cougars back was 19 turnovers, the rebounding advantage, and fouls in the second half.
Kelsey took it all in stride, saying they will regroup and move on. “It’s been a grind over the past six days. Four games in six days. Our guys are a little beat up, physically and mentally. So tomorrow will be a recovery day, and then we’ll get back at it and prepare for Oklahoma State.”
Charleston have a few days to re-focus before their next contest. The Cougars hit the road for their first away game of the campaign as they take on Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Monday, Nov. 22. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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