Cougars Put an End to 3 Game Losing Streak, Smith Leads With 25 Points
By: Jeff Walker, Sportswriter
The College of Charleston men’s basketball team were desperately trying to put an end to a three-game losing streak as they welcomed William & Mary to TD Arena Tuesday night. After losing back-to-back games on the road including a high scoring 95-94 affair to JMU over the weekend, the Cougars and hometown fans would be happy with even a hope and prayer victory over the Pride.
It appeared the Cougars were in the driver’s seat, up by 15 points with nine minutes remaining in the contest. But as has happened way to often this season, the Cougars have a comfortable lead only to let their opponents back in the game, with CofC more often on the losing end of the contest. The scenario was the same Tuesday night; however, the Cougars did come out on top 73-74, but not without some last second heroics.
With five seconds remaining and down by one CofC took a time out to better design a final play that might help pull out a win. Although not having a particularly stellar shooting night, the Cougars put the ball in the hands of team leader John Meeks who made his way to the basket, putting up a short jumper that hung on the rim way to long before falling through with one second remaining to secure the win.
Meeks admits he prepares for last second scenarios. “That’s actually a play me and my coach have worked a lot on. I’ve shot maybe 500 of those before I got to this, so I was real comfortable getting to the spot, and I was able to get a good one off.”
Reyne Smith had the hot hand for Charleston all night making good on 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, including 5 of 5 from the line for a game high 25 points. Although Smith has been up and down lately especially from long range, he admits he keeps at it. He added a big three with a minute to go to provide some needed assurance. “I’ve put in the work from three. I practice every day, so I’m just confident and comfortable out there.”
Brendan Tucker came in off the bench adding two 3-pointers for 12 points. Meeks would finish with 11 points for the Cougars. With the win CofC improve to 10-8 overall and 2-4 in the CAA. Despite a 4-15 record William & Mary came into Charleston riding on a victory over Drexel and three wins in the conference but left with their fourth loss in conference play.
The Cougars struck first, up 6-2 early on before a offensive drought found them down trailing by four after five minutes of play. When Smith knocked down a couple of free throws the home team were up 24-17 with eight minutes before the break. But an 18-10 run by the Pride would allow William & Mary to take a 35-34 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Charleston wasted no time in the second half, taking a double-digit lead when Tucker hit from long range capping off 11 unanswered points for the Cougars. CofC would maintain close to a double-digit lead over the next seven minutes taking a 15-point advantage when Smith made a 3-pointer with 9:13 left to play. But a 17-2 rally by the Pride found the contest tied at 65 all with 4:29 still left to play.
Two and half minutes later it would be tied again at 69 before Smith hit the last of his long-range missiles providing CofC a three-point margin. A costly foul by CofC sent W&M’s Connor Kochera to the line where he made both. The Pride would follow with a second chance shot by Ben Wight at the nine second mark to take the lead.
That’s when the basketball gods shone down on the Cougars allowing them a nail-biting last second victory after Meeks’ shot bounced twice off the rim before falling into the basket. He agreed it appeared to take forever before falling in. “Too long.”
William & Mary had a balanced scoring attack with five players finishing in double figures. Brandon Carroll led the team with 16 points hauling in a game best nine rebounds. Wight and Yuri Covington had 13 apiece, with Kochera and Julian Lewis adding 11 points each for the Pride.
CofC head coach Pat Kelsey took the victory and final bucket in stride. “It went in, although overall it may not have been the prettiest in the world. We’ve been on a tough stretch, and we needed it.” He added the team remains upbeat. “The guys have been resilient. They haven’t hung their heads. They continue to work and prepare. I see growth behind the scenes even though we’ve lost a few games in a row.”
The Cougars continue their homestand when they take on Hofstra on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. The game at TD Arena is set to air on FloSports. Charleston welcome Northeastern to town on Saturday at 4pm.
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